No one can remember everything; it just isn’t possible. Knowing the limitations of human memory and not wanting to forget any important information, I take notes and write down details pertaining to almost every aspect of my life. I take notes when speaking on the telephone to clients; I write down daily “to do” lists, including on weekends; I mark loved ones’ birthdays on my calendar (and have never been late to send a greeting card or other salutation); I prepare shopping lists (and usually limit my purchases to items on the list); I write down titles of songs on which I want to learn bass lines; etc. In general, if something is important enough to be written down, it is important enough for me to do, such that I rarely have any difficulty accomplishing the goals I have committed to in writing. Because I am an expert in cognitive psychology (the psychology of human attention, learning, memory, and information processing), I know there are numerous cues available to people to eliminate the need for rote memorization of every detail in one’s daily life. The best cue is writing down important information, then taking the few seconds required to review what has been written down in order to accomplish the goal. Far from serving as a “crutch,” writing things down makes life’s demands far simpler than suffering the consequences of forgetfulness. In the workplace, as well as in my personal life, I write it down to get it done!
As an employer of people just starting their careers post college, it has been fascinating to me to have to tell many, though not all, of them to “write it down.” This has come natural to me for some reason – like Melissa, I have always written it down in some way shape or form. Now we have more tools than ever, many of them which do not require paper, to use to write it down and create reminders. The key is to find what works for each person and use it diligently – work on a personal organizational system. In working with employees one of the ways I can perceive they understand the instructions I am giving them is if they are actively taking notes; the notes are both a reminder, and a learning tool. Those employees who have believed they can rely on their memories usually do not have long tenures because, in reality, their memories were not able to keep up with the demands of “the real world.” Some figure this out quickly and improve in their note taking skills; they take the hint when told to write it down. Others don’t and suffer the consequences. Write it down!