Using a Visual Approach to Thinking and Planning

Given a choice between creating a written plan or a visual plan, I know which one I’d prefer – give me flow charts, mind maps, sketches or any other visual format any day!

A picture is worth a thousand words

When I want to create a new business process or programme, the first thing I do is create a simple visual representation of all the moving parts – or those that I’m aware of – into a format I can see, understand and generally get my head around! Having done that, it’s then SO much easier to start shaping and refining it into the finished article.

Using visuals makes information easier to convey, process, and remember making it an incredibly powerful tool for both thinking and planning and anything that does that gets the thumbs up from me! There are lots of online planning apps out there but for me, I’m happier with coloured pens and paper, a whiteboard or, my all time favourite – post-it notes!  

I’m hoping that by the end of this blog I’ll have convinced you to give it a go!

But first let me reassure you at the outset that this is absolutely nothing to do with being able to draw – simple shapes and icons are all that’s required to get your brilliant (but often woolly) ideas out of your head and onto paper in a format where they can be quickly captured, structured and organised.

Okay, so let’s start by taking a look at some of the many benefits of visual planning.

Visuals help you see the ‘bigger picture’

So often we get stuck simply because we can’t see the wood for the trees and when that happens we wind up lost in the detail…. (should I go with the blue logo or the grey one?) Creating a visual plan literally helps you see the whole picture – often on a single piece of paper – giving you something incredibly important – the big picture overview.

I liken it to creating the picture on the box of a jigsaw rather than blindly trying to piece random bits together – which if you’ve ever tried, is a VERY long-winded approach!

Creating a visual offers a way to express your ideas with speed, flexibility and fluidity, quickly turning those hard to define, fuzzy thoughts into something tangible. And best of all, once you have the overview, you’re then in a brilliant position to tackle some of the harder questions about the direction things are headed and whether the small tasks you’re currently doing all day are steps along the right path.

A fast track to clarity

I’m guessing you’ve got no shortage of thoughts and ideas about your business – it’s knowing what to DO with them all that’s the challenging part! Ideas are fantastic but until an idea actually takes form, well, it’ll remain just an idea! Visual planning is a quick way for you to consolidate your thoughts and ideas into something understandable, accessible and ACTIONABLE.

mindmap

‘I can see it now!’ is often the response I hear from clients when they see their jumble of thoughts clearly represented in front of them!

Thinking visually enables you to get things out of your head and onto the page at lightning speed – there’s no need for padding or waffle in this process! Which if like me, you’re someone who can SO easily get side-tracked by padding and waffle, is a definite bonus!

It reveals new possibilities

Our brains thrive on clarity and a concise, visual overview of your business provides the clarity needed to bring fresh new ideas, opportunities and possibilities to light. It also gives you a sense of objectivity which makes it so much easier to see connections between ideas and processes that might not be so obvious with standard written formats.

Visual roadmaps

If you’re running a business, you need a plan. Full stop. But what if you find planning boring…. or daunting….. or both? Well, this is where visual planning really comes into its own because even the simplest diagrams can help you create a purposeful, step by step action plan – a creative, visual road map clarifying exactly what you need to do to get where you want to go.

Traditional business planning tends to be a linear process but we don’t think in a linear way – well, I certainly don’t! Which is where many of us struggle. Organising information visually is ‘spatial’, allowing our thoughts to flow unhindered, knowing we can easily rearrange things and encouraging us to find creative ways to fit things together and make new connections…. and importantly, get the job done!

More than just pretty pictures

I like to turn standard processes into infographics as a way of enhancing the clarity and effectiveness of information I communicate to my audience in a way that’s both creative and meaningful. And yes, it also makes it more interesting and enjoyable for me!

Take my Client Attraction Guide for example (below) – a 10 step ‘visual roadmap’ I created for my clients showing them the actionable steps to take to start attracting regular clients. (If you’d like to download a copy please feel free to sign up below.)

It’s not about creating pretty pictures (although, I confess I do like to make things look attractive) – it’s a communication tool and an action plan.

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All this and more!

Alongside ALL this, using visuals in your business also helps keep you focused…. helps you retain and share information…. aids brainstorming….. and more besides!

So, there you have it – I hope I’ve made a good enough case for visual thinking and planning for you to give it a try. It’s the quickest way I know of finding solutions and coming up with new ideas and new projects.

Are you up for a challenge?

As with everything, the only way to find out if this is something that will work for you is to give it a try, so I’m throwing down the gauntlet and challenging you to create a simple one-page visual overview of your own.

Create a visual overview of your current business model, showing the journey from complete stranger to paying client and including all the products and services you offer your clients as well as the methods you use to connect with them.

How you choose to do this is entirely up to you, whatever is easiest and makes the most sense to you – post-it notes, a schematic, a mind-map, or hand drawn layout – a simple, concise, visual format that is easy to understand and share.

Once created, take an objective look and I guarantee you’ll ‘see’ all sorts of information to help you move forward – missing parts of your process waiting to be filled…. creative new opportunities for programmes or services…. and more!

I hope you’re inspired to give it a try and who knows – this could completely revolutionise your future business planning. And if it does, remember, you heard it here first!

Let me know your thoughts

Are you a fan of visual thinking and planning? Interested in giving it a try? Happy with traditional planning…. or maybe you have a tried and trusted method of your own to share.

Let me know in the comments below – I’d absolutely love to hear from you!

The Power of Taking the First Step

The power of taking the first step

I’m an ideas person. In fact, there are times when I could best be described as a one-woman-ideas-factory!

Ideas excite me… they energise and inspire me.

And there’s a very good reason for this! It’s because our ideas – mine and yours – are driven by a single, energising impulse – to be brought to life!

And yet as we know only too well, only SOME ideas come to fruition whereas others remain just that – ideas.

The question is ….WHY?

Now THIS is a question that absolutely fascinates me! Partly it’s the coach in me (we love our questions!) but partly because the answer has the potential to completely change the way we respond to our precious ideas.

But first, let me set the scene to help put this question in context. It’s a common scenario you may well be familiar with.

A new idea comes knocking…

Not just any old idea… an exciting, inspiring idea – something brilliant, like creating a business of your own perhaps! It’s SO very exciting…. and yes, maybe it’s even a bit scary. Correction – there’s no ‘maybe’ about it – it IS a bit scary. But this brilliant, exciting, inspiring idea really, REALLY floats your boat, right?

And then…

Ideas

You start thinking about the million-and-one steps you’d need to take to actually bring your idea to life. And slowly but surely, you start to feel more and more overwhelmed and before you know it, you’ve talked yourself out of it, possibly telling yourself it was a mad idea in the first place! It’s too late, too difficult, too expensive, now’s not the right time (a personal favourite!) and so on and so on. Feel free to add some of your own!

And bit by bit, the life is gradually snuffed out of the idea (that brilliant, exciting, inspiring idea, remember?) before it’s even seen the light of day!

I completely ‘get’ it though. So often, we hesitate to take ANY action, because it’s impossible to predict how ALL the subsequent steps are going to roll out. And because we want to have everything all figured out before we start – we DON’T start at all!

And THAT’S how an idea stays just that – an idea

Humans eh, what are we like? Is it any wonder we find it difficult to venture outside our comfort zone?

So what do we need to do differently if we’re to make our ideas a reality?

How do we get beyond the point where things start feeling so big and complex that they become downright scary and overwhelming?

Taking a different approach

Well, we KNOW that trying to figure out everything before we start is a recipe for disaster but here’s something to consider:

What if we made a deal with our self to just take the very first step…. with absolutely no pressure about the steps to take after that?

What if we decided to do this one thing as a way of honouring our ideas, creativity and inspiration?

How would that feel?

Because if you think about it, ALL major achievements begin as small steps which then gradually build into something more.

When I look back at the significant things I’ve done in my life, I can trace each and every one of them back to the first small step… usually some innocuous action, like saying yes to an opportunity, following my curiosity or typing my details into a website.

That’s exactly how my business began….

After running a business with my partner for some time, I reached a point where I knew I really wanted to ‘do something different’. Trouble was, I didn’t know WHAT that something might be. It all felt so BIG and so overwhelming and for a long time I was paralysed into doing….. yes, you guessed it, absolutely nothing!

But one day, one simple action unwittingly became the catalyst that changed everything.

What was that simple action?

I typed my name and email address into a website and signed up for a discovery session with a life coach! I didn’t have any real expectations about where this would take me – I was simply following my curiosity. From there, I decided to take the next step of working with her for a few months – a decision which quite literally changed my life. Because as a result of that, I decided to train to become a coach and the rest, as they as they say, is history! But without that first step, my life would be so much different to what it is now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it was all plain sailing from that point onward – it wasn’t – but the point I want to stress is, that one step started my journey and took me so much further than any amount of waiting, thinking or additional preparation ever could.

Kick-start the journey

It helped me kick-start an incredible new adventure and I’ve no doubt it could do exactly the same for you too. So many of us let our dreams slip away, simply because we were too afraid to take that first small step forward.

Time and time again, I’ve witnessed how quickly things unfold once clients decide to take the next step toward their goals…. and how that ONE step can kick-start their journey and lead them to places they could never have anticipated. That ONE step becomes a catalyst for further action, creating possibilities and opportunities that had absolutely zero percent chance of happening before!

And the same is true for you as you look to make your brilliant, exciting, inspiring idea of creating a business a reality. You don’t need to make a big, sweeping ‘do or die’ decision. You don’t need to have all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed.

Your journey can begin simply by taking the first step and allowing what comes next to unfold.

Take that powerful first step

We’re all familiar with the quote about a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step and we recognise its obvious truth. First steps are incredibly powerful because above all else they allow the journey to begin. And once the journey begins, it can lead you to places you could never have envisioned in a million years!

