Ever found yourself overwhelmed by a swirl of thoughts, unsure about your stance on a particular topic?
Enter “The Clarity Doc”.
A clarity doc is a purposeful piece of writing that you craft to help you distill your thoughts, opinions, and emotions on a subject you’re grappling with. It’s meant to force you out of analysis paralysis and into decision making mode.
Think of it as a personal roadmap, guiding you from confusion to understanding. By the end, you’ll find yourself seeing things in a much clearer light. Its an easy doc, you just have to sit down and write … brain dump everything. Here’s how …
How to Write A Clarity Doc
A clarity doc is all about writing and transcending the process of thought into written word. This process alone helps defragment scattered thoughts into coherent and easy to understand view points about the problem at hand.
Step 1. Choose a Writing Tool
You’ll need someplace to write, the tool does not matter. It can be digital or analog. You can do it it the Notes app on your phone phone, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, in your email client, anywhere. If you can write long form text there, do it there. I’ve even written them in a text message to myself.
Step 2. Write the Problem Statement
Once you have your tool chosen, you’ll want to start your document with a problem statement. For example, here’s one I was recently debating:
Should I start a new video show / podcast on building software products that help create financial freedom?
Step 3: Pen Your Thoughts as If Confiding in a Trusted Friend
Now, pretend that you are asking this question/posing this issue to a very close trusted confidant/friend. This could be a family member, a best friend, mentor, etc. If you don’t have someone you trust like that, then just pretend.
A tip I often share is to envision writing this to someone you admire. This could be a celebrity or a notable figure in the relevant field where your problem resides. If your concern is music-related, imagine conversing with an icon in the music industry. For software dilemmas, picture reaching out to an influential thought leader.
You get the point.
Choose someone whom you believe possesses the wisdom and expertise to guide you effectively.
It doesn’t really matter, as long you have a target reader. Don’t worry, you’re not sending this to them.
Step 4: Delve into Every Detail Meticulously
Now you’re going to explain your thought process in painstaking detail. You’ll explain why you are thinking about this problem, why you feel its a problem, and why you’re struggling with it.
Do not worry about word count here.
Write out all your fears, your apprehensions, why you feel these fears – be super vulnerable.
If you feel there is more to write, then write it.
You may be able to do this in a couple paragraphs, or you may find that you write pages upon pages.
Typically, I have found that I’ll write many pages as its all stored in my head and needs to get out. The goal is to get it all onto paper/onto the screen.
There’s something that transcends the process of thought and formulation into words, sentences and coherent prose that helps defragment your thoughts.
That’s what this step does.
Step 5. Create a Pros/Cons List
After thoroughly pouring out your thoughts, it’s time to craft a comprehensive list of pros and cons regarding your decision—to act or not to act. Regardless of the specific dilemma you’re facing, weighing the pros against the cons can be illuminating and lead you closer to clarity. To illustrate, let’s revisit the podcast scenario mentioned earlier. In such a case, I’d jot down both the advantages of launching a new podcast and its potential downsides.
Detail matters. Even seemingly minor concerns, like “Con: Adding this to my schedule may stretch me thin as I’m already juggling Project X and crave personal downtime. However, there might be a silver lining if I produce episodes seasonally in batch format. ” As you can see, this process can be illuminating.
Notice how even while detailing a drawback, I stumbled upon a potential positive aspect (how to still do the podcast, just do it via batching).
This method’s beauty lies in its ability to spark new insights.
By the end, you’re aiming to identify patterns. It’s possible that, initially, you perceive numerous benefits, only to realize that the drawbacks significantly outnumber the advantages (or vice versa).
Step 6: Envision the Worst-Case Scenario and Prepare Accordingly
Consider the gravest possible outcomes of both acting and not acting. What could go wrong in each situation?
For every potential setback, draft a backup plan. This does not have to be long or extensive. If the problem is “I might miss a bill I have to pay” then your backup plan could simply be “Place all bills on auto pay for x months/etc”. Simple, effective and short.
This approach aligns closely with “Fear Setting,” a concept elaborated by Tim Ferriss in this video.
Step 7. Follow Your Intuition
Your gut feeling is more than just a hunch – it’s intuition, a deep-seated sense I like to refer to as “nature’s built-in security system” (or “natures built-in guidance system”). It’s a product of thousands of years of human evolution, whispering to us when things “feel right” or “feel off.”
Lean into this intuitive wisdom.
Personally, whenever I’ve chosen to ignore it, I’ve often regretted it. Time and again, it’s proven to be a reliable compass. Don’t ignore it.
You might be wondering … why didn’t you do this at the beginning?
At the beginning of this process you did not have the clarity to give a well crafted response yet. One that has all the details. After you’ve gone through the exercises above, you will find that you have much more clarity on the problem statement and the direction you might feel you should go in.
What seemed murky and confusing before often clears to an obvious solution.
Step 8. Assess, Decide and Take Action
Envision this process as solving a puzzle. Initially, you’re confronted with scattered pieces, some clustering together while others lay isolated. As you work through your clarity doc, the bigger picture emerges—each piece finding its rightful place. By the end, only a few fragments might remain, but you confidently know their positions, all thanks to the methodical work you’ve invested.
So now, decide what to do, and take action.
It’s crucial to recognize that fear of action can still loom large. But remember, unless the choice jeopardizes your safety or the well-being of others, almost all decisions are reversible. Missed a bill payment? It’s rectifiable. Realized piano lessons aren’t for you? That’s alright—you can always explore other interests. Maybe, like me, you discover podcasting about software businesses isn’t your jam. (I don’t know yet, I haven’t done it yet.) That’s fine; there’s no obligation to persist. Know what I mean?
That’s it. You’re done. Take the action and take the next step towards that action.
Is a Clarity Doc Right For You?
While the clarity doc approach isn’t universally suited, many find it invaluable. We all process our thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints uniquely. Some thrive through verbal exchanges, others through introspection, and yet others through penning down their thoughts. If the act of writing aids your thought process, then a clarity doc could be a game-changer for you.
If you’re uncertain about whether writing catalyzes your best thinking, I encourage you to test the waters with a clarity doc. You might just discover that it’s a very transformative tool.