Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at email@example.com or 301.275.0208.
Simpler success habits are easy to miss. That’s often the case with one of the simplest: “Write it down.”
As our lives become busier and faster paced, we are more susceptible to distraction and overwhelm. Most of us are at a point where if we don’t write things down we are sure to forget or miss things. With more choices and more ways to communicate, we need a way to keep up and keep track.
Writing things down doesn’t just help us remember, it makes us more efficient because we are less likely to duplicate our efforts. It helps us to organize our thoughts, which leads to clear thinking and better planning, and it provides written documentation that we can review weeks or months afterward if needed.
Writing things down also enhances our relationships with others, because we are less likely to miss deadlines or forget about appointments, and it reminds us of the promises we’ve made to others. And writing things down frees our mind of clutter and makes us feel less overwhelmed.
The only negative is that it takes a little time to write things down. But even that can be discounted when compared to time lost trying to remember something important or worse, completely missing an opportunity because we couldn’t remember who, what, where, or when.
Here are some tips I have found helpful to making this a habit.
1. Always carry with you a spiral- or permanent-bound notebook in which you can write things down. (The binding ensures that you won’t lose any pages.) Keep it easily accessible so you will have it at your fingertips when you need to write something down.
2. Use a keyword or phrase that will remind you of the thought. You don’t need to write a dissertation, but be sure to write down enough of a description that you will be able to jog your memory a week or month later when you want to bring the thought back to life.
3. Include the date with the notes. This will often make it easier to find something later, because you may be able to associate a note with a particular time period—such as a note taken at an event.
4. Draw a diagram when it will help to better illustrate the main concept or theme of a note. Most of us are visual thinkers, so it’s easier for us to remember something that’s associated with a graphic image.
5. Review your notes every day. This is very important because these notes are not to be memorialized, they are to be acted on. If you don’t do anything later with the notes, that’s OK; but reviewing your notes daily will ensure that nothing is lost. It’s also an opportunity to abandon ideas that seemed worthwhile when you wrote them down but have since lost their relevance.
I include “write it down” as a success habit because it will improve your ability to listen and act on what you hear. And it will ensure that you don’t lose track of any of the small, seemingly insignificant inspirations you have every day and instead have an opportunity to turn them into opportunities.