If you’ve arrived on this post, it’s likely you’ve read about how important structural tension is to achieving your goals, and how a Structural Tension Chart will help you create goals with tension.
This post will teach you how to create a Structural Tension Chart.
A Structural Tension Chart differs from a regular goal chart or project plan in one critical way.
It includes detail on the current reality in relation to the vision.
This enables you to create the appropriate action plan to move from where you are, to where you want to be, building structural tension in the process.
What a Structural Tension Chart includes
A Structural Tension Chart maps out major three things:
- A clear vision for what you want;
- Your current reality (i.e., where you are in relation to what you want); and
- The actions you will take to move you from your current reality to your vision for what you want (along with any deadlines and other people’s actions).
It also includes any dates and any other people who are going to be taking actions to complete the vision.
How to Create a Structural Tension Chart
Step 1: Write down your vision – with as much detail as you know/need to build the picture
Using either a piece of paper, or a spreadsheet, at the top, write a clear vision for what you want.
Step 2: Write down your current reality
At the bottom of the page, or spreadsheet, write a clear description of your current reality in relation to your vision.
List everything you can think of that may be relevant, including things like:
- Current skills you have that relate to this goal
- Skills you don’t have, but need
- Current knowledge you have that relate to this goal
- Knowledge you don’t have, but need
- Ideas you have for the project
- Decisions you’ve already made
- Decisions you haven’t made yet, but want/need to
- Actions you’re planning to take
- Resources (financial and otherwise) you have – or have access to to help you
Step 3: Write down your action points
If you have mapped out a clear vision for what you want and sufficient detail around your current reality, you should be able to see what needs to happen to fulfil your vision.
On the lines in between, list all of the action points you can see that are needed to move from your current reality to your vision.
Over time, add and delete action points, as you learn new action points, or any that may become irrelevant.
You may also find that some actions involve the creation of a whole new series of actions. In this case it may be important to create a separate Structural Tension Chart for these items.
For example, let’s say, you want to build a blog. But you don’t have blog writing skills. So you add ‘learn the skills of blog writing’ as an action. That might involve reading books, hiring a mentor, attending a writing course, practicing, watching the feedback on your blog and learning from that.
You may decide that this becomes it’s own goal with its own structural tension chart. It’s been driven by the original goal of building a blog. But in looking at the actions, you decide it’s becomes its own goal with its own chart worthy of creation. It’s up to you whether you put the items on a whole new chart, or simply include them in the original chart.
Here is an example of the Structural Tension Chart that I did for my daughter’s most recent birthday party.
At the top is my vision for her birthday party:
“Fun party for T with her friends at Waiwera, with grandparents, and Jo, and a picnic under the trees, water toys, fun ride up to Waiwera, safe time in the pool, with sleepover, burger bar, and ice-cream bar, on 21 Dec, with dance party with strobe lights, and a nice picnic set up for Moo.”
At the bottom, my current reality at the time:
“People invited, no plan yet re: cars, picnic food, food not planned/bought, pool equipment not purchased, burger ingredients not planned or bought, no idea of cost of strobe rental or how to put them up, children to arrive at 10am, no other timing planned, children advised to bring togs/towel/sleepover gear, 7 confirmed for pools, 5 for sleepover. No picnic decor arranged. No idea if we can get a picnic spot at Waiwera under trees. Need to check that.”
The action items then became clear and obvious. And executed. Hence you can see all the crossings out as I progressed!
Step 4. Put dates beside the action points / date order your items
If your goal has a deadline, create a column on the right hand side where you will put the date.
For each action point, put a date next to it by when you want to have done each item. You may like to work backwards, putting the dates by when each item will have to happen for you to accomplish your vision.
If your goal doesn’t have a deadline, and it’s simply a matter of making progress, you don’t necessarily need dates, but you may find it helpful to put the actions in order. Creating meaningful deadlines helps build structural tension that you can use to build momentum.
You may want to write your structural tension chart out again in date order, which is where a spreadsheet can be handy to simply move the action points around.
Step 5. Add in a column for ‘who’
If the actions towards your goal are going to be completed by multiple people, create a column on the right for ‘who’ and put the initials of each person in the column for each action point.
Step 6. Add in a ‘Done’ column
Add in a column you can tick when each item is done.
Did this help? Share your comments and questions below. Then go to it! And have fun!
Big love to you + creating epic structural tension in your goals!