Are You a Scatterbrain?

Are You a Scatterbrain?The other day I read a blog post written by someone I know and respect and like. The post was titled, Scatterbrained People Can Succeed in Major Gifts. It was about how people who can’t stay organized… people whose thinking is not linear, can still be successful if they’re managed well.

While I understand my friend’s point, the word “scatterbrained” stuck in my craw. It’s just so negative and implies that people whose thinking is nonlinear are somehow less effective.

Ask Yourself: Are You a Planner or a Non-Planner?

Some years ago, when I was teaching a course about fundraising, I asked the participants to evaluate their planfull-ness on a scale of one to ten. If they didn’t think of themselves as planners at all, they assigned themselves a 1 on the scale. If they planned everything in great detail and then stuck with their plan, they assigned themselves a 10. And, of course there were lots of options in the middle.

Then I asked for a show of hands for those who scored themselves in the lower third, the middle third and then the top third.

A few courageous folks were willing to expose themselves as non planners (the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s) raising their hands tentatively. You know what that looks like — bent arms and fingers barely over their heads.

A few proud planners at the top of the scale (the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s) raised their hands, arms proudly extending up.  The bulk of the people were, of course, in the middle, neither embarrassed nor proud.

The ones at the bottom might be considered “scatterbrained.” In fact, they probably thought of themselves that way!

But I took the exercise farther. I put two flip charts in the front of the room, one headed “Planners,” the other headed “Non-Planners,” and I asked the group to come up with words to describe each.

The lists began to take shape as you might expect.


Planners were described as:

  • organized
  • responsible
  • effective
  • accomplished
  • goal-oriented


Meanwhile, the Non-Planner list included words like:

  • flaky
  • disorganized
  • impulsive

But rather than stop there, when the first round of ideas slowed down, I asked them to keep going.

A Turn Around of Mind Set

And then everyone got a surprise as, when pushed for more words, the tone of both lists changed. With a bit of encouragement, people got past the cultural assumptions that planners were better.


The Planner list started to acquire words like:

  • rigid
  • bull-headed
  • narrow-minded
  • limited
  • inflexible


And the Non-Planner list added words like:

  • creative
  • energetic
  • flexible
  • contagious
  • generative
  • spirited

As the lists grew, the sensation in the room changed. The planners who had so proudly raised their hands, full of the sense that theirs was the best way to be, grew quieter and lost their cockiness.

And the Non-Planners (the “scatterbrained”) started to smile and sit straighter and call out words, as they began to realize the importance and power of the creativity and energy and flexibility they bring to the table. Far from being something to be embarrassed about, their qualities are at least as important and powerful as the most organized in the room.

So, if you’re one of the planner types, be careful with the language you use to describe those of us whose minds range freely and for whom ideas are the fuel for energy. You may call us scatterbrained, but really, we provide the high octane fuel for your plans.

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What’s Your Planner/Non-Planner Number?

How would you rate yourself on a scale of one to ten? Are you a serious planner, a 10? Or are you a “scatterbrain,” a 1? Or are you somewhere in the middle? Now make a list of as many positive characteristics as you can of your primary way of being. Finally, make a list of positive attributes of people at the other end of the scale.

Think today about how fortunate you are to be the way you are. And then think about how wonderful it is to have people with different skills and tendencies in your life. Together, people who function differently can turn out to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Leave a comment about your planning tendencies in the box below, or come on over to Facebook and leave your comment there.