Write Everything Down
This is a great habit to get into. Not only will you never forget anything if it’s written down, you will give the impression you are detail oriented and on top of everything in your work-life.
Where to Write
Get yourself a notebook. The whole point of writing things down is so you have the information handy. Avoid the temptation to use a legal pad or loose-leaf paper, because they are too easy to lose and they don’t last very long. For two dollars you can pick up a 100-page composition book just about anywhere. If you want to exude a real aura of professionalism, get yourself a hardbound notebook. BookFactory.com (http://www.bookfactory.com/) makes a very nice and durable notebook for about twenty dollars.
What to Write About
In a word, everything. If you are going to write something down, write it in your notebook. If you are doing something you want to remember later, write it in your notebook. If you have committed to doing, you got it, write it in your notebook. Some things to always be writing down include:
- To-do lists
A couple of these are worth mentioning in more detail.
Any time you are given an assignment you will want to capture what the assignment is, when it is due and any other salient details offered up. For non-trivial assignments, you will likely be doing some planning and validation, and you’ll want all those details in your notebook, as well.
There will come a time when you are in a meeting and your boss, or another manager, will ask, “What did we decide when we met about this 4 months ago?” And wouldn’t you like to be the one who can flip back in time and definitively state, “You were absent from that meeting, but Johnny agreed to take that on board and send out an email with the results.”
For the most part you won’t get such dramatic opportunities, but you will be surprised how handy it is to be able to go back and see what meetings you attended, who was there, what was discussed and who was given an action item.
This is worthy of its own chapter, as it seems as though every person has their own unique way of managing their to-do lists. The important thing is that no matter what system you use, you have a way of capturing to-do’s even when your system is not available.
While writing a document, coming up with a proposal or fleshing out a design, you’re going to be making decisions. While you don’t want to clutter up your deliverable with too much background information, such as why you chose one way over another, you do want to capture this information in your notebook.
If what you are doing is of any value, someone, sometime, will come and ask why you chose one way over another. They will undoubtedly do this long after you’ve forgotten the details of the project. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say, “Hmmm, good question. Let me see…” And after flipping back in your notebook you will be able to say, “Ah yes, there were three choices and I chose this one for the following reasons.”