I am an unapologetic Process Thinker – and the Timeline is a tool I have implemented for many years in my previous and current careers to track sales and project management activities. A few years ago, I was asked by my son to supply some materials relating to my previous experiences for use in a presentation in one of his college classes.
I am fortunate to be blessed with a time-and-events memory that (without my thinking about it) organizes events, experiences, and people into month and year “folders”, and in response to my son’s request I summarized several years of my past life with a timeline (because the summary had to be incorporated into a PowerPoint slide). This experience was very interesting for me, and I now use timelines to pace my business activities – you could think of a timeline as a Graphical Personal Journal.
The retrospective work was very revealing as it connected past events with future accomplishments and opportunities that would have been impossible to foresee at the time of those events or decisions. This procedure is not so much “living” in the past, rather, it is referencing the past in a way that is more process-oriented and summary in nature than in a written document.
I am finding that I can use this summary information of my past experiences to better connect with people and their own past experiences. The advantage of the timeline as a memory tracker is that it provides me with a ready index of events, experiences and common threads that I can establish with networking contacts and their referrals. Building relationships occurs on multiple levels, one of which is shared experiences both past and present.
The tool that I use for creating timelines is Microsoft’s Visio (there is a version for the PC and the Mac as well). It is an easy-to- use application with a lot of included graphics and templates (timelines, organizational charts, process flows, etc.). It is also very flexible in terms of allowing files to be imported and manipulated – it is one of my favorite applications for creating graphics to support written materials – it is a great blend between technical and graphical tools.
Another side benefit I have discovered – organizing my experiences with timelines is tending to increase my capacity to more easily recall names, events, conversations and meeting subject matter / results – a valuable asset for Baby Boomer Networkers!