Ever heard the phrase “creative strategic planning”? Surely you have, though it may have simply been thrown around in a business meeting. Or maybe you’ve seen it scattered across the internet, a vague catch phrase get-rich-quick schemes use to lure people in. Either way, this is one thing you definitely need to pay more attention to. Strategic planning
refers to defining a specific goal and then laying out a necessary strategy to reach that goal. Basically, strategic planning makes sure your short-term decisions work in favor of your long-term goals. To begin, a strategic planner needs to answer these three questions
: 1.) Where are we now? 2.) Where do we want to be? 3.) How can we move one step closer?
Sound simple enough? Almost. The first two questions should be answered with as much specifics as possible. Let’s say you own a business. Your goal is to raise profits by 10% by the end of next year. So you might say: 1.) Where are we now? -
Our current profit margin is ___. 2.) Where do we want to be? -
We want our profits to be raised by 10% by December 31, 2013. Therefore, we need our profit margin to be ___by December 31, 2013.
Now comes the creative part, which is question #3. There are a number of theories floating around that provide the best way to start the creative process, but we feel Wallas’s creative process makes for a great fit. There are four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. Preparation
is the stage of gathering all your possible information. After all, you won’t be able to give yourself options if you have no idea of what you’re working with, right? So look at all your sources, all the people you know and all the possible pathways to reach your goal.
Next is incubation.
So take a break; set the problem aside for a bit to clear your head. A disorganized mind creates a disorganized reality.
Step 3: illumination.
Identify potential solutions. This is when working as a team really comes in handy, as everyone will be looking at the problem through a different perspective. Have brainstorming sessions to present as many solutions as possible.
And finally: verification.
Refine your ideas. There may be a number of ideas on how to increase profits by 10% within the given time frame, but each idea needs to be refined and clearly laid out before a decision is made.
It’s completely understandable if this still sounds a bit complicated, but that’s why we’re here! Schedule a meeting with Canvas Creek
today and we’ll show you how to get on track in your creative strategic planning process. We’ll even be with you every step of the way.
We’ve all been there; that moment when things have gotten so bad that it becomes difficult to see how they could ever get better again. Maybe you’ve lost your job and bills are piling up, maybe you’ve just ended a long term relationship and thoughts of eternal loneliness are flooding your mind; either way, there has to be something you can do to get back on track. And as a matter of fact, there is. 1.) Take one day.
When it feels like your world is ending it can be tough to think about anything else, so do what you need to do to clear your mind. However, you need to put a time limit on your groveling or you could end up wallowing forever. If that means sleeping in bed for an entire day, do it. Maybe it means going for a run or watching your favorite movie on repeat. Whatever it is that you need to do, take a day to completely absorb yourself in whatever situation you’re in, then wake up tomorrow, and begin to move on
. 2.) Comprehend your new reality.
Constantly saying “If only this hadn’t happened…” to yourself won’t get you anywhere. This did happen. If you lost your job, you need to stop and look at your current situation without your mind getting carried away. So sit down and take a look at your finances. What are your necessities and what will it take to pay for them (and no, cable television is not a “necessity”)? Exactly how much money do you need to make to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly? 3.) Make a plan, in writing.
And don’t generalize. Saying, “I’ll find another job,” isn’t going to help you right now. Of course you will, but how?
Writing down a serious of steps leading to a job would be much more constructive. Something like: 1.) Talk to everyone I know to see if they know if their current job is hiring, 2.) Search the want ads, 3.) Update my resume, 4.) Go down to the job center to check current openings, etc. 4.) Find the reason (if there is one) and learn from it.
Sometimes things happen for no reason, and there really is no lesson involved. Some things, however, do have a reason for occurring. Is there a reason you were laid off instead of your coworker? It may be that you were simply at the company for less time. Finding the reason allows you to either prevent this situation from happening again
or absolve yourself from feeling guilty over something you had no control over in the first place. 5.) Appreciate the things you do have.
