By Bruce Tulgan — We know that writing stuff down helps us remember. But we don’t do it all the times that we should. Here are the ideas that will cause you to write down more, and writing down more will help you do a better job.


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10 replies
  1. Rowan Manahan
    Rowan Manahan says:

    I’ve evolved from using Moleskine notebooks (which I still love) to using my cell phone as a dictaphone for short notes or recording software on my laptop for longer sessions. I can then take 100% accurate notes and stick ’em in a Word document for future reference.

    The small notebook is one of the most valuable tools that Job-hunters can use. You’re in your car and you hear an interesting interview on a talk radio show. Two or three lines in your easily-found notebook are all you need to remind you of that interview for follow-up research.

    In best GTD style, I set aside a little time on Monday and Thursday to review my dicated notes and also to check out whatever has made its way into my Moleskine. In the management role, Bruce is so on the money in this piece – without contemporaneous notes, ya got nothing!

  2. Andy
    Andy says:

    My note-taking inbox (in a GTD sense) is a full sized Moleskine reporter. All the random thoughts, meetings, phone calls and project ideas get thrown in here on a daily basis and then at the end of the day I look through it to grab any next actions and put them on my next actions list.

    Meeting and phone call notes get typed up at the end of the week and emailed to myself at work to have a permanent record. I put !archive infront of the subject and an Outlook rule picks it up and throws it in an Archive folder I have setup.

    So far this has let me keep better track of the random people going, “Oh, can you do this for me?” More importantly, I can say NO to more of this now that I know how much I actually have on my plate at one time.

    (Aside: Do all comment threads on blog de-evolve into GTD discussions?)

  3. Erik Mazzone
    Erik Mazzone says:

    Sorry for contributing to the GTD-ification of the thread. :)

    I have an irrational love of Moleskine notebooks, but it just didn’t work for me as a capture mechanism. I can remember to bring exactly three things every time I leave the house: wallet, phone, keys.

    I’ve been experimenting with Jott (, and so far it is very promising. You register with Jott and then you call into a voicemail box that transcribes your message and emails it to your inbox. Very cool.

    The transcription is not perfect — it messes up at least one word each time — but the message is enought to jog my memory when I am back at my computer. And no additional in-box.

    * * * * * *

    Thanks for inejecting Jott into the conversation, Erik. I love Jott. I keep thinking I’ll blog about it. So, great. Here I am. It took me one minute to set up. So easy. And it’s amazing that it works. Sometimes I like doing it just to see the amazing factor.

    For the uninitiated: Jott lets you call thier number, leave a message for yourself and Jott automatically sends that message to you in an email.


  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    The comments so far leave me worried that people, in their quest to become better managers, will focus too much on “what” they are writing down in, rather than the actual process of just doing it. Merlin Mann once had a podcast about obsessing over the coffee cup – instead, just drink the coffee.

    I’m an engineer at a large, extremely successful international company with a very high standard for leadership and management. And nearly everyone I work with has a notebook. Its brown, ugly, with lots of graph paper, no ability to xfer electronically or whatever. But who cares.

    Bruce is spot-on with this one. Unless you’ve got a perfect detailed memory, you need to write things down, period. Don’t worry that its not written in the perfectly archivable, accessible, portable medium – just write.

  5. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I’m surprised no one commented on the irony of posting to a BLOG a VIDEO clip on the concept of writing stuff down. Hm. And the follow up is a suggestion that we call ourselves to have our words sent to us. No writing there, either.

  6. Benjamin Strong
    Benjamin Strong says:

    I guess I am old school. I am a huge fan of my Treo, but I also have a love of notes and to do lists. My favorite is the 3x% index card.

    Levenger makes a great 3×5 card that fits neatly into something they call the Shirtpocket Briefcase. It’s a bit “geeky”, maybe a little too much like something an engineer would wear in a pocket but it fits nicely in my briefcase or sport coat pocket. I can then write down things through the day. I also keep it on my desk to check things off as I complete them. Finally, I actually keep the cards filed by date just in case I need to reference something in the future.

    Levenger’s products can get expensive, but they are worth it.

    Continuing on the writing theme I am also a fan of the hand written letter. While emails and e-cards are nice, I think it’s important to have some nice stationary with your name embossed on the top. I make sure to send quick notes and thank you letters on this paper. I believe it adds a very personal touch.

  7. Andy
    Andy says:

    @Erik – Jott is awesome, you still have to talk at it like its a computer, make sure you enunciate, speak very clearly, but once it trains you enough its fine. It handles dates well, it formats them correctly and even puts in commas where they’re supposed to go. You can also say “web two point oh” and it’ll spit out “Web 2.0”. If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s #2 on my cellphone speed dial.

  8. Bruce Tulgan
    Bruce Tulgan says:

    On paper, on a machine, on a cocktail napkin or your hand (photocopy it and file the photocopy), if you write stuff down, you win. Thanks for all the great comments. Bruce

  9. John
    John says:

    I began developing a systematic technique for ordering and analyzing notes in 1998 and today it is one of my most innovative advantages in the workplace.

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