Write it down!


Everywhere I go I carry either a small notebook or some 3x5 cards and a pen. While you might think that would make me cool (or maybe not), my family takes great joy in making fun of me – while at the same time either taking advantage of me having that available or, instead, buying me cool little notebooks as gifts. In this post, I will share with you the some ways this has been valuable to me, including a really great benefit that might be good for you too.

I will note that many of you use your phones for these kinds of things, but I recommend you do not and address that below. In my case, I don’t carry my phone with me at work and it has turned out to be a really awesome thing. Relying on pen and paper has some great benefits and actually provides more options than a phone.


  • Making and having my to do lists and crossing things off as I complete them – this is really satisfying and was my first use for this;

  • Keeping @ lists for when I meet with someone, shopping lists, computer work, whatever (the @ designates the context and is borrowed from Getting Things Done by David Allen);

  • Capturing meeting notes or one of those random hallway conversations that turns into 7 things to follow up on and that you promptly forget;

  • Making lists of songs, books, authors, even sayings that I hear about and don’t want to forget; these become library or shopping lists;

  • The small size turns out to provide the perfect amount of room for a speech or remarks at an event – it helps me capture my main point or two and then be done;

  • I often use this to share ideas with some bad artwork – sort of a portable whiteboard;

  • When you are the one passing an action to someone else, you can hand them a written reminder so they don’t forget it as they walk away or get distracted by something else;

  • When I have a big goal, I will write that down and use it as a reminder of what I want to keep my momentum and motivation going because I always have this with me and see it all the time;

  • Keeps you from what I call “phone drift” where you go to jot this down on your phone and then see you have a text and then check for what’s on Facebook and is there an update on that news story and Twitter is cool and wait what is this email and . . .;

  • Even better, and this is the greatest benefit that I have found – when I am talking to someone and really paying attention to them, inevitably something pops into my head, either something I want to bring up or something completely random. By quickly jotting that down, I stay present in the moment. Anyone who has ever been speaking to someone else face-to-face and then sees them go through the phone drift described above knows what not being present looks like. For me, staying in the moment has deepened my relationships with people and made me achieve more because I am not trying to multitask, but instead I stay focused on the person in front of me and what we are trying to do together.

Seriously, this staying present in the moment thing is incredible, you will thank me for it. Try this for a week just for this one reason. You will find that you really listen instead of trying to remember what you want to say next, if only that person would stop talking.

The first draft of this blog post was actually written in one of my notebooks, one of many little things I jot down and work on while standing in line, waiting for an appointment, during lunch, whatever. I find that I have half a dozen things on which I am working and can quickly turn the page and add to the one that I currently have an idea about or that needs some focus. That way even when I am stumped on one task, I have several others with me that don’t rely on an Internet connection or electricity. When I am get on a productivity roll, I switch from one page to another and make a lot of progress in a short period of time.

The palest ink is more reliable than the most powerful memory -- purportedly an ancient Chinese proverb, at least a pretty good saying!

Hey, before I go. I have heard from some of you via LinkedIn, Facebook, and email; even in person. I love comments and would really appreciate if you left one here. I would also appreciate it if each of you would share this blog -- this post or another one you liked -- with just one other person.

Now, go make it happen -