No matter what, you still have some things to be grateful for. A divorce is rough, of course, but you still have you children, right? Try to focus on other aspects of your life that are going well
. Maybe this whole situation has made you realize that you have some seriously amazing friends who would do anything
Ah yes, our passion. At times it can be so elusive, and vague comments from others (“Well, just pick something you like and do that.”) are virtually useless. So here are a few inspirational points that might help you get on the right path. 1.) Often people attempt to live their lives backwards. They try to acquire more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. 2.) Don’t be normal. Sadly, normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you financed, in order to get to the job that you don’t really like, but that you need, to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. 3.) If you are passionate about it, pursue it, no matter what anyone else thinks. That’s how dreams are achieved. 4.) Live by choice, not by chance. Make changes, not excuses. Be motivated, not manipulated. Work to excel, not compete. Choose to listen to your inner voice, not the jumbled opinions of everyone else. 5.) When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you, but because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for. 6.) It’s not about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll rarely be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work. Sometimes you just have to go for it. 7.) Nothing you have that much passion for is ever a waste of time, no matter how it turns out in the long-term. 8.) Life is short. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now. 9.) A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write. This concept can be universally applied. 10.) There are people who live in a dream world and there are people who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other. 11.) If you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it. 12.) When we focus on leading a passionate, meaningful life, we are also inadvertently creating a spectacular ripple effect of inspiration in the lives around us. When one person follows a dream, tries something new, or takes a daring leap, everyone nearby feels their passionate energy; and before too long, they are making their own daring leaps while simultaneously inspiring others.
Slumps…we all have them. They’re those little sections of life when things just don’t seem to be going right. Maybe you haven’t been to the gym in a month and no matter what you do just don’t feel like going. Maybe you’ve been behind at work lately and you just can’t seem to catch up. Or maybe it’s your mood; maybe no matter what is going on in your life right now you just feel kind of…blah. These are slumps, people, and once you’re in one it can be hard to snap out of it, but it’s definitely not impossible
. Here are some of the best ways to get yourself back on track. 1.) Stop.
More specifically, stop thinking. Stop thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, what you forgot to do today, how your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, how you’ve gained 6 pounds since June when you promised yourself you’d lose 10: just stop.
Whatever you’ve been doing lately hasn’t been working (you are in fact, in a slump), right? Right, so stop and take a deep breath; you are about to change gears
. 2.) Focus.
Find a place where you can sit, with pen and paper, undisturbed for a few minutes and think clearly. That means you step away from any electronic distractions (the television, the computer, your cell phone, etc.) and go somewhere comfortable. And don’t let yourself make excuses; the world is not going to explode if dinner is 30 minutes later than it usually is for the love of God. 3.) Write it down.
Our minds are constantly running
(as you probably already know). Research has shown that when we write down what we are thinking about on paper (how upset we are with a loved one or what we need at the store, for example), our mind can relax a bit knowing it doesn’t need to keep thinking about that information. It’s the same thing that happens when someone gives you their phone number; you repeat it to yourself until you enter it in your phone or write it down. And as soon as you do, you stop thinking about it, right? Problems you are dwelling on work the same way. So take a second and write down what is bothering you. 4.) Refine.
After you write down what is bothering you
(don’t worry if it’s an insanely long list, chances are you’ve needed to get some things out), take a look at what you’ve written. Did you write “Dan won’t fix those shelves I’ve asked him to fix for 2 weeks” and “Dan didn’t pack the kids’ lunches” and “Dan made work plans on our anniversary night” the problem might not be all of those little things. Instead, the problem might be “Dan and I need to communicate better.” 5.) Determine a resolution.
If the problem is that you and Dan need to communicate better. Write down a time that the two of you need to talk, undisturbed. Not while both of you are running to your cars in the morning, not the second he gets home from work. Pick a time when you can both talk. The same goes for other issues. If the problem is that you’re completely overwhelmed at work, think of a way you can take off some of your workload. Is there a fellow employee that can help you out for a bit (they could be in charge of the phone lines for the day while you work, for example)? Can you speak to your boss about getting caught up on your current assignments before taking on any more projects? If you’ve been feeling unmotivated, think of a way to get motivated
. Haven’t gone to the gym in a while? Maybe you need a new pair of running shoes. 6.) Move on.
