"I don't need a notepad. I can pretty much remember everything. So I don't have to write anything down". It was a team meeting. The speaker was more experienced than many of us around that table. I arrived at this conclusion by assessing his appearance. Since he was more experienced than most of us, this statement evoked a sense of panic in me. I was careful not to display my true feelings. Why is it so hard for us to write down what we are supposed to do?
Many years ago, I was packing my bags for relocation to another country when I was called in to attend an emergency meeting. I am not new to crisis management. This call was a cry for help, and I took charge immediately. I explained the next steps to an engineer on the phone. As I conduct most of my business over the phone, I can easily find out when the interest levels wane at the other end. When I sensed a potential information overload, I asked him to write down the steps. After a few seconds, I asked him if he was writing down and if he was ready to replay the instructions. This engineer blew his top, and a shouting match ensued. Although we brought the temperature down very quickly, it is hard to comprehend the resistance behind listing out things to do.
I have found people are diametrically opposite to the above examples. Some engineers have to see everything written down first. Is this again a right-brain versus left-brain thing? At this point, it will be interesting to note that there are two kinds of planners - top-down versus bottom-up. I am a bottom-up planner where I think of activities and then build an overall schedule. I was pleasantly surprised to see a friend doing a plan the other way. It is not the same as doing a bottom-up planning and crashing the schedule. One of the early lessons I learned in my career was to carry your notepad to every meeting. I have even seen people going to the printer to pull out a few A4 size paper before running into a meeting. But there is a new technological dilemma posed for note taking. When I asked a friend about taking a notepad to a meeting, he showed me his phone. I will use my phone for notetaking. Even for a noble cause, does a person, typing away notes on his phone, paint a professional picture? I am old-school. It doesn't look good according to me. What do you think?
Photo Courtesy: Joseph Jayanth