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Paul Strickland
Paul Strickland

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The joy of diagramming

The past few days have been a bit frustrating for me. There was a touch of uncertainty about work and the annoying inaction that that caused in my daily activity. This was all swept away after I had the opportunity to get stuck into some of my favourite work: diagramming.

Generally I am quite a visual thinker. Although I love writing and the craft of carefully constructing a sentence to communicate exactly the right message and nothing more, when it comes to formulating ideas and a plan of action, I work in diagrams.

I use diagrams to break down a complex idea or design an approach to solve a problem. I use diagrams to structure my thoughts and communicate them. And I use diagrams as a way to learn about what I'm trying to do (I primarily use yED, the free graph editor from yWorks).

This week, after its sluggish start and lack of direction, I had an idea about an approach to take for a particular task. I started looking at a large diagram that forms the basis to most of our work (you could think of it a bit like a tree diagram that breaks down the ultimate goal into a hierarchy of sub-goals). My original intention was to "read" the diagram as part of a mind-mapping a new plan. But then I realised that I could extend the diagram in a way that would both solve my particular problem but be easier to explain to those people I needed to share it with.

Not only was the use of the diagram a good starting point for me, as I began to work with it, I found that it drove some of my thoughts; rather than simply being a space for me to work, it actively helped to structure my work.

I realise that this post is quite abstract and lacks any useful illustration, but unfortunately that's the nature of this particular work. However, the point I'm really aiming for is to encourage you to think about the ways you work best, and to try to incorporate those more into your work. For me, having a diagramming tool at my fingertips provides me with inspiration, motivation and a place to work that's better than the alternative of writing an email or a note to myself. It may well be different for you depending on how you work, but I do think it's worth a bit of time to think about this so that you have the opportunity to not only be effective, but to enjoy it too.

I'm publishing this as part of 100 Days to Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting

Photo by Vojtech Bruzek on Unsplash.

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