By Craig Johns
Do you know what helps you navigate the clutter, complexity and commotion on a daily basis that allows you to take a birds eye view and see the big picture?
It is a challenge when you have your head down, in the zone and focused on the task at hand to understand where you are at and even sometimes to clarify what the big picture really is. The big picture is about:
- Knowing not just how and what to do, but knowing why
- Viewing the whole and not just its parts
- Seeing a vision, a sense of the bigger picture
- Having the ability to see significance in work, beyond the obvious
- Understanding that a legacy will live on, whether in the bricks and morter or in the impact made on other people
You have to know what naturally helps you to clear the mind and find the space to step outside your body and mind so you can focus on what is really important. For me, it is going for a long ride by myself or running on a trail. I find it’s my form of meditation and reality check.
Some people find travel helps them to find a clearer perspective, as 10,000 feet up provides a pretty good birds eye view of situations. Another common time is when listening to podcasts that challenge our ways of thinking, leadership strategies or are industry related.
Sometimes we find it difficult to see the big picture by ourselves. You may find it easier through conversations with a friend, colleague or even a group of like-minded people in a “circle of trust’ monthly catch-up over a coffee.
When it comes to financial analysis, you may find manually writing out your budget or financial reviews with pen and paper allows you think of the numbers in a different way than on a computer screen where formulas are producing numbers for you.
A lot of people will work continuously without breaks during a day. Research shows that our ability to perform tasks diminishes after approximately 90minutes of concerted effort and focus. It is important to take a 5-15min break every 90minutes allowing your mind a chance to recharge and your body a chance to move around rather than sitting in one place.
Going long periods of time without a break may also result in you heading down a rabbit hole of time-consuming focus on the unimportant things, without realizing you are on a path of less value.
Organising a dedicated brainstorm or review session with team members of what you are currently doing and where you can go, while ensuring that everything is aligned to the overall mission, strategies and goals is crucial. You will find it invaluable as not only does it provide a big picture check for you, but it also enables the team to develop greater cohesion in what the big picture looks like to everyone.
I have witnessed a few people using apps, such as rescue time, to monitor and track their use of time. It allows them to see how much time is spent on each daily activity and most importantly on the tasks that are making forward progress.
We are often caught up in our own assumptions, ways of thinking and complexity. Try challenge some of your assumptions to see what would happen if you removed one or more of them. Remember complexity is the enemy, so sometimes the most simple and obvious thing maybe blurred or hidden from our ability to see the big picture.
Identify whether you team have a connection to the big picture. Share the big picture regularly by providing the details first and then the context later. Ask them what they see and make sure that you connect the big picture to their work. Most importantly connect the big picture to meaning as people want to know that their working has a purpose.
Make sure that you include the activities that allow you to see clarity from a big picture point-of-view, in your daily or weekly routines. It is crucial that you are on the right road and haven’t taken the wrong left turn. To take it to the next level, it is even more valuable to ensure that you have time following your big picture activities, to find time to analyse and translate your insights into specific actions.
Life is all about choice. We may feel we are snowed under, constrained by deadlines and under the pump from either your boss or a client, but remember you are the one in control. Prioritise what is important, what you need to gain clarity and disregard the meaningless activities that halt your progress. What you do is only as good as the clarity of your big picture.