It sometimes surprises me that things I find very basic are not obvious to new hires. I know that my brain cannot possibly keep track of all I need to do such that I have long used lists. I recall being very organized in college about classes, assignments, etc., and perhaps not everyone has to be as compulsive as I was, but in the “real world” it is impossible to rely on memory. There is too much to do. Too many things to accomplish on different schedules. And, too much risk in forgetting a task or not doing it timely. But, as obvious as this is to me, several people we have hired attempted to operate on memory. One in particular comes to mind; he would seemingly comprehend an assignment, but hours later when asked about it he looked as if he had never heard anything about it. He was new to the real world so we coached him on this point by telling him to bring a note pad and pen to meetings. But something as simple as this took weeks for him to remember. No surprise, he did not work for us very long. There are many ways to keep oneself organized and to structure task lists, but one way or another, it must be done. I’ve never met anyone who could work without doing so. This is one of my shorter posts, but the message I’ll close with is, show up and be prepared to interact with the boss or co-workers. Being prepared means pad and pen in hand.
People vary in their memory function, just as they vary on other personal dimensions. There are some people, like me, who remember most things, in great detail and with accuracy; then, there are other people who don’t (or can’t) remember much of anything. Most people, of course, are someplace in the middle of these two extremes; they remember some things and not others. In the workplace, it is essential to perform one’s job correctly, such that, in the event an important instruction from one’s boss or other crucial information is forgotten, negative repercussions can be expected. For this reason, writing things down, making to do lists, maintaining a calendar, etc. are important tasks required of many employees. Regardless of whether an employee is a skilled rememberer, there are too many details in the workplace to remember 100% of them, every day of every work week. David and I have had many employees tell us, “I don’t need to write anything down,” or “I’ll NEVER forget what you told me,” or something similar, only to witness the employee doing something different from what he or she was asked to do, then saying, “Oh, I guess I must have forgotten.” Writing things down is not a sign of weakness or imperfection; rather, it is a sign of recognizing the frailties of the human memory system, then taking proactive steps to perform one’s job in an excellent manner by writing down important details (particularly when the boss remembers exactly what she said because she wrote detailed notes on the subject!). Write it down!