17429245_SI like things in order. I like knowing what’s coming. I like knowing who’s responsible for what. Most of all, I like knowing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. Or else, things get off track, and that just doesn’t fit into my neat little world of organization.

True to my controlling nature, I’m a planner. I plan daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. And when we began using an editorial calendar here at Mainstreethost, my [writing] life completely changed. Not only does the calendar help me organize my week and keep me on track with various tasks, it also makes me accountable for writing about specific topics.

More importantly, it’s helped my writing. I no longer stress about what I’m going to write about, instead I take that energy and channel it into putting my thoughts onto paper (or my computer screen).

However, before we were able to get to the planning process, we needed a strategy. As much as I enjoy planning, I like strategizing more. After all, a plan with no strategy is almost useless.

Whether it’s a formal, in-depth strategy – which I’m personally partial to – or a general conversation about the goal of a task, developing a well thought-out strategy is imperative to the planning process.

If you don’t agree, consider these four reasons for developing a strategy:

It helps you define and align your goals with organizational values

Anything and everything you do should align with organizational values and goals. Think of every initiative as a small piece of your organization’s puzzle; each piece must fit with the others to create a meaningful message.

When putting together a strategy, identify your goals first. Answer questions including the following: What will this project do for my organization? How will it add to my brand’s message? What types of outcomes should the project produce?

By defining your goals, it’ll help the smaller pieces of the puzzle fall into place. You’ll be able to prioritize certain elements of your strategy, while ensuring that they’re all working together to complete the bigger picture.

Be realistic in defining and aligning your goals. We’ll touch on this later, but unrealistic goals can set you up for failure. There’s nothing wrong with setting high standards, just be careful how you communicate this to your boss or client.

It provides framework for specific projects

Within a strategy, you can plan for various projects and tasks. Or rather, various projects can be the result of a strategy. Either way you look at it, a strategy provides the framework for you, like the edges and corners of a puzzle piece.

This framework helps identify existing elements, as well as missing elements. Think of your strategy as the foundation of every project; lay out the areas you have set, and fill in the details.

Let’s use the Mainstreethost blog as an example. While we have a larger goal surrounding the foundational reasons for blogging, each month we develop a content calendar. This calendar is our plan, and before we choose post topics (the dates we plan to set them live and everything in between), we develop a strategy for the month.

Last month we focused on social media, and we centered February’s posts on SEO. Not only did this allow us to cover topics we didn’t have much content for, but by having a plan and strategy in place, we were able to have consistent posting throughout the month.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to utilize this calendar to assist and support our content marketing strategy and goals; adding one puzzle piece to our masterpiece, post by post.

It helps keep you focused on your goals

It’s not difficult to get off track with any project or task. By having a strategy in place, you have something to look to when you find yourself getting off track.

The moment you get away from the fundamental reasons behind your efforts is when projects lose their momentum, and even worse, it’s when they’re scrapped. Although a strategy is not “scrap-proof”, it is a useful and directive way to organize critical elements of any project.

It’s like the puzzle we’ve been working on. We’ve laid the foundation and started to piece it together, and even while we have other stuff going on, we must go back and complete the masterpiece. After all, no one likes an unfinished puzzle, just like no one likes a unfinished project.

It helps keep customer and/or upper management expectations in line

We’ve all encountered a client or boss who didn’t understand what we’re doing, how it will benefit their business and bottom line, why we chose a specific route, why they don’t see immediate results, why the results aren’t what they thought they would be, etc.

By putting together a strategy, for a client or upper management, it allows you to explain what you’re doing, an estimated period to complete it, and most importantly, it allows you to explain what you aren’t doing. This should help keep expectations in line, with a detailed explanation of course.

This is similar to the picture of the puzzle we’re working on. We see it on the box and expect that what we create will look similar, if not exactly as shown on the box. Disappointment is the result if a piece is missing, or if the puzzle looks NOTHING like we’d anticipated it to.

Moral of the story: use your strategy to set clear and realistic expectations, ones that keep client and management expectations in line, and ones you can meet or exceed.

A fundamental aspect of planning and executing any project, we often forget the importance of developing a strategy. After that initial idea sparks, work out a strategy that addresses your goals and how the specific project will add value to your organization. Whether you’re in marketing or any other industry, use the strategizing process to your advantage. You’ll be ecstatic when all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly into place.