How to Save the Day, Repeatedly, with a Notebook

“A pencil on top of an open notebook” by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

You will save the day repeatedly when you simply write down what transpires. Capture what happens and the decisions that were made along the way, especially your own.

You will gain “super powers” of both recollection and observation.

You will become recognized as an authority on the past and how we have arrived at the present.

Practicing this skill is life changing and changes the perception of those around you and about you.

You need to do one simple thing, carry the notebook and use it. A writing utensil is handy as well. You are literally SAVING THE DAY.

Now go ahead and put on your cape and feel good about yourself, by doing this, you are exceptional!

Reasons You Must Use a Notebook

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Elephants forget, notebooks don’t. If you write in them.

Digital is amazing, though there is no substitute for paper. Period. The ultimate backup. If the computers all go offline one day, the books will still be read and our notes will be preserved. Just as Leonardo Da Vinci’s have.

Keeping notes on your phone, laptop, or iPad is efficient, though can also easily be misconstrued as doing something else. (Posting to Reddit, answering an email, or just surfing the web). Electronic devices almost imply distraction. That doesn’t happen with paper.

There is no mistaking what you are doing when you write on paper.

On many of the jobs I’ve held, even if someone did not know my name or position, I was commonly referred to as “that guy with the notebook”. I was constantly taking notes. It is also a nice “prop” if you want to appear “busy”. A thoughtful look, a slight chin rub, and a few notes. Working hard.

Every interaction becomes a “meeting” if you take some notes.

Choose whatever works for you, just make sure to have it with you, always.

  • A fancy day planner with the requisite inserts updated annually (though be prepared to expand it as it should overflow).
  • A moleskin notebook might be more your desire, they are beautiful.
  • A composition notebook for personal and a legal pad for professional use is what I arm myself with. Go through many, be prolific.
  • In the car, keep small “memo books” as a backup or to give to friends.

Be the Historian

“A person making a checklist in a notebook” by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Personally, the notes you take about your life while writing in a notebook will preserve your thoughts and feelings in addition to the ever elusive “facts”. Your day to day experiences should be recorded, even the mundane.

The patterns you repeat and the breakthroughs you make will be revealed to you if you regularly write them down.

Some of the most treasured “leftovers of a life” were the written experiences of my grandparents. More valuable to me than any of the other “stuff”.

One day, you may have lived a life worthy of an autobiography or biography, handwritten notebooks will make it a very rich read indeed.

Professionally, it’s priceless to have a written record who, what, when and why. Through writing, what happened is preserved, even if only informally.

There will be times that you will travel back in time to a meeting, explain who was there and what decisions were made. It’s easy to forget why a certain course of action was selected in the past when under immediate pressure. Though you can quickly ascertain why the proposed “change” may not be the appropriate solution based on the recorded historical analysis.

According to the article Five Reasons Why Meeting Minutes Are Important

  • They offer legal protection.
  • They provide structure (on how a decision was arrived at).
  • They drive action (mapping out a plan for the action items).
  • They act as a measuring stick (an accountability tool).
  • They state ownership (of decisions).

Under certain circumstances corporations must keep minutes of meetings, there is a reason for that.

Be forewarned, in an “unhealthy” organization, it may be career threatening to document everything (including where the skeletons are buried). Though it can be “leverage”, if you are “Machiavellian”. It is fun to use the phrase, “Let’s compare notes”. Then follow-up with, “Oh? You don’t have any?”

A detailed documentation of your professional life will pay dividends and can save the day (and maybe your job).

Think resume as well. It’s always much easier to create it along the way, then when you are “looking” for a job.

Upper executives will often look to you (and your notebooks) when the “sh*t hits the fan”. To find out either 1) “who” was responsible or 2) if your notes are a threat to their plausible deniability. Many times they will contain both.

When I left my last IT job of 4+ years, I was in possession of approximately sixteen filled out legal notepads. They contained everything. Every meeting, project, decision, and request. From 20,000 ft views, down to the atomic steps taken to perform anything. They were left behind. They were not mine. They were a corporate record of IT Management as documented by the IT Manager.

It is important to keep your business and personal notebooks separate.

A while ago, an ex-coworker from there contacted me needing a critical password for a server. A “direct report who I hounded for not carrying a notebook”, he preferred Evernote (it has its benefits for sure). I explained that unfortunately, I was unable to help. Having left behind all of the companies property, digital and handwritten. The moral of the story is that he contacted me later explaining that he was able to find the password and save the day! He had written it down in a notebook. Yes!

Capture Elusive Creativity

Photo by Juan Marin on Unsplash

Ideas are fleeting, replaced by another without a second thought. Some are much better than others. Losing the “home runs” for the lack of something to capture it with, is to do great injustice to your craft.

If you are creative, you never know when the muse will strike. To not have a notebook next to the bed is something that we have all regretted, if only once. It instills much sadness to wake and not recall that great idea we were unable to write down.

Never lose a great idea to complacency when it comes to carrying a notebook.

Be the “quirky” writer or amateur sociologist who studies the world around you and takes notes. Let them wonder what you find so fascinating about being at the DMV. You never know when you will figure it out. The plot, the perfect headline, or what’s for dinner tonight.

So Save the Day

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When you write things down in your notebook you are by repetition, saving the day”, both literally and figuratively.

Personally and Professionally.

Just the process of writing will help you distill your ideas and give your subconscious something powerful to work with. Plant the seeds of your desired success.

Sometimes the “spin” of our thoughts can be distracting. Tame them! With a notebook and pen.

Write them down, free up some space for relaxation, recreation, and creativity. Transferring your thoughts to paper can go along ways towards alleviating “anxiety” (Don’t tell, it’s really a “super power”, to be discussed).

So, get out of your head and into your notebook, make your experience real. There is magic in writing down what instantly becomes your past. Your words are knowingly a pathway to your future. Make it a future beyond current imagination, you won’t regret the effort.

PS Join me as an “experimentalist”. We will continue to try different methods and not be constrained by the past or others “supposed” views. Constantly expressing different ways to provide value and communicate effectively, while avoiding limitations.

Embracing the inputs AND outputs are expected. Let us be suspect and question those that don’t live by their mantras (words).

No more Outros…

Comment if you have any ideas on how to do this better, I appreciate your feedback.

All my best…