If you find the dynamics in this post useful, there’s a lot more where that came from. My WorkFlowy book is available for purchase.
My late grandmother, Florence, a sharp-minded French woman, had her own saying: “When your heart is down, carve a piece of leather”. She used to create the most intricate designs on leather, plying skillfully as she, too, worked through matters of the heart. I do the same in WorkFlowy. It’s less poetic, but it does get the job done.
I’ve outlined life-changing decisions, pinpointed causes of anxiety, given myself a kick in the pants with numerous projects both big and small and streamlined tons of workflows for way better efficiency. Outlining in WorkFlowy can and does lead to a change in perspective – be it organizational or existential – which in turn gives us the impetus to make real changes – which go beyond the realm of productivity and “busy work”.
A few weeks back I created an outline, starting like this:
- Over the last couple of months my online work has started to cause a lot of anxiety and stress… It’s time to put on the breaks and pinpoint those (self-imposed) areas that I might need to get under control.
I then proceeded to create an outline of potential areas that were collectively putting strain on me. You can see that outline here.
WorkFlowy gives us some powerful tools with which to organize and filter exactly the information we want to see when we need it. Creating some semblance of order from a seemingly random collection of thoughts is crucial. Here’s a possible strategy for outlining your heart out – which might serve you well if you ever get bogged down and overwhelmed:
1. The heart of the matter
Start with a nice melodramatic (and heartfelt) statement. More often than not, you know the general solution from the get go… and the whole point about the outlining from here on out, is to mitigate your stress as opposed to throwing in the towel.
2. Leave no stone unturned
List all your areas of activity (or areas of whatever) that come to mind then drill down into each of those areas with more specifics.
3. Shuffle and prioritize
Shuffle your lists around and order them by priority if you must (I must). Also have a background image of a hot-air balloon if you will (I will).
4. Warming up – Preliminary thoughts
Now that you have a better idea of the scope of your activities, it’ll be a breeze to set up a separate outline with a couple of preliminary thoughts about it all. As you can see my thoughts have a strong push towards possible solutions. This will start you thinking down a more pragmatic path.
5. What to do, what to do?
Next, go through each and every one of your areas of activity and the specifics thereof (from #2 above) and write something practical about each. Perhaps something to remember or something to do. So below you will see that I finally clicked… that a 20-minute walk on the beach (just across the street) is preferable to winning others over to my way of thinking on some forum somewhere. Get as minutely specific as you can with pinpointed thoughts and actionable tasks. Try to avoid general and vague statements as far as possible. Being overly philosophical at this point will defeat the purpose.
6. Bag ‘em and tag ‘em
Last of all, you could then tag a selection of your practical and pithy pieces of insight across your entire outline with a “#do” or “#remember” tag – whatever prompts you to action or reflection. You could also tag your lists at the time of writing if that’s easier. Whatever tags you go with, also place them as “master tags” in an accessible spot somewhere near the top of your outline.
After all is said and done, you now have an incredibly potent set of motivational triggers – tailor made for your specific challenges. All you need to do to light a fire under your butt (or give yourself a gentle nudge) is hit either of your tags to filter for the advice and actions you know to be right.
When it comes down to it, I truly believe that each of us have the actionable answers we need – but often they get crowded out by the sheer number of thoughts we try to process. It’s hard to find clarity when you think the same thoughts dozens of times a day, round and ’round in a vicious circle. We think that somehow if we just push harder we’ll make it through to the other end. But often we need to put on the brakes, take stock of where we’re at, consolidate and simplify the sum total of our activities every day.
Here’s how I filter for my “#do” and “#remember” tags:
The above filtering gives you your tagged items in a hierarchical format. If you’d like to have them condensed into flat outlines (pictured below), you could use a bookmarklet that rawbytz created called FlatFlowy. It works on desktop and mobile.
Things to do
Things to remember
My takeaway and real-life results
Just the act of outlining and dissecting my workload has made me a heck of a lot more aware of my routine, my habits and the little addictive behaviors I’ve been nursing. I now reach for Twitter and other online sources of delight way less. I don’t feel the compulsion to answer emails the moment they come through. I’ve taken a good many walks on the beach which always leave me feeling refreshed and clear-minded. The list goes on. The thing is that I now have an easily accessible list to jog my memory. The end result: less stress all ‘round, the will to continue living, etc. You should try this the next time you work yourself into a bundle of nerves.
Over to you
If you’ve got any thoughts (or lists) to share, please do!
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