Once you’ve addressed these issues and understand what you need to do, move on. Get up, make the dinner you’ve been postponing for 30 minutes, and stop thinking about it. Enjoy your dinner, watch some television with Dan, and get some sleep. Tomorrow your slump ends
No matter what group of people you’re working with
(your family, your coworkers, your intramural teammates, your church group), an open and effective line of communication is key. But that phrase, “effective communication”, tends to get thrown around a lot doesn’t it. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot to effective communication
. There’s listening, using the appropriate tone and hand gestures, and various other things we do while talking. However, in most groups of people there are bound to be one or two shy folks, so how exactly do you get them talking? Well here you go; three ways to get someone engaged in a conversation: 1.) Say statements instead of questions.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it works. Asking someone a question demands a response. And not just any response, but one that is on subject and within a socially acceptable time frame. You’re putting pressure on someone without even knowing it. Statements, on the other hand, demand no response, allowing the other person to answer when and if they feel comfortable or not. A question also provides you the opportunity to judge them depending on their answer, while a statement simply says something about yourself.
For example, say you sit down next to a co-worker during lunch break and they are eating something that looks very spicy. The question, “Wow, what is
that? Is it really spicy?” can seem innocent, but it’s more difficult that you might think. The statement, “Wow, you must be pretty brave, that looks spicy!” is much easier to handle. The listener is required to do nothing, you were simply making a statement that their food looks spicy. 2.) Compliment them.
Just as the above example indicates, the listener appeared to be “brave” when eating spicy food, not “crazy”. In addition, a compliment can open the door to letting them feel comfortable in their own skin
. A simple, “Wow, you have beautiful handwriting!” can give someone that tiny boost of self-confidence they need to open up a bit more. 3.) Say something about yourself.
People don’t, in general, willingly open up to strangers. Therefore, if you want someone to open up to you, you’ve got to make yourself seem a little less like a stranger, and a great way to do that is to say a little bit about yourself
Take the above example in the break room. You can continue the conversation to say something like, “Wow, you must be pretty brave, that looks spicy! I never could eat spicy food, though I do keep trying!” In just one sentence, you have gone from “Stacy, the lady who sits at the west desk,” to “Stacy who wants to like spicy food.” It’s a small change, but a significant one
Morale tends to be one of those tricky words thrown around meetings. Every company wants good morale
around the office but very few companies actually go through the trouble of determining how to achieve it.
But really quick, before we get into how to destroy morale (and why this would be a horrible
thing to happen), what exactly is
Morale can be loosely defined as the level of confidence or optimism felt by an individual or a group. It’s the feeling a person gets that they can make a difference in their environment; that they matter, and that they are valued. A high morale gives you employees that are committed and motivated to their task. Low morale gives you apathetic, uncaring employees that are probably searching for other jobs during their breaks. Which would you rather have? Exactly.
So if you’re looking to have the most productive environment possible, here are the top five things you should avoid: 1.) Embracing ignorance.
The old phrase, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” has no place in a workplace environment. Essentially, it means you’re rewarding poor communication and giving them an excuse for a low level of motivation. Don’t just explain the project to your employees, explain the reason
for the project, allowing them to become invested
in it as well. 2.) Assuming.
How’s it go? Oh that’s right; assuming just makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. It all comes back to communication. How many movies have there been made based on a simple plot of miscommunication and assumption? Too many to count. Don’t let your workplace turn into a shenanigan-stuffed Hollywood comedy. 3.) Fault-finding.
There’s a difference between giving out constructive criticism and finding faults in every little thing.
Believe it or not, sometimes someone just does a good job and they should be recognized and awarded appropriately. Everything
does not need to be a learning experience
. 4.) One-Upping.
Everyone has been guilty of this at one point or another, and most of the time we probably don’t even realize we’re doing it. But when an employee comes to you describing a certain success they’ve had (maybe they finished that 12 page report in only three days), explaining how you once finished a 50 page report in only four days isn’t going to be an amusing story, it’s going to downplay their success
. 5.) Not caring.
As much as people want to keep work and personal life separate, the fact is the two tend to mix at least a little bit. Things are going to happen at home that affect a person’s performance at work (perhaps a loved one has just passed away) and things are going to happen at work that certainly affect a person’s home life. Plus, most people spend even more time at work than they do with their own families. Remembering little things, like birthdays, or asking how someone is doing after they have suffered a loss or tragedy can give a much needed boost
to a low morale environment.
As much as we would all like it to, the concept of teamwork
does not simply “happen.” Instead, it takes a great deal of time working through details to make sure a team works together effectively. But some businesses and families are one step ahead of the game; by creating a culture that facilitates teamwork, constantly
, a groups’ members are already comfortable with the idea of working together. So how can you achieve this in your home or place of business? Read on! 1.) Reward and value efforts of teamwork.
