Can you follow directions?

Photo from HeyRocker

Not following directions can get you in a lot of trouble as our friend in the photo above could easily find out.

To give you a less lethal (and more daily life) example, I’ve been trying to drink more water and it helps if I fill up a pitcher. The other morning, I thought I was ahead of the game and filled our pretty glass pitcher with ice cubes and left the kitchen for a moment. At the same time, I asked my husband, Bill, (of 30 years) if he could make orange juice because he really makes orange juice well, very frothy and cold.

When I came back into the room, he was trying to mix the frozen orange into the ice cubes in my pretty pitcher. He was having a tough time because the pitcher was too small and the ice cubes were in his way. We always make orange juice in the Tupperware pitchers because they store better in the refrigerator.

I tried to be nice as I asked him why he put the orange juice in my water pitcher and he said, “I thought that was what you wanted.” We rescued the orange juice from the glass pitcher and I started over putting ice cubes for my water in the glass pitcher and he finished making the orange juice in the Tupperware.

Needing Clear Directions

This is fairly normal in our house. My husband needs very clear directions to be able to carry out tasks but there are good reasons for that. Before we met, he had a motorcycle accident in 1976, that at the time,  resulted in a coma, paralysis from the neck down, and short term memory damage. He’s not a quitter though and when I met him in 1979, he had recovered enough to be running marathons. He also has undiagnosed ADD and that could be lifelong since I never knew him or his personality before the accident.

Tips for Success in Following Directions

  1. To compensate, like myself, Bill carries a Daytimer and tries to write everything down so he doesn’t forget. However, even with that, it is a constant battle to not lose his Daytimer, keys, or something else he needs.
  2. If I need something done, I call him with reminders because it is real easy for him to forget within minutes after leaving the house.
  3. Clarify what the task is so there is no confusion. If I had not assumed Bill knew I wanted the plastic pitcher used or explained more clearly what I was doing with the glass one, he might have not switched pitchers.

In a job search, though there are plenty of Shades of Gray, there are still rules for things like interviews, cover letters, and resume writing. When you are working, you need to follow directions too. You can’t continually make new rules when you don’t like the ones that are there.

Perhaps the tips above will make things go more smoothly for you. Do you have other tips that help you follow directions or complete a project?



  1. Raul Colon on March 4, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I keep reminders all over the place from sticky notes, to using software on my mac that synchs with my iphone, and Ipad. This way I have everything I need to do at hand.

    Everytime I get sidetracked and don’t know what to do next I quickly go to my notes, post-its, or devices to make sure I can start a new task.

    I usually listen pretty well for directions and when I think I am going to miss something I make sure I make a note or write it down.

    • Julie Walraven on March 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks, Raul, for stopping by! I do rely on both my phone and Outlook for reminders. I would love it if things synced. I think it is possible but it didn’t work the last time I checked.

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