Distinguish between maintenance and strategic actions and do both

tactical work.jpgPlace all activity into one of two categories: maintenance or strategic.

Maintenance activities are necessary, but they don’t take you beyond your status quo. Maintenance work includes mundane actions like taking a bath, doing your laundry, changing the oil in your car, and cooking meals. Some maintenance functions are more critical—going to work, dealing with medical issues—but they are still focused on preserving the existing state. Neglect them and things begin to break down. But if maintenance activities (also known as custodial activities) are all you ever do, you’ll not advance in life; you’ll exist but not thrive.

Strategic initiatives move you into a better space. They depart from the norm, promote growth, and open new doors.

For instance, one of my strategic goals in 2016 is to make 50 new friends. I will have a one-on-one meeting (perhaps over breakfast, lunch, or a cup of coffee) with these new acquaintances and then follow up with another personal visit, or I might get a group of my new friends together to visit about interesting topics.

Another strategic initiative I’m pursuing is to improve my short-term memory. I want to be able to read a telephone number once and remember it, or hear a phrase or quote and memorize it immediately.

These types of activities will help me become a better person, not just maintain my current state.

Most of us spend 70-80% of our time on routine, custodial tasks, and that’s okay, even necessary. But with the remaining time, let’s break new ground, try something different, and extend our boundaries.

Once maintenance issues become systematized you don’t have to think a lot about them. But strategic actions take initiative and thoughtful planning. Do both.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this topic?[/reminder]

What? – There is a difference between maintenance and strategic actions. Do both.
So what? – Maintenance activities only perpetuate the status quo; strategic actions are needed for growth.
Now what? – Craft and adopt at least two new strategic initiatives that you will work on in the next 12 months.

Click here for more information on how your organization will benefit from strategic initiatives.

16 Replies to “Distinguish between maintenance and strategic actions and do both”

  1. Don,
    Reading this, I’m reminded of the difficulties I had developing young managers and executives, especially getting them to realize the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important. Then it was a matter of getting them to realize that ,if they thought they had too much too do and were overloaded, they had to DELEGATE. However, that requires TRUST. If they thought they were overburdened, but couldn’t share some responsibilities, how could they ever advance?

    1. Cap, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your work with young executives must have been challenging at times but also rewarding. Teaching managers to prioritize and delegate are two essential skills for productive managers. Don

  2. What about when strategic activities become too common, and maintenance turns into a chore. In writing novels, I feel too much of my work falls into the realm of strategic thinking, to the point I start neglecting the mundane. I’d be interested to see you expand your thoughts on that, too.

    1. E.S., you mention two interesting thoughts. It’s not unusual for maintenance items to become mundane and boring but if strategic actions become common, they can become common place, too. Let me think about that for awhile. You’re saying that as a novelist, most of your thinking is strategic? Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Don

  3. I love your thinking on this:
    Maintenance is essential for daily life,
    Strategic actions are essential for daily growth!
    Thanks for your clarity of thoughts. I needed to be reminded of these issues.

  4. By concentrating on making new friends will it not jeopardize existing friendships ? One might say nurturing existing friendships is maintenance however I would say it’s a strategic initiative to enjoy and value those relationships .

    1. Tye, you bring up a good point. I’m hoping that I can increase my number of friendships without jeopardizing current ones. I think we all have more capacity than we think. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Don

  5. A simple way to organize thoughts, observe how your spending your time and be intentional about growing. In working with high school and college people you often find that their routine of obtaining knowledge and a formal education eliminates strategic thought. We often grow self-reliant in our routine minimizing our daily dependence on Christ. Strategic thought drives you to a reliance on the Holy Spirit and an intimate, personal dependence on our Lord. Thank you for your efforts!

  6. Great reminder to be more intentional especially with strategic initiatives and
    Goals to avoid just floating in life. As a woman working full time and balancing being a mother, friend etc, making strategic goals is crucial to better oneself and finding fulfillment and purpose in what God has for my life, always keeping Him at the center.

  7. Thanks Don for your encouraging messages. Your conversation on “Maintenance and Strategic actions has help me to think through my clutter mess. Thanks for allowing GOD to use…

    Russ Hardin

  8. Dear Don,
    I don’t think I would want to be one of your new 50 friends. Real friendship takes time and sacrifice. Friendship is about sharing. The older you are, the more history you have and the more you have to share about yourself. The children in the playground may well invite everyone in their class to their birthday party but that’s really about their parents not wanting to upset any of the children or their parents.
    It’s lovely keeping tabs on old friends on Facebook but nothing beats a face to face meeting where you can see where there is pain behind a story and be able to empathise with your friend.
    Many people send out “round robins” at Christmas to friends on their mailing list but often this is just an opportunity to boast about how clever, talented and successful their children have become.
    Ask yourself how you will find time to spend at least one hour a month with each of those 50 friends? They may not be available when you are so just making the arrangements could take up 30 minutes of the original hour.

    1. Angela, thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are good ones. I do think we all have different “sets” of friends, based on how close and intimate we are. I visualize it as concentric circles, with the smaller circle in the middle, my most intimate friends. So far I am having a good time making new friends, about 14 to date. I don’t know if any of these friends will become life-long, close friends, but my life is already being enriched by them. I do think we can all accommodate more friends than we think we can, and sometimes we become lackadaisical about it and cease making new acquaintances. Don

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *