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!


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