Are you a list person? A sticky note person? A mental note person? How do you organize your thoughts, time, and actions? Or do you?
If you are a list person, you like other list people to be on your team. You feel safe and comforted watching others write down as much as you do. It helps you feel that everyone is on the same page and that things are going to get done. You freely admit that your satisfaction comes from marking those check boxes or crossing things out as you go through your work. But you also become a little stressed with people who don’t make lists – including waiters who take orders verbally, “I mean, did he actually hear me say I want my dressing on the side?”
If you are a sticky-noter, you also admit that it is better to write things down, but you like your life just a little more colorful, don’t you? There is order in the madness. There may be stacks on your desk, but there are notes on top telling you what they are. That client who you know you need to call is written as a hot-pink reminder that slowly gets re-stuck towards the top of your computer screen as the day goes along and you are thrilled to crumple that note up and toss it once you have completed that task.
Then, there are those of you who trust all the synapses in your brain to fire on command. You save a running mental check-list of all the things you need to get done. You are my people. When someone asks you the status of something, you don’t seek your to-do-list, you tap into the corresponding brain-drawer and can easily recite the related details. If you’re like me, the people around you should become concerned when you start making physical to-do lists because that means your brain is on overload and you will start delegating things to them without warning.
Who Needs Structure?
As a leader of a business, a team or a function, your style impacts everyone else you interact with. That includes the way you organize your thoughts and actions. Your preference for sharing and receiving information tends to spill over into how those around you respond and ultimately, how results are delivered. So how do you all work together in harmony? Hand everyone a stack of sticky-notes with the corporate logo on them? Well, don’t do that quite yet. You simply create a structure to your interactions with others that is efficient and predictable.
Plan ahead for your conversations with your team members in a way that is focused on a common goal. This kind of intention and structure allows you to clarify your goals. And here’s the kicker, whether you normally make lists or not, when it comes to goals, you have to write them down. There’s a whole lot of information out there promoting this concept. Paraphrasing this article from Forbes and information from the book “Write it Down, Make it Happen” – it is neurologically proven that you trigger the ‘wake up and don’t miss this’ part of your brain by writing things down. (insert cheers from the list-makers.)
Define Your Intentions
To create a structure, it is helpful to define your intentions, expectations, priorities and timelines before you meet to discuss the goal you are working to achieve. Consider asking yourself these simple questions:
- What do we need to accomplish?
- Why is it important?
- When do specific actions need to begin?
- What resources are necessary to be successful?
- What is the due date?
Structure helps you focus on goals with intention. It helps make your thoughts and expectations clear to those around you. And when everyone knows what to expect, everyone has the freedom to achieve success using the method and style that works best for them. We don’t all have to be list makers, but we do need to be intentional in the way we approach others and the way we communicate our goals.
Structure creates freedom. It is as simple as that. Imagine your momentum and freedom as you begin to achieve your goals. We’d love to hear how you put this to work!