12 Ways to Think “Big Picture” and Why You Should Bother

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The everyday in-the-trenches part of working for yourself can not only be all-encompassing and constant, but it’s also necessary. After all, it’s these small incremental actions you take everyday that provide the value to your customers and essentially pay the bills.  Plus, many of us find that it’s difficult to set aside time for any activities that don’t directly result in income. But despite the time challenge, there are several indirect business processes you should dedicate time to if you want to maximize your potential for growth. One is thinking about, analyzing and planning for the big picture.

Why Bother with the Big Picture

The big picture is simply the entirety of what you’re doing – your ultimate goal and how it relates to everything around it. I like to think of it as an aerial view of your business over a span of time, answering that age-old question: where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years? 20? This certainly doesn’t diminish the importance of the details, but in order to get an accurate picture of where you are and where you’re going, you need to step back periodically and take a high-level look. This big-picture analysis can be helpful because it:
  • Gives you a chance to check-in on your goals
  • Assures you that what you’re investing in your business supports what you plan to accomplish
  • Helps you justify the time and energy you spend on overcoming challenges
  • Confirms that the in-the-trenches work is aligned with your business objectives

12 Ways to Get a Big-Picture View

If you’re not used to stepping back from the minutiae and taking a high-level look at your business, this can be a challenging exercise. As a detail-person myself, this is definitely a challenge for me. Here are a few ways that I’ve used to get started that might help you out as well.
  1. Write down what your typical day looks like and compare it to what you want it to be.
  2. Review statistics for your web site, marketing activities and lead management activities and look for opportunities for improvement.
  3. Get feedback from clients in term of your services, their perception of your company, and your future potential with them.
  4. Analyze your daily activities and where you spend your time in order to determine where you can delegate more.
  5. Ask a mentor or colleague to help you align your current activities with your long-term goals.
  6. Conduct a productivity check-in by reviewing your process for project and task management.
  7. Measure yourself against the competition so you can identify areas of improvement.
  8. Go back to your business startup stage and see how your business plan, marketing plan and overall objectives relate to where you are now (and update them to reflect the reality of now and where you want to go next).
  9. Assess the industry and changes that have occurred since the last time you looked at the big picture, and consider how it affects your business today.
  10. Brainstorm an on-the-side project that will indirectly support your business while giving you a new outlet to add some variety.
  11. Outline what you plan to do in terms of skill development in the short term.
  12. Write a BHAG and post it where you can see it everyday.
It’s this big-picture view that gives you the information you need to make sure you’re staying the course, even when you’re bogged down with the day-to-day. What do you do to look at the big picture? Do you find that it’s helpful? Image credit: blackcat79

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Big Picture Thinking

What is the importance of big picture thinking in personal development?

Big picture thinking is crucial in personal development as it allows individuals to see beyond the immediate tasks or challenges and understand the broader context. This perspective can help in setting long-term goals, making strategic decisions, and understanding the impact of one’s actions on the larger scheme of things. It encourages individuals to think creatively, be open to new ideas, and be proactive in their approach to personal growth and development.

How can I develop my big picture thinking skills?

Developing big picture thinking skills involves several steps. First, you need to broaden your knowledge base and understand different perspectives. This can be achieved by reading widely, engaging in diverse experiences, and interacting with people from various backgrounds. Second, practice strategic thinking by setting long-term goals and considering the broader implications of your decisions. Lastly, cultivate curiosity and openness to new ideas, as these traits can help you see beyond the immediate and understand the larger context.

What are the challenges in big picture thinking and how can they be overcome?

Some common challenges in big picture thinking include getting overwhelmed by details, difficulty in making connections between different elements, and resistance to change. These can be overcome by practicing mindfulness, developing strategic thinking skills, and being open to new ideas and perspectives. It’s also helpful to seek feedback and guidance from others who excel in big picture thinking.

How does big picture thinking contribute to business success?

Big picture thinking is crucial for business success as it allows leaders to understand the broader market trends, anticipate future changes, and make strategic decisions. It helps in setting the vision and direction for the company, aligning team efforts towards common goals, and fostering innovation and creativity. By seeing the bigger picture, businesses can better navigate challenges and seize opportunities for growth.

Can big picture thinking be taught or is it an innate ability?

While some people may naturally excel at big picture thinking, it is a skill that can be developed and honed with practice. It involves cultivating curiosity, openness to new ideas, and strategic thinking abilities. Regularly stepping back to consider the broader context, seeking diverse perspectives, and setting long-term goals can help in developing this skill.

How does big picture thinking relate to problem-solving?

Big picture thinking is a key component of effective problem-solving. It allows individuals to understand the root causes of a problem, consider various possible solutions, and evaluate their potential impact on the larger context. This approach can lead to more innovative and effective solutions, as it goes beyond addressing the immediate issue and considers the broader implications.

What is the role of big picture thinking in team collaboration?

In team collaboration, big picture thinking helps in aligning individual efforts towards common goals, fostering a shared understanding of the project’s purpose, and facilitating effective communication. It allows team members to understand how their roles contribute to the larger objectives, which can enhance motivation and productivity.

How can I balance big picture thinking with attention to detail?

Balancing big picture thinking with attention to detail involves being able to switch between different levels of thinking as required. While it’s important to understand the broader context and long-term goals, it’s equally crucial to focus on the immediate tasks and details. Regularly stepping back to consider the bigger picture can help in maintaining this balance.

How does big picture thinking impact decision-making?

Big picture thinking plays a crucial role in decision-making. It allows individuals to consider the broader implications of their decisions, anticipate future trends, and make strategic choices. By understanding the bigger picture, decision-makers can better evaluate the potential outcomes and risks, leading to more informed and effective decisions.

Can big picture thinking lead to innovation?

Yes, big picture thinking can foster innovation. By seeing beyond the immediate tasks and understanding the broader context, individuals can identify new opportunities, anticipate future trends, and come up with creative solutions. This perspective encourages out-of-the-box thinking and can lead to breakthrough ideas and innovations.

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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