The Foolscap Method
Full disclosure up front: “The Foolscap Method” is not my idea. In fact it is not even the idea of the person to whom I attribute it. Steven Pressfield is the New York Times bestselling author of The legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire and The Lion’s Gate as well as co-publisher of Black Irish Books. He writes of the Foolscap Method in his blog on www.stevenpressfield.com and in his book The Authentic Swing.
So what is the…Method? In short, it is a simplified way to illustrate a strategy or idea from start to finish in a single context. In other words, it is the big picture.
So what is Foolscap …? Foolscap is and 8 ½ by 14 inch, lined, yellow legal pad. Foolscap was once a paper products company that produced the most well known line of legal pads in America and, so like Kleenex, the legal pad became branded.
I must apologize at this point in the article if you were expecting something more elaborate or exciting but there it is: The Foolscap Method is a draft plan on a single, legal-sized, sheet of paper. Lined and simple. However simplicity belies effectiveness.
Quoting Steven Pressfield, quoting Norm Stahl (who deserves origination credit): “God made a single sheet of foolscap exactly the right length to hold the outline of an entire novel.”
“What is the Foolscap Method about? Basically, it’s a way to kick your own [bum], either at the very start of a project or when you’re six months into something and you’re so lost you can’t remember where you started or where you’re trying to go,” says Pressfield.
Think of it as a draft of a business plan, it is your tentative plan. Start at the end, what you want to accomplish, your goal. Make a note of where you are now at the top of the page and work to fill in the middle. Do it all on a single 14 inch sheet. It’ll be ugly, incomplete, and full of scribbles, doodles and cross-outs. But, and a big one, it’ll get you started – it will initiate movement. It will help develop context.
“The Foolscap Method is a way to get a big project started—a novel, a Ph.D. dissertation, a new business. It’s a trick, but a very wise and astute one. It’s not just a technique for organizing one’s thoughts, it’s a way to outfox Resistance [Pressfield’s personification of procrastination] … Outline the sucker. Break it down to its fundamentals. Identify its theme. Do it on one page. Do it without preciousness. Do it now.”
I have always used a variation of this method, even before Steven Pressfield put a name to it. I still use it. From my days of Army planning I developed a group version of it that I call “The Imagination Board.” The Imagination Board is naught more than a large white board and a fist full of multi-colored dry-erase markers. When I ran the ROTC department at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma I even build a 16 foot conference table with two whiteboard sheets to teach the senior Cadets planning.
I invite you to use the Foolscap Method to start your plan and bring it to me to discover some of the tools we can use to make it a reality. Or come to my office and I will help you start a Foolscap and bring your entrepreneurial dream to life. Further, if you have a great idea for Arlington stop in and let me know – I’ll add it to the Foolscap I am using for economic development planning.
My office is located in Norgaard Insurance on Main Street and I have 20 square feet of Imagination Board waiting. Stop by and we will see if the Foolscap works as well for you as it has for me.
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