I recently read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, written by Chip and Dan Heath. They are also the authors of the bestseller Made to Stick.

In the book, the Heath brothers say we must do three things for change to occur:

  1. Direct the rider
  2. Motivate the elephant
  3. Shape the path

Directing the rider and motivating the elephant are metaphors for appealing to the intellect and appealing to emotions, respectively.

What strikes me is the wording used to describe what one must do in terms of directing the rider. The authors state on page 17, “What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.”  We read on page 72, “Clarity dissolves resistance.”

In the September 2010 issue of Fast Company, the Heath brothers further explore this concept in their article “Tase the Haze.” One of their examples sounds exactly like a line out of the Get Organized! workshop:

Imagine that you have two items on your to-do list. One is “pick up AAA batteries”. The other is “deal with tax issues.” Guess which one is still unchecked four weeks later?

Replace “AAA batteries” and “deal with taxes” with the examples “buy shoestrings” and ‘improve the math curriculum” and you could be sitting right there listening to me!

In both Get Organized! and Organization Made Easy!, we talk about the elements which go into making an “organized task list,” a list that stands a chance of having the items on it accomplished. The first rule of an organized task list? Make the next step crystal clear.

Eye on Education featured this idea on their blog in November of 2009. You can read that post here.

The fact that the same idea shows up again worded in virtually the same way is simply evidence of its truth. Before we can make progress, we have to define what progress looks like. We must know exactly what is being asked of us. When worded in a crystal-clear manner, tasks become easier to do. Mountains become easier to move. Wasted motion goes away. Stress goes down. Productivity goes up. Take a look at your own to-do list with the filter of clarity in mind. How could you re-write so that items which have been sitting there suddenly start to get done?


Have you ever had an item that sat in your to-do list for what seems like forever? What did you finally do to get it moving?