Harness the Power of the Written Word

Last Updated Nov 13, 2008 1:08 PM EST

366393127_ae569532a7_m.jpgMaybe it's my age, maybe it's that I have too much to keep track of, but I'm one of those people who tends to forget things unless I write them down.

My forgetfulness ranges from little things, like neglecting to pick up milk at the grocery store, to great big things like spacing out on a crucial phone call.

Having learned the hard way that my brain just isn't capable of backstopping my to-do lists all by itself, I've gotten into the habit of jotting down notes to myself -- either on Post-