The lone employee has their place, but placing a large amount of reward on something an individual employee does on their own can often give the impression that an individual can be valued more than the group. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of personal recognition, of course, but try to keep larger rewards (bonuses, compensation, etc.) distributed to groups of people as a display of a team working together successfully. 2.) Build teams to solve issues.
If you are constantly forming teams to resolve issues that arise, people are going to start doing it on their own. If you typically ask for a group of volunteers to solve a problem, the first time a problem comes up while you are out of town group members will follow the protocol; which is to form a team and work through the issue together. 3.) List a teamwork culture as an identifiable value.
The concept of teamwork shouldn’t be inferred, it should be openly accepted. Make sure the idea of teamwork is added to employee handbooks or written agreements so group members understand that it is a priority. 4.) Bring up topics that were solved by teamwork.
I used to work at Billings Clinic, and I remember when they were given a Magnet rating (the top rating for nursing in the country; very few hospitals have achieved this), credit was given to the committee that worked tirelessly to make sure the hospital met specific qualifications. No single individual was acknowledged; it was considered a group effort. 5.) Exemplify teamwork at the executive level as well.
As parents, it’s tough to expect your family to run as a team if you and your spouse do not act as a team as well. The same goes with a business. If Mom is asked a question, saying “I’ll run that by your father” shows that teamwork happens at even the highest level
. Make this a practice in your business as well.
In a perfect world, all teams would work perfectly together; meetings would run smoothly, problems would be easily ironed out and everyone would be happy. However, as we all probably already know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And while one person may believe a team is functioning as well as it could be, another member may have a different opinion. The fact is, just as every other aspect of a business
needs to be evaluated, and so does the collaboration process
of the actual team.
So gather your team members together, provide a few snacks (a few cookies work wonders for cutting tension) and explain that a simple evaluation needs to be done. Make sure all evaluations are anonymous, and have each member rate the team against the following criteria: 1.) Clarity of team goals.
Is it clear what the team is actually trying to accomplish? Is it clear who exactly is benefitting the most from the accomplishment of the team’s goals
? If a member from one department feels accomplishing the stated goals only benefits members from another department, it could mean that some of the team’s goals are too narrow or that they aren’t being explained properly. 2.) Clarity of individual roles and responsibilities.
A friend of mine works as a coach for a university softball team. When the university was hiring new athletic trainers, they informed her she had been nominated as the chair of the committee. However, no one explained her responsibilities. People would just call her office asking if she turned in “that review” or had completed her “recommendation rundown” and she had no idea what they were talking about. Encourage your team members to describe times they have felt like this. 3.) Efficiency of time and resources.
Ever been to a meeting that was a complete waste of time? One that was simply a gathering of people so your supervisor could hear herself talk? Hopefully your team meetings aren’t like this, but if they are it’s an incredible waste of resources. Have team members list ideas to make meetings more efficient. Maybe a memo could be sent out before hand with a list of required paperwork or the itinerary could be emailed out letting people know exactly what part of the meeting will be relevant to them. 4.) Facilitation of ideas.
Do your team members have a voice? If they suggest something, do you get defensive or hear their ideas? Are they constantly interrupted by other teammates? Is the environment conducive to a productive meeting or is it absolutely freezing and they can’t wait to get out of there (don’t scoff; a comfortable room temperature is actually very relevant to productivity)? 5.) Rewards and general concerns.
While accomplishing a specific goal
sounds like it should be enough, more often than not, it isn’t. Encourage team members to list possible incentives or ways productivity could be increased. In addition, have them list any general concerns they may have about how the meetings are run. This could be scheduling or even fairness. I worked nightshifts at a previous job, and until someone mentioned it all meetings were held at 3:00 in the afternoon. That’s great if you work day shift, but it’s an awful time for nightshift. Everyone was much happier
when meetings were changed to 8:00 in the morning, right between shift changes.
For many people, art is considered just a hobby. Painting is something you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon while drinking a delicious cup of espresso and calmly looking back on your workweek (which is almost a myth in itself, as very few people have ever
had the time to do this). The fact is though, art is so much more than previously thought, and here are just a few examples why: 1.) Art facilitates communication.
