Focus Over Optionality

Why consultants shouldn't brainstorm ideas during their weekly review process.

The habit of performing a weekly review might be the number one heuristic I use to identify high-performing consultants from the rest. Unfortunately, very few founders and partners do it - and most of those who do lack a coherent system.

That's why, during the last few days, I decided to share the weekly review process I use and teach consulting partners. Here's an illustration of it:

If you haven't read the previous posts, here's what we covered.

A couple of consultants asked me why this process does not include an activity to reflect on the future, and what exactly is included in a quarterly review.

Let me quickly address it.

Locking The Direction

We experience a constant conflict between focus and optionality.

Anything worthwhile seems to take time, and we need the ability to deeply focus on something if we want to make progress. On the other hand, the market and our environment are changing at a faster and faster pace. We need to be able to quickly create new options, adapt, and change plans.

The only way you can reconcile the two is by using different review processes for different time frames. In the short-term, prioritizing focus. In the medium and longer-term, by adding optionality.

When I’m working on something day-to-day, I don't wonder if that activity is the right way to achieve my quarterly goals. All my energy is focused on simply executing the most important tasks (MITs) laid out for that week.

If I have doubts or a new suggestion, I add it to my weekly review journaling notes to review at the end of the week, then go back to work.

If I think of a really big idea (in the middle of work or during my weekly reviews), I won’t change my quarterly goals. I’ll add it to a document called “Quarterly Review Notes” to review at the end of the 90 days.

For example, during Q2 I will open a note with the title “Q3 review notes,” and list big questions I need to think about - “Should I write a book?", “Should I hire someone?”, "Should I self-host an event for our current clients?".

90% of all consultants whom I've helped adopt quarterly goals saw a huge performance increase as result. When you pick no more than 3 projects, break them down into smaller tasks, and focus on execution for 90 days you can get a lot done.

The Quarterly Review

It would take an even bigger series of posts to describe the quarterly review process I recommend to founders and boutique consulting partners. I might write it in the future, but for now here's a high-level overview of the exercise.

The quarterly review process consists of three steps:

  1. Set or review your long-term vision: The goal here is to think really long-term about what you and your partners want, and how the feedback from the last 90 days has changed it.
  2. Perform a quarterly planning: Here you review what is and isn't working, discuss goals for the next 90 days, and decide how you can measure them.
  3. Pick and document goals: After discussing possible options, the last step is to decide on your key goals and prioritize them.

You need to block out a day to go through the whole process. It's important not to do any other day-to-day work in the middle of this to avoid distractions - you will be forced to make difficult decisions.

Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to learn more about the process.

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