It’s family fun time! You anticipate and prepare, you gather and have a great time, then it’s over and inevitably as loved ones part ways we may say things like “Oh no, we forgot to ______” or “We never _____” or “We ran out of time to ______”. How fun is that? There’s a simple and fun remedy.
The Post-It Note Brainstorm Technique to the Rescue!
We use this brilliant technique to plan vacations and family gatherings. It helps us enjoy the time together better than ever. Why? Because it says “I love you so much that I want to know how you’d like to spend this special time together.” Can you even imagine a better way to get things off to a great start?!
The Sky is the Limit with this Technique!
The Post-It Note brainstorm technique is very versatile and can be applied by individuals, couples, church, service groups and businesses. It can be used to plan family gatherings, vacations and projects. I have used it in business and community service effectively leading teams to create events, a culture for an organization and much, much more. This is also a fabulous technique to help you create a family culture at times of transition like divorce or death. “Let’s regroup and create what we want for ourselves moving forward”. If you are ready to shake things up to increase creativity and meaningfulness and reduce the amount of unmet expectations you may want to give the Post-It Note brainstorming technique a whirl.
Here’s How it Works
We’ll use the example of a stay at home family gathering that brings our adult children and if we’re lucky, grandparents home for a few days. When everyone has arrived, we gather and share how excited we are to get together and that we love them and value them and their ideas so much that we’re going to learn how everyone would like to spend the next few days. Then we figure out as many categories that we can to prompt our imaginations. Here’s a list of categories that we use for Christmas family fun: Entertainment, Food, Worship, Service, Friends, Events, Projects, Traditions etc.
Hand out a Post-It Note pad and pen to each person and let them know that they have 5 or 10 minutes (5 minutes is great for family, 10 minutes is best for formal meetings ie event planning). Invite them to write one idea per Post-It Note. Get them started by asking them to think of what food they’d like, who they’d like to invite over, if there’s an outdoor activity they’d like to do, what traditions they want to include, who and how they’d like to serve, etc. Set a timer and write, write, write. Every idea is a great idea. When the time is up have everyone place each Post-It Note on the category page that it belongs to. Create a new sheet of paper for each new category that pops up. Then gather up the sheets and replace them with one paper for each day of your gathering ie Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Then involve everyone as you place each Post-It Note onto the day of the week that you’d like to eat that meal or do that activity etc. This process helps people see what will and won’t work as you puzzle piece each day together. Compromises happen right before your eyes in a comfortable way because conflicts are very easy to understand with this visual technique. For ‘on the road activities’ write down departure times agreed upon by the group. This is a huge stress reducer! We also invite an ‘all hands on deck’ approach and this is a perfect opportunity for everyone to volunteer for which meal they’d like to prepare etc. Now tape all of the papers up for high visibility. I post mine on my kitchen cabinet doors. I’m pleasantly surprised how often I see family refer to the pages to see what’s coming up.
I can hear what you’re thinking! “If I give everyone a chance to tell us what they wish for we will be too busy and frazzled to enjoy each other”. Believe me, this process simplifies and creates a feeling of peace and calm. You may be surprised how many duplicate ideas you get (the families way of high fiving the traditions, meals etc they love). Things like sleeping in, relaxing, hanging around and doing nothing often appear on our schedule!
The Post-It Note Brainstorming Technique In a Nutshell
- Set the intention to have a fun and light hearted experience
- All ideas are great ideas
- Write each category at the top of separate 8 ½ by 11 papers that everyone can see
- Hand a Post-It Note pad and pen to each person
- Write one idea per Post-It Note using the categories as prompts. Young children can draw one picture per Post-It Note
- 5-10 minutes of silence as you write, write, write, hold questions until later
- Keep it light hearted and fun when people break the silence
- When 5-10 minutes are up everyone places each Post-It Note on the category paper it fits with
- Add any new categories that pop up
- Write each vacation day at the top of separate 8 ½ by 11 papers and spread them out where everyone can see
- Now the fun begins! Category by category see where you can fit things in
- Remember that this is a time for each person to feel valued and heard
- No bad mouthing ideas
- As you discuss, compromise and figure out as many WIN/WINS as you can, remember to suppress your own personal bias’. This is an amazing ‘letting go’ process for he or she who has called most of the shots in the past!
- Now tape all of the days of the week up for high visibility
- Remember to be flexible for the unexpected