If this sounds overly simplistic, please don’t dismiss it. Try it! It works. You don’t have to figure everything out, you just have to start. And to start you have take the first step.

And if you’re thinking, ‘nice idea but I don’t know WHAT the first step is’, I’ve got you covered. Yes this is a shameless plug but there’s no point in me having a solution for you and not telling you, is there? If you’re stuck, book yourself a Plan P Catalyst Session – a full 60 minutes to fully engage with your ideagive it a bit of love, gain a fresh perspective on what’s possible and allow your new journey to begin.

I’ll finish with this piece of advice from the inspirational Liz Gilbert (an ‘ideas person’ if ever there was one!) who says, “Receive your ideas with respect and curiosity, not drama or dread.”

Sound advice, don’t you think?

So the next time a brilliant idea comes knocking, try doing just that – treat it with respect and curiosity. Take the first step… see where it might take you.

Unless you’re EXTREMELY fortunate, it’s quite likely you’ll have had experience of doing a job that’s – how shall I put it…. ‘less than enjoyable’!

Personally, I’ve had quite a few jobs I’ve absolutely LOATHED over the years! I’m talking here about jobs of the mind-numbingly boring variety (I’m thinking of you in particular Wrigley’s chewing gum factory!) where it was very much a case of just ‘going through the motions’ and ‘doing the 9 to 5’ purely to earn some money!

In the main, these were holiday jobs I had when I was a student – so at least they were only temporary! I often look back on these experiences with a mixture of nostalgia, amusement and horror – I STILL vividly remember the scene when the ‘whistle’ went at the aforementioned Wrigley’s factory and the workforce literally running out of the factory gates! The only way to avoid being trampled on in the rush was to join in and start running!

It was then I realised that what was a temporary drudge for me, was the full-time reality of working life for many others. It also made me realise – probably for the first time – how important it was when the time came to get a ‘proper job’, to choose something that provided me with a sense of personal fulfilment.

It’s something that’s stayed with me all this time

Because isn’t that what we ALL aspire to – fulfilling and purposeful work… work we’re passionate about… work that really lights up. Work we love.

Many of us spend a large part of our lives searching for this particular ‘holy grail’ and is what motivates many of us to start a business of our own in order to create an environment that ticks all the boxes of passion, purpose, potential and prosperity.

It took a long time but I now realise that is entirely possible to take a blank sheet and write your OWN specification for that work, based on who you are and what you love to do!

This realisation STILL gives me a thrill!

As a business coach working with talented women in their 50’s and 60’s I see how each and every one of us has amazing gifts and talents, but many of us don’t recognise our abilities as ‘gifts’. We mistakenly think that what comes naturally to us is also easy for everyone else. Consequently, we don’t appreciate how powerful or valuable these gifts are, or that we can use them to create a business we love.

Clarity is key!

I believe it’s possible for anyone to create a business that both honours what you have inside of you AND helps others…. and clarity is the key that unlocks it all!

All too often these things are often ‘hidden’ within us – it simply requires a healthy dose of self-awareness, to bring them out into the light:

  • Understand what’s important to you – your values, what you stand for and who you authentically are.
  • Know how to articulate this and be able to describe your authentic qualities, strengths, your personality, your ethos & style, what you’re passionate about and the vision that you have for what you want to achieve through your work.
  • Clarify, understand and appreciate what you uniquely have to offer: your knowledge, expertise and experience (both in life and work), your skills, your talents, your gifts, your achievements and lessons learned. Know, without doubt, and believe in, the value that you add simply by being who you are, with everything that makes up your unique brand of you-ness! This is absolutely crucial, because if you don’t understand and believe in your value, nobody else will!
  • Be clear about what you’d love to do… and what you wouldn’t! If you could spend all day every day doing something, what would it be? What would your ideal working day actually look? Decide what you want in terms of income, lifestyle, personal and professional development, interaction with other people, environment, hours, etc.

Once you have this type of clarity, it all becomes a whole lot easier

If you’re crystal clear on all of the above, especially with regard to who you authentically are, what you love to do and the value you add, you can then set about creating a work environment to match what you desire. After a lifetime of trying to match yourself to other people’s job descriptions, this can feel like a life-changing revelation!

Right here, right now, you already have something to offer.

You don’t need to be any more than you already ARE. You HAVE all the resources, power and potential within you right NOW, within your particular mix of talents, passion and experience.

Which on one hand is very good news but on the other, this clarity can be a frustratingly elusive thing to ‘uncover’. We cover ALL of this in the Inspiration Incubator programme so if you need a helping hand with this, do check it out.

Inspiration Incubator

It gently guides you through a step-by-step process to help you find tangible inner clarity about who you are and what you uniquely have to offer and shows you how THIS can be the basis of a purposeful, profitable business so you can create a life and make a living doing something you absolutely LOVE doing.

Because having a business in which you get to do the work you love, is not just the stuff of dreams – it’s a very real opportunity to transform your lifetime’s experience into something fulfilling, valuable and purposeful.