‘Green’ is a description that won’t apply for another month or so. It’s muddy underfoot, there are few birds in evidence, although occasionally we hear the surprisingly loud tock-tock of a woodpecker somewhere up in the trees. But there’s a bit of sun and it’s great to be out in the fresh air, away from our desks. We chat as we walk along the path, taking in deep breaths of forest and revelling in the freelance flexibility that allows us to be here.

Kristiane Marx and I are on our second strategy hike of the year. Once a month we get out for a long-ish hike to reflect on what’s happened in our businesses in the weeks since our last session. I love a win-win, and on a strategy hike I get lots of exercise and fresh air in good company, plus a change of scene, while gaining valuable insight into how my business is going.

How does a strategy hike work?

Kristiane and I take it in turns to be in the spotlight, working through a few set questions that help us focus on good (and bad) things that happened in the previous month, what we’d like to see more of and what we’ve learned.

Before lockdown we’d sit in a café and write the answers down, and when the weather was warmer we were able to continue that with a picnic and a bench. But through the winter we had to adapt if we didn’t want to freeze to death in the middle of the woods. So the last couple of months one of us would answer the questions as we walked along, with the other then summarising the answers into a voice message for later reference. I wasn’t sure about that method initially as I love writing everything down, but it turns out that this also works really well, if not better, because my thoughts flow more freely when I’m walking.

What are the benefits?

Keep track

Looking back and reflecting is a valuable way of keeping track. We all know how fast time can fly by. And it can be easy to forget things that have happened or be unaware of progress we’ve made. Sometimes you don’t realise how far you’ve climbed until you stop and look back. Being aware of progress and giving myself a pat on the back motivates me to keep going.

Recognise patterns

When you look back in a structured manner it’s easier to analyse things that have happened and recognise patterns. What are the things that worked really well? What could I perhaps do better next time? Am I spending my time doing things that are getting me closer to my goals?

Develop strategies

Without wanting to dwell too much on the negative, it can be helpful to look at things that didn’t go so well and try to figure out why. What went wrong? How can I do better next time? What would be a good strategy to avoid getting into that situation in the future?

In the same way, we talk about things that went well, figure out what was good about them and how to make sure we get more of them in the future.

Be accountable

I’m really good with external deadlines, but I don’t always find it that easy to stick to my own self-imposed ones. So when it comes to internal business goals, I find it helpful to them with Kristiane, because it makes me more accountable and motivated to achieve them if I know I’m going to have to explain myself a month later.

Get out of your own head

Sometimes things just seem easier to cope with and understand once you’ve got them out of your head and said them out loud to someone else. If I try to do this kind of reflection myself, I either gloss over things or they go round and round in a loop in my head.

It also helps that Kristiane and I work in completely different sectors and have quite different personalities. So when one of us makes an assumption, the other often has a different perspective to offer. Finding a new way of thinking about something – or simply realising that my way is not the only way – is often enough to help me move forward.

Have fun!

Sometimes the best insights come when you’re out and about, having a good time in beautiful surroundings. The hours I spend on a strategy hike may not be billable, but they are a valuable investment in terms of helping me focus, plan and move forward towards my goals. And I always come home feeling energised.