1. True Purpose

Why are we doing this?”

You start with a rough idea:
Our web site is out of date and does not reflect our primary focus and work

Think broad and dig deep

This is a two-step process to clarify your purpose.

  1. List all reasons that come to mind without censorship.
  2. Dig deeper into the ones that feel important by asking “Why?” again.

Example: We want to move. We want to move because we don’t have enough space for our stuff.

In these examples, we start thinking that the problem is “our house is too small” but realize the real reason we want to move is because we feel it’ll simplify our lives.


Hmm, a different way of saying that is: because we have more stuff than space.


Because we often buy things to try to improve our lives.


Because we feel our lives are too chaotic. We can never find what we need, we are constantly cleaning but there’s always more.

It’s just too much!


Ah! Because we have too much crap!

Vicious cycle. We don’t need more space (we’ll probably fill it anyway). We need fewer things, and a better life flow.

We want to move because we feel our place isn’t nice enough. It doesn’t reflect us.


Because I’m ashamed of the state of it when guests come over.

Check in With Your Fears

Fear and Shame are a powerful blinders, and very often stop us from seeing the most direct path to reaching our true purpose.


Quotes on Fear

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
― Seneca

“Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.”
― Salvador Dalí

Re-evaluate the Project

Now that you’ve found your True Purpose, and named your fears, is the project you had in mind initially the only way of accomplishing it?

(hint: the answer is always “No, there are other ways.”)

Before proceeding, answer this:

“What if I couldn’t what I initially planned to do. What would be three other ways of accomplishing the True Purpose?”

Then choose either the initial project, or one of the alternatives.

You’ve found your True Purpose and the right project to move it forward.

Initial Project

Move to a bigger house.

Alternative 1

Get rid of clutter & simplify.

Alternative 2

Find the top three things about our current home that complicate our lives, and change them.

Alternative 3

Maybe it’s no so much the space, but what we choose to do in it. We might be happier if we focused on finding activities we all enjoy. Have friends over more often? Games as a family?

2. Principles & Constraints

You start with a vague set of priorities (different for each person), and a vague set of constraints.

The goal of this phase is to have a concrete shared list of principles and constraints, that everyone can commit to and honor.

  2. .
  3. .
  1. .
  2. .

Core Principles

What’s important to each of you?
Can you answer this question:

"I would give other totally free reign to do this as long as they _____________."

As always, list first without judgement.
Then clarify and organize.

Make do with what we have

Less is more, especially if it’s fewer better things.

Alternative 4

Maybe we do need to move, but not to a bigger house, but a different city? A small town? A different country? Maybe there’s a place for us that just fits with our vision of a more peaceful, wholesome life?

Challenge assumptions, especially the assumption that “Oh, we simply need to have” some particular thing.

Inviolable Constraints

What constraints will you commit to?
What firm deadline?
What firm budget?

Keep in mind that constraints are a part of life. You can either leave them vague or state them clearly, but they are there. Completing a project is much more difficult if you don’t have any clear constraints.

Quotes on Constraints

“The human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest and, therefore, when most was required of imagination in order to build at all.”
― Frank Lloyd White

“I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book… I picked up up a book at random, opened it, saw “gently weeps,” then laid the book down again and started the song.”
― George Harrison

3. Outcome Envisioning

“What do we want?”

The goal of this phase is to have a clear, concrete image of what “wild success” looks like.

Gather Inspiration

Find or create images that evoke (not necessarily explain) what success will look like.


Quite simply, close your eyes and daydream.
Refine your dream by asking questions.

If you’re working with someone, take part in each other’s dream:

  1. One person is designated the Dreamer.
  2. The other people are the Actors.
  3. The Dreamer starts with “This is what you see…” and describes the scene in words.
  4. The Actors ask questions about the scene. “What do I see on that wall?” or “What happens when I do this?”
  5. After a time, a new person is designated Dreamer, and the process repeats until everyone feels the vision is real.

These examples are regarding a physical space, for simplicity. But the same procedure applies for imagining a software interface, or a new manufacturing process, say.

4. Current State

“How are things now?”

The goal of this phase is to see, really see, the state of things as they are now.

This may seem like the easiest part, but it’s the most emotionally challenging. That’s because you’ve been dreaming up until now, and the gap between what you imagine, and what you see, can be quite painful.

5. Brainstorming

“What are some ways we can accomplish this?”

The goal of this phase is to produce as many ideas as possible.

Idea List ( ideas so far)

Gather as many people as you can for this stage, to get as many ideas as you can.

Start throwing ideas out there as they come.

Four simple Rules:

  1. Focus on Quantity.
  2. Withold criticisim.
  3. Welcome unusual ideas.
  4. Combine and improve ideas.

When you start slowing down, use the techniques below to generate even more.

Some random idea

Another even crazier idea

Another one.

Creativity Techniques

Random word generator

Random phrase generator

Random images here

More Random Images

(edit card to get a new one)

Use “What if” questions to trigger the imagination.

  • What if constraints were 10x more stringent?
  • What if you had all the resources in the world to do this?
  • What if you could ask anyone for advice on this. Who would it be, and what would you ask?

This is meant to be a living plan, not a static one. Keep revisiting and redefining each section, as much as necessary. If problems arise, revist. If project gets stuck, revisit. At whatever level necessary.

6. Next Actions

Visible, physical actions.

Start with general groupings, break it down until you get to “surely doables”, then stop.

When you’re done planning and ready for action, you can move this card to the top for convenience.


Once you’re done brainstorming, determine the very next physical, visible actions needed to move the project forward. Include who’s responsible by @tag.

First physical, visible action step.

If you’re stalled, it’s likely that you need to think more about the detailed steps. Keep breaking it down, as many levels as necessary, until you know exactly what needs to be done.

Another multi-part action step

A rule of thumb: keep going until your list of actions are definitely doable and within your control.

Another next action. @john