This post was originally published on Antoine’s Medium blog.
Ever find yourself buried under a mountain of notes whilst preparing a business pitch? Or perhaps paralysed when it comes to making a big life decision? Or maybe just struggling with planning an upcoming agenda? If so, these tips may just be a game changer for you!
A big part of my job over the last decade has been trying to help businesses generate more ideas, communicate better and be smarter when it comes to design. In order to get the most out of people, I’ve played with several methods. Below is a compilation of some of the simplest (though not simplistic!) yet most efficient tools I’ve encountered. Ideally, these will help you:
- Avoid procrastination
- Get the most of your brain
- Structure your thoughts
- Plan ahead
Master the following steps, and your decision making process will never be the same again.
1. Before you start
Make sure you have a block of Post-it®, a marker and a whiteboard nearby. Yes, these methods can be done with web-based tools but honestly, I’ve found it a lot more efficient, not to mention satisfying to go the old fashioned route. The mere action of physically moving notes or trashing them can be extremely gratifying.
One common mistake is to skip using the Post-it® and write directly on the whiteboard. This approach quickly reveals its limits when you need to start moving things around.
2. Express your ideas
The first step consists of expressing all your thoughts. Write each idea on a Post-it®. The size of the note forces you to keep it straightforward. Follow this simple principle: Verb + Short expression (e.g. “Review Mark’s presentation”). Generate as many of these as you can. There are no restrictions.
If it doesn’t fit on a note, well, it probably means that your idea is too big. In that case, divide it into smaller ideas.
The more you produce, the merrier.
3. Sort your ideas
At this stage, you should have a pile of ideas written on Post-it®. The exercise now consists of organising them by themes. There are multiple options to choose from. Here’s a suggestion:
A. The Eisenhower Principle
Choose two evaluation criteria (e.g. Urgent/Important) and simply draw two axes to slice the whiteboard into four areas. Assign each of your notes to the relevant area. For example, in the illustration below, the top right corner represents urgent AND important, these are the tasks to do now. Whereas the bottom left quadrant, is neither important NOR urgent, and thus can be ignored for the moment.
Eisenhower Principle inspired by the late U.S. President.
Similar to the previous scenario, here, the top left corner indicates the quick wins; high impact with minimal effort. Whereas, the top right highlights tasks that require a strategic investment. Tasks that take a lot of effort with minimum impact should be ignored (bottom right).
Mid to long term strategic matrix.
C. Pros and cons
A classic chart that forces you to look at things through a black and white lens.
Pros and Cons. A classic.
On the same model, the “Nice to have/Must have” can help you choose the most important items from a list of things to buy or tasks to do.
Ideal to organise your weekly to-do list. Here tasks are distributed based on their current state of completion: Not started, in progress, blocked and done. Works especially well when updated on a daily basis.
Kanban (literally billboard in Japanese) are often used in Software development.
It’s easy to overlook these methods for the sake of their simplicity. But remember, simple doesn’t mean simplistic. Rest assured, I’ve witnessed them help many a team crack complex problems not to mention tackle tough decisions. Any of these methods can be used either individually or combined.
Embrace their simplicity. Make them part of your daily workflow and you’ll make smarter decisions.