My little girl loves to draw. When she is stumped for ideas, her teachers suggest sketching instances of her life, things like her family, her room, even her closet. They also ask her to imagine.
One day, she brought home a drawing of a family that had more members than we have so I asked her who everyone was. “This is me, this is my husband, these are my four kids, this is our dog and our house. It has lots of windows,” she replied.
She used her imagination to draw a picture of what she sees her life being like when she is a grown-up. It was her vision for her future.
The Importance of Your Vision
Every business book will tell you that you must have a vision, something that crystallizes where you see yourself being. Without it, you will lack clear direction. The result will be missed goals, missed opportunities, frustration and dissatisfaction. You will also probably have a nagging feeling of uncertainty. All this because you don’t know where you are headed.
This is actually very simple to change. All it requires is a day to yourself. I call it an imagination day and I take several of these every year, at least once a quarter.
Imagination days work best when you can isolate yourself from all distractions so you can focus like a laser. No checking email. No taking phone calls. No running errands.
What Goes Into an Imagination Day
A friend of mine takes an imagination morning every month. He goes to a local hotel and parks himself in the cafe from breakfast through lunch. He spreads out his notes and some blank sheets of paper, then sits back and thinks.
Don’t try doing this in your office. You will be met with numerous distractions, including people who don’t understand that you are really working and not staring off into space. A neutral location that is neither your home nor your office is the ideal setting for this personal retreat.
My friend paints a picture of what his business should be like. He visualizes the processes he needs in place to make sure that operations are running smoothly. He tries to uncover bottlenecks. This could include identifying deficiencies in staff skills, technology usage, alignment of company and individual goals, and anything else he sees as an obstacle. His objective is to look at the forest, not just the trees, so that he can remove the obstacles that are hindering progress. He outlines what he needs to do and what each of his direct reports needs to do. He cross-checks his “to do” list from the prior month to see what is on track and what needs attention or adjustment.
Throughout the morning, he is visualizing. He is architecting his future. He is using his imagination to craft his vision and then managing the plan that will get him there.
Getting Actionable Results
The output from imagination days can take many forms. The easiest is to produce bullet points of action items. There are more creative outlets, too.
Another colleague of mine creates vision boards. She sits down with a stack of magazines and finds pictures and headlines that resemble the experiences she wants to have in the next 12 months. This includes personal and business goals. Sometimes, she surfs the web to select more appropriate pictures that she prints out in color.
She pastes these images onto a poster board that hangs in her office. Doing so forms a visual connection each time she looks up from her desk. If she wants to go on a bike ride through Tuscany, she pastes a picture of people going on a bike ride over a picture of rolling vineyards. Seeing her board daily helps push the mental connection of her vision into subconscious action and almost inevitably results in her achieving her desired goals.
Schedule an Appointment with Yourself
Scheduling imagination days doesn’t happen by accident. You have to put them on your calendar, just like any other appointment. Don’t view this as down time. Your imagination day is going to be the most valuable, concentrated time you can spend to help you formulate and achieve your vision. You will feel refreshed, full of optimism and have a tremendous sense of direction, certainty and accomplishment.
Get out your calendar and set up an imagination day appointment with yourself right now!