Why it takes me a long time to get things

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I’ve never been the person who gets things quickly – the smart one that can figure out the answer in the middle of a tense situation while a riot takes place outside.

It takes me time – time to have a go at things, be terrible, keep going and eventually be less terrible.

The irony is that the things I find easy, I don’t stick to. The ones I find tough, I do – which seems a little strange when I look back at things.

For example, a long time ago, I couldn’t figure out chemistry. The equations didn’t make sense. And as far as I was concerned the lab work was just pouring stuff from one jar into a test tube and wondering what the point of it all was.

I was pretty sure I was going to fail the exams in chemistry.

And then salvation came in the form of one particular teacher who taught me how to use flashcards. I copied all the information in the textbooks needed for the exam onto index cards, carried them around all the time, flipped through to see if I remembered them every time I had a spare minute and eventually had memorised the textbook.

I still didn’t understand what it was all about… I could just answer questions about it.

Until the day of the lab exam. Sat outside, waiting to enter, I felt a mental block suddenly shift and realised what was going on in the lab. How chemistry was like detective work – trying to figure out what something we didn’t know was by seeing how it reacted with things that we did know.

Why am I telling you this?

It’s because many of the posts in this blog have to do with strategy – with what we are trying to achieve. And often that is a vague and fuzzy thing hidden in the mists.

To actually succeed – to achieve the aims of a strategy – we need to do things – and those things are tactics.

Tactics are about the application of resources – our time, energy and money.

The tactic I used to pass chemistry – the use of flashcards – helped me overcome my own limitations and mental blocks about the subject.

So, how can we select and deploy effective tactics?

All too often when we look for information on how to do something – a tactic we can follow – we are given lists of things to do.

30 ways to do this. 9 foolproof methods to do that, and so on.

These may be useful ideas – but they are simply building blocks.

For example, a tactic to get in front of a company may be to make a cold call. An alternative might be to ask a mutual friend for an introduction.

Other tactics include advertising, direct mail and buying the company outright.

The key is looking at what we can do and identifying building block activities – self contained pieces of work that will help us achieve our strategy.

Then, we need to select the ones that matter most.

Which tactics are likely to have the greatest impact? Which ones have worked for us in the past? Which ones do others say work for them?

The last step is getting the sequence right.

Which block should we do first, which one next?

We’ll need to try a few iterations and refine and improve our process.

The point is we have to implement tactics to actually make progress.

Some will work, some won’t.

But if we identify what we need to do, choose the tasks with the most impact and execute effectively, we increase the odds of succeeding.

And that’s the whole point of having a strategy and tactics in the first place.

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