How Well Do You Follow Instructions?

Exploring different ways we can handle directions.

When you get a manual with a new electronic, do you just throw it away? Do you start plugging and poking at the buttons, hoping you can figure it out on your own without the help of a sheet of paper? After all is said and done, do you eventually end up going back to the sheet of paper because now it’s broken?

We’re only human, but we learn very quickly. Some of us are visual learners, others are a “see monkey do” type of person. I’ve always heard, “mouth shut, ears open”. This has helped me listen better, instead of talking and missing out on important information when I’m being spoken to.

This brings us to the beginning of how to follow instructions just a little bit better.

  1. Listen with purpose. As the person is talking, try to envision what they are actively saying. You want to listen intently. Hearing and actually listening is different. Try to repeat in your head what they are saying. A neat trick is to act like there’s going to be a quiz afterwards. You want to be prepared as much as possible right? So actively listen!
  2. Begin with a good attitude- if you are in a bad place going into the situation, it’s only going to be more difficult. Engage positively with the speaker. Nod and be respectful. Put the phone down, give them your active attention. They are speaking and trying to teach you something, so you need to be engaged!
  3. Ask questions along the way. Do not ask questions every other breath, they may answer them if you give them a little bit. If you are unsure of what is being asked of you, or what the goal is, let them know. If you have been actively listening and responding, then ask them to elaborate on what they mean. You do not want to start the task knowing only half the goal.
  4. Take notes! If you’re like me and have the memory of a goldfish, notes are a blessing. You can actively refer back to them as well during your task, so that you do not miss out on everything. Make sure this does not take up most of your time while listening to the speaker. You do not want to miss out on what they are saying as you’re trying to write the last sentence from 5 minutes ago. Stay engaged, write bullet points, and that will help you remember the key points. It can also show that you are prepared and organized!
  5. Make a checklist. Refer back to your notes, what was being said to you, and the goal you are trying to achieve. This is also in tune with keeping organized, and you will not miss anything either when you have your checklist. You can check things off as you go and then review your work afterwards to make sure you got everything.

Next time you have a manual to a product, treat the manual like a speaker. Granted, it could be something simple as putting a table together, but those instructions are created with purpose in mind, and it works like a checklist in itself. Or you could look up a YouTube video of what you’re doing- you can even pause and rewind. That works too!

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