I think it’s a conspiracy. People want me to think in straight lines. Did you struggle, as I did, when your teachers forced you to use THE OUTLINE for planning research papers? You know, THE OUTLINE: It starts with Roman numeral “I” and marches on with capital letters, numbers and lower-case letters. THE OUTLINE is made for linear thinkers by linear thinkers.
We Love Logical People
Linear thinkers rule in our society. They are logical, and they’re great at getting stuff done. They start at the beginning and knock of tasks one by one. They instinctively know the right order to do things. It’s as natural as breathing to them. I admire linear thinkers. The Artist is a linear thinker.
We non-linear thinkers scramble to keep up in the world created by the “linears.” I wrestled with THE OUTLINE from sixth grade and into college. The “logical” order of steps from start to finish are about as clear as mud to me. “Linears” are uncooked spaghetti, straight lines. My brain works more like a bowl of cooked spaghetti. Every thought intersects with hundreds of others. I’m likely to start a project on “step D” and then realize I need to include A through C. If you’re a non-linear thinker you can identify with my frustration with THE OUTLINE. Linear types think I’m nuts.
Perhaps my first spark of entrepreneurial rebellion was when I scrapped THE OUTLINE in college and created a system to cope with the “linear education machine.” Instead of a list I made circles. I recently learned my method is called “Mind Mapping.” To plan my college assignments I filled a blank page with circles and a spider web of arrows connecting them. The Artist just shakes her head and walks away.
Creative vs. Efficient
“Linears” don’t understand the way we “non-linears” think. Non-linear thinking is great for coming up with creative ideas. But it usually sucks for executing your ideas. “Linears” get stuff done. We “non-linears” get lost in the spaghetti bowl of possibilities. One thought leads to another, and another, and so it goes. I can sit and think about stuff for hours and never get anything done. The Artist says, “Just do it already!”
Or: Creative and Efficient
My spaghetti bowl process and her straight lines are a good combination, when we’re not arguing over which method is better. We still can drive each other crazy, but twenty years of working in business together has knocked off some of our rough spots. One of the organizational tools we discovered is something we call a Sticky Note Project. The Sticky Note Project is like mind mapping in that you don’t have to think of each step in order. You break your project down and write the steps on sticky notes.
Here is the sticky note process I use shown in bullet points:
- Get sticky notes in several colors. I like the smaller ones, about 2″ or so.
- Identify and write your goal. Focus, now, all of us non-linears. This means you write down what you want to accomplish. This isn’t a place for our vague ideas. Be specific. (Linears: ignore everything here but the first sentence.)
- Write each step to finish the goal on sticky note. Put it on poster board.
- Break the steps into smaller steps. You’re moving from general to specific.
- Categorize and order the steps. Make more notes as needed to clarify or add more detail.
- Arrange the sticky notes in order. This is a linear order. Yes. We non-linears have to admit it’s best to do things in the proper order.
Structure and a Check List
I like the sticky note system because it saves me from starting in the middle of a big project and having to undo and redo my work. The Artist uses it to make sure she hasn’t overlooked an important step. The beauty of using sticky notes like this is it works for both linear and non-linear thinking.
We often use sticky note projects to plan our home rehab projects. I have several of these projects on my still-to-be-written Toleration List. But you can use sticky notes to plan almost any project. It’s ideal for entrepreneurs working to start a home-based business.
Paper vs. Plasma
As a last word, I’ll give my opinion that using real sticky notes is better than using virtual ones. You can find organizing and planning software. Sticky notes on a poster board don’t vanish when you power down. The visual reminder remains. You can often complete a step on your project when you find yourself with 15 minutes to spare. And real sticky notes won’t suck you into the social media temporal vortex lurking behind your virtual planner.
I’d love to hear your feedback. Can you think of a good project you can organize with sticky notes? I’d love to hear about it.