Art is not a math problem, meaning there is no right or wrong answer. No one argues with you if you prefer one painting to another. Sure, they may ask why, and then voice their own opinion, but yours is not discounted in the process. Because of this, people are naturally more apt to openly communicate in an artistic forum
What’s more, the act of communicating itself is like a flood gate, meaning open communication about one thing often leads to open communication about another. 2.) Art facilitates self-expression.
Ever heard the phrase, “A picture is worth 1,000 words,”? Of course you have, and for good reason. Some things are just too difficult to explain, but a picture can make it all seem clear. Here’s a great example:
If you’ve ever seen the music video for Foo Fighter’s song “Best of You”, you can see there is an incredible mashup of emotion. The video shows pictures and words symbolizing such emotions and concepts as fear, anger, hopelessness, sorrow, innocence, regret and beauty. What you might not
know, however, is that the director, Mark Pellington, was allowed complete creative freedom by the band as a way of coping with his wife’s death. The resulting video is basically a blueprint of his grief, set to the soundtrack of the band’s song “Best of You.” It’s riveting, and you can see it here
. 3.) Art encourages tolerance.
It is impossible to judge in a roomful of art. You may not like a particular sculpture, but you have no idea as to who made it. A beautiful painting can be made by anyone, whether they are black, white, gay, straight, developmentally impaired, old, young, republican, or democrat. In the world of art, we are all equals. 4.) Art facilitates team building.
Working on a group project at work can often be deceptive. If each member of the group breaks off into individual jobs, they may not actually feel like they are part of a collaborative effort. A group painting
, however, is instantly collaborative. Just by looking at it, you can see the individual brush strokes, and if the people in the group had been changed, the brush strokes (and the entire painting itself) would be a different final result. Collaborative art projects team members to work together in an environment where their contribution is noticeable and immediate. 5.) Art is fun.
Not often enough are we able to do something that we actually enjoy, and especially
something that is crucial to the development of specific skill sets. Add a little art in your life and see how it will most certainly change you for the better
Are you a procrastinator
? Go ahead, you can answer honestly…
That’s what I thought.
The truth is, procrastinating is an extremely common habit. The stress of something easily makes it seem like putting it off until later is a good idea, but we all know how that ends up. So let’s examine a few ways
to get rid of that procrastinating bug. Not forever, mind you, we are realists, after all. But these tips should get you going in the right direction when you desperately need to focus
. 1.) Really prioritize.
Believe it or not, we all have a limited supply of willpower that gradually drains throughout the day. That’s why you see so many more fast food advertisements at the end of the day than the beginning; because that’s when they’ve been found to be the most effective at convincing people to call the number at the bottom of the screen. Focusing on tasks that need to be completed is no different. Therefore, it’s important to start with the toughest stuff first
, while your willpower is at its maximum.
Plus, then you get to enjoy the wash of relief you often feel after your most stressful task is completed, making the weight on your shoulders feel just a tad bit lighter. 2.) Get rid of distractions.
Distractions are everywhere (as a writer that works from home on a computer hooked up to the internet 24/7, I whole-heartedly understand), but that doesn’t mean you have to give into them. Instead of checking your email every 10 minutes, vow to check it once every 2 hours. Turn your phone on silent, keep the television off and for the love of God stay off the internet.
If you have
to be on the internet or your phone has
to be on, you can still screen what you’re looking at. Facebook is not essential, it can wait, just like that text from your friend wondering if she should wear the black or the red pumps tonight. Those issues aren’t important right now; you have work to do. 3.) Find what motivates you.
It doesn’t have to be much. For example, when I am writing an article and feel myself draining, I’ll suddenly notice that I’m a bit thirsty. Instead of getting up and getting a glass of water, I’ll tell myself I can have one after I write one more paragraph. It’s a tiny thing, but it always works. 4.) Time yourself.
Looking at your workload and thinking, “This will take hours!” will not help you reach your goals. Instead, set a timer for only 10 minutes, and vow to work feverishly straight through those 10 minutes. No excuses whatsoever. Anyone can handle 10 minutes of work, and you’ll often be surprised at how much you can get done
. 5.) Break apart your work.
Tackling one giant task all at once is sure to make anyone shy away, so instead think about what you could realistically do in the next 10, 30, or 60 minutes, then start there. Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones is a clever little way to tricking to the brain into thinking the workload just got a whole lot lighter.