Friday, January 02, 2009

Shortest Pencil....Longest Memory

"Shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory."

"When you start inking, you start thinking."

One thing that I have no doubts at all is the power of writing things down. It's one of the most effective tools. Writing things down is so helpful that I have come to view it as universal productivity improvement tool. It does not matter how you capture your thoughts and ideas. You can do it on your tablet-PC or a simple piece of scrap paper. It is not on what you write but the very act of writing it is beneficial because it commits the things that you want to remember to memory for good. Many times after writing it down, you will remember it just when needed.

Some people are blessed with prodigious amount of memory and they can hold a lot of information in their heads without writing anything down. Even they can improve their already super memory by writing simple things down because their precious memory can be used for some really important things than holding less useful to-do list.

David Allen's best seller "Getting Things Done" system is entirely built around this model. If there are too many things in your head, they cause confusion, stress and decrease in productivity. Why not take time once in a while to go over everything and make a list and keep updating them every once in a while? Best daily updates. You update your list at the end of the day, prioritize a few things for next day and next day you just focus on those.

"An idea not written down is not worth the paper it is not written on." So, if you want to get any value for your idea, at least the value of a piece of paper, you need to write it down. As you start writing down, it is really gratifying to see how your idea neatly evolves and expands. Expanding an idea is an art. It is sad that not many formal education systems teach that art. Normally we are left to pick it up way later in our lives. It is fairly simple. First develop a straw-man and then add meat to the straw-man. In no time, your idea expands so much so that you wonder if it was you who developed that tiny seed into such an outstanding piece of art - to say the least.

Harnessing the power of writing down is simple. Go and buy a dozen of small note pads and pencils and leave them everywhere. A few places in your house, car, desk, table and most importantly your valet. As soon as something worth remembering comes to mind, just jot down and leave it. At some point, as frequently as possible, collect all notebooks and organize all the stuff into a master list. Master list is best maintained as a nice spreadsheet. This is because spreadsheet allows you to slice and dice the data as you need it.

Also read David Allen and Brain Tracy's books on personal productivity. These are two authors who have really made a difference in the lives of many professionals.

Also, master the fine art of note taking. Note taking is a very important skill. One simple way of note taking in meetings, lectures is to divide a page into two columns. On the left hand side, capture important points as you hear them. On the write hand column, expand each point as needed while you are in the meeting or later. Key is to make the left hand column as complete as possible. If key points are captured correctly, the details follow or if anything is missing you can always reach out and get the missing information around a key point.

Cheers to your ever improving personal productivity and gratification that comes from it!

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