I’m a big believer in writing things down. Writing things out long hand instead of typing makes you slow down and allows your brain process what’s coming out a bit better than typing—but it’s not an absolute necessity. I’ll give in and say that typing them up is the next best thing to writing them on paper, and far better than nothing at all. The main point is that you turn thoughts into words your eyes can see.
So why do I advocate writing things down? Because memory—no matter how good—is faulty. It embarrasses me say that sometimes a high school classmate or some other friend connects with me via Facebook and my first thought is, “Who are you?”
If It’s Not Written Down, It Didn’t Happen
Very often during my years as a school teacher and minister, people would come up to me in a crowded hallway or foyer and tell me something important. After way too many episodes of forgetfulness I implemented a rule in my communication with other people: If it didn’t get written down it’s the same as not telling me, so the response you need from me won’t happen.
I didn’t put all the responsibility on the other person. If I had pen and paper on hand I would be sure to write a note and stick it in my pocket with my keys, ensuring I would see it again that same day. If I was unable to find something to write with, I would tell the person, “Please find a way to write me a note and bring it back ASAP so I don’t forget.” With the advent of smartphones, I would ask people to send me an email right that moment.
The final result was that if I or the other person wrote it down, you can be sure I’d take care of it. If it was never written down, there was a more than 50% chance that I’d forget what you just told me in the next five minutes.
Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down
- Concreteness: Writing something down takes an abstract thought and gives it concrete shape and form. Writing down your ideas or dreams also infuses them with a certain measure of sincerity—or at least helps you measure your own sincerity about what’s been in your head and heart.
- Revisitability: When you write something down you can go back and look at it again and again. There’s a reason why announcements get posted all over college campuses, and why advertisers spread their names and slogans as widely as they can. They know that repetition builds reinforcement. Repetition builds familiarity.
- Editability: Written concepts and ideas are more easily edited if necessary. Not only that, but it gives more than a single individual the ability to contribute to the concept, expanding it far beyond the original.
- Permanence: When something’s written down it can’t, or won’t, be changed on a whim. Written words also become a marker of sorts to help us keep track of milestones in our lives (think journaling).
- Reliability: Written words don’t suffer from a faulty memory. There’s a reason why we pay a court transcriptionist to write every word spoken in a court room verbatim—we want a reliable account for the questions that will invariably arise: “Who said that?” “What did they say, exactly?”
[My apologies to the grammar nazis and linguists for the made-up words in my list above.]
I challenge you to begin writing things down and see if it doesn’t make you more efficient, productive, and cut your stress levels significantly. Pick three areas of your life where you think you could start writing things down and try it for a month to see what it does for you.