“It’s all up there.” (Finger points to head.)
“I’ve thought lots about it. I can’t remember it right now, but it will come to me again.”
Sound familiar? Over the past week, I’ve heard these three statements and similar refrains multiple times.
But can we bet on it? Are we really able to pull that bit of information back into our working memory on command at the exact moment we need it? Don’t count on it.
After I was stranded in a client’s lobby when the receptionist didn’t write down instructions to call a different individual once I arrived and had totally forgotten, I became even further committed to the power of writing things down…whether on paper or in a smartphone, a computer or some other device.
We take a big risk relying on our brains, even for a few second, minutes or hours, when the “it” is vital information, instructions or ideas. This is especially pertinent when we want ourselves or others to add missing links, take action or help implement initiatives.
Even when we’re on the top of our game, stuff happens. The phone rings, the computer beeps with a new email message, or another idea rushes in, and—poof—the thoughts we were processing in our tiny prefrontal cortex—often referred to as the brain’s executive function—vanish.
And face it. We’re often also working under less than ideal conditions. We’re multi-tasking, we’re stressed about a project, deadline or personal situation or we’re sleep deprived—or all three. And as a result, we tax our prefrontal cortex and have a hard time focusing.
In fact, in the FLIP habits survey that looks at the extent to which managers and project leaders are focusing, listening, involving and personalizing their messages, a number of respondents said that need to develop their focusing skills. (For more about this, check out FLIP with feeling or duty? And if you’re a manager or project leader and haven’t taken the survey yet, please take the survey before the September 5 deadline. Please share with others, too.)
So how to capture thoughts before they flee? Write them down!
Writing things down has multiple benefits. For example, by putting your thoughts on paper, on a mobile device or in your computer, you’re able to:
- Start to get greater clarity for yourself about whatever you’ve captured on paper or electronically.
- Have clearer, more concrete ideas or instructions to share with others.
- Free up brain space to think about other things.
Even better, you now have a more structured way to work, including collaborating with others. You also can better leverage your ideas and get help implementing your initiatives.
Your regular delegating improves too when you create processes around the tasks or instructions you’ve defined. You and others can repeat the steps with predictable outcomes, which saves time and mental energy.
A number of my clients, especially those who value their creativity, resist doing “brain dumps.” They say they prefer keeping everything in their heads, letting ideas percolate and schedules run their course. But I wonder how many ideas evaporate and to-do lists expire?
And how can their co-workers support them if they don’t have anything tangible to work with?
Every brain is unique so we need to adopt a system that works for us. For example, my system of choice is sticky notes. Besides my office, I keep a pad in the car, my briefcase and in every room of the house. Others I work with use the recording feature on their smartphone or the notes section. Regardless, we have adopted habits to keep track of things. (However, I confess I still fall off the wagon writing down detailed schedules….)
Let’s face it. We work and live in a VUCA world—volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity reign.
We don’t have endless hours and simple tasks like our ancestors before us who sat around the campfire telling stories that would pass from generation to generation. We need to write things down!
So if you’re a manager or team leader, please start by writing down your thoughts about how you focus, listen, involve and personalize in a VUCA world in the FLIP habits survey by Wednesday, September 5.
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.