Putting Things on Paper: Powerful Tool or Waste of Time?

Our minds are rarely quiet and there are usually many thoughts racing at any one moment of time. Ideas, actions, reflections, daydreams, frustrations, memories, etc.  For many people, these thoughts are a mix of personal and business. There’s no doubt about it, putting all these thoughts down on paper would be impossible. 

Putting certain things on “paper” is also crucial for smaller organizations

But I believe that in business especially, putting certain things on “paper” is crucial. Things like ideas, goals, proposals, processes, business cases, action lists, frameworks, or strategies. And by “paper” I mean a notebook, Word, Powerpoint, flipchart, whiteboard or any other instrument that captures words or numbers. This is normal in large organizations. Believe me, I spent a lot of time of my corporate career doing this! But it’s less common in smaller organizations. Usually because there just isn’t enough time, it’s seen as a waste of time or people don’t know how to go about it.

Benefits for smaller organizations

So why do I believe that it’s also essential for entrepreneurs, leaders and employees of smaller organizations to put certain things on paper? Why is it not a waste of time? By putting something on paper you:

  1. Don’t forget ideas and actions: This may seem obvious and simple, but powerful things often do. Assuming you don’t write it down on a napkin that you accidentally throw away of course! Actions that have been written down can also be tracked for progress.
  2. Unclutter your mind: You are free to think about other things. You can “let go” of these thoughts and make room for new thoughts and ideas. It’s scientifically proven.
  3. Share the joy and the burden: It’s no longer just a burdensome, exciting or frustrating thought in your mind only. You can now easily get feedback on it or delegate it to someone else to take action.
  4. Make it real: It’s not just a crazy idea rattling around in your mind but is one step closer to reality. You and others can now flush it out further and make a plan.
  5. Can receive feedback: You can now share it with others to get their feedback and build further on.
  6. Facilitate decision making: By writing something down in the form of a business case or proposal, you are forced to organize and structure your thoughts into scenarios and conduct research and get input beforehand on the rationale and pros and cons. People can then more easily make decisions.
  7. Create clarity: Instead of everyone doing their own thing, or not knowing what to do at all, putting things on paper like strategy, decisions, processes, and procedures creates clarity and a “single truth”.
  8. Make it easy to communicate: You can now share whatever it may be with others in the form of an email, presentation, social media post, acquisition pitch, etc. This ensures consist messaging.
  9. Make it repeatable: It’s no longer only knowledge in someone’s head, but others can read it and repeat it, for example, a process or strategy.

But how?

Putting things on paper is sometimes easier said than done. Some people, for example, don’t have the patience or make the time to write things down or don’t know how to structure a proposal, strategy or business case. So how can you overcome these barriers? Here are some practical tips:

  • Block time in your agenda and ignore email and your phone during that time so you can focus.
  • Create a working document. Write down anything that comes to mind. Revisit it as needed when new ideas pop into your mind. Organize and structure it along the way.
  • Find someone who is good at putting things on paper and is willing to help (like me!) and talk their ear off.
  • Do a Google search to find good examples.

I promise, you won’t regret taking the time to put something down on paper! Feel free to contact me if you need some advice.

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