It appears everyone I talk to at the moment is in business planning mode. Developing and planning a strategy is critical. However, finding the time to do so whilst delivering projects at a fast pace is very challenging. This year for the first time, I am strategically planning for a small, not micro sized company. This has required much more thinking time than I’d anticipated.

I’ve fallen back onto the fact that I am a morning person, which started when I was at school and swam.  In fact, I think that swimming is where I first literally got lost in numbers, becoming absorbed in counting: breaths, lengths, strokes.

Now as a mum to a swimmer who trains early, I get two hours or uninterrupted work time starting at 5:45am, whilst sitting in the car park of swimming pool (bobble hat, head torch, flask of coffee and a porridge pot at the ready). That’s when I plan and reflect on where Bays Consulting is now, and where we want to be in the future.

Swimming is both my meditation and exercise. I learnt to use my time wisely on balancing homework and training. It taught me to love doing the “deep work”.  There are times when swim drills can be monotonous, repetitive, and hard. But, in doing this work, you build a solid foundation of knowledge and learn to trust in the process you’re following.  I keep coming back to this when I’ve felt overwhelmed – trust the planning process and put in the effort.  It may not be enjoyable (and perhaps even painful), but it will yield results.

Strategy, execution and attention to detail present in both swimming and business planning.  Both also rely on a team effort.  The latest, and possibly the most important lesson swimming has taught me has come from my open water and cold swimming – and no, I don’t wear a wetsuit.  Cold water swimming necessitates being fully prepared before starting; maintaining an awareness of what is going on whilst you swim and ensuring a recovery process is in place. But above that, you feel. Literally feel a huge range of emotions. It reminds me that we are human.

So, when I’m sitting in the dark and quiet doing the deep work and planning, I’ve found that if I put people at the centre of the strategy and how I would like all my colleagues to feel, then the whole process becomes a lot less overwhelming and a lot more enjoyable. I’d love to hear about how other business owners do their strategic planning and tips you have.

By Sophie Carr