Write it down. Yes, even that. (Day 74)

That thing you’re totally going to remember to do later?  The 5th thing you just noticed you need from the grocery store?  Brilliant idea in the shower, or right before you go to sleep?  The information/concern you feel accountable to provide to your boss?  The verbal agreement involving exchanging money/doing work for someone?

Write it down.  If it involves someone else, send it in an email.  With everyone having the entire internet in their pocket, “lack of paper/media” is a worse excuse than ever before: pens and paper are cheap and everywhere if you don’t want to write it on your phone, and you’re not near a keyboard.

Most importantly: you have a *record* of what was said or agreed upon.  When its a grocery list, the cost is low: you don’t have butter to make cookies, and have to make them with vegetable oil or drive back to the grocery store.

But when its a concern about work you’re doing, or an agreement about what will happen when, having a record that you said what you said when you said it makes a huge difference.  So many disagreements, fights, people getting fired, mistakes getting made all come down to people having different perspectives of reality.  And human memory is *fickle*.  Yes, even yours. (Mine’s perfect, of course…if I remember right.  Its been a while since I checked).

The most important aspect of this is a very self-interested covering your ass.  Covering your ass has a bit of a negative stigma, but that’s generally because its done post-hoc, after someone tripped spilled a barrel of waste into the largest fan in the building.  If you’re not doing anything wrong, being very clear and deliberate and having clean records of what happened and what was agreed upon is the best possible thing you can have.

And being self-interested is a *good* thing.  Because when you get hurt, when you don’t take care of yourself, it impacts everyone around you.  Plus, it means you can spend your time not fighting stupid fights about whether you said ‘that thing’ 3 months ago or not.  From having your concerns about a project documented to your boss, to whether or not your wife asked you to get butter from the store, fighting about whether you said something is frustrating and nearly impossible to win.

Reasonable people doing not-shady things won’t mind there being a record.  This is useful in itself: if someone starts getting all fidgety or concerned about things being in writing, that’s a pretty big red flag that there’s more going on.

More positively: there’s a record!  That way when you forget what you were supposed to get at the store, you can just look at the list, or the text.  And when one needs to remember that sweet idea they wanted to write about for some eccentric project they put together, they just go check the scuba-diver’s slate board hanging in their shower, instead of sitting there being frustrated their memory is more like a pyramid of colanders instead of a rack of filing cabinets.

So send the e-mail, send the text, write the list, scribble the idea on a Shenanigans napkin, buy a slateboard to write ideas in the shower (cause the bathtub crayons don’t work very well.)  If you’re ever having that feeling of apprehension, the “I don’t wanna” or “its a loooot of work” or “I don’t want to come off like a jerk” feelings in tension with the “I’m worried I might forget this” or “it is important my boss/friend/whomever knows this”, don’t waver, just do it.

I’ve yet to regret the effort into writing any of these things down (N>200), and I’ve been somewhere between mildly pleased to “I just dodged several bullets” insanely happy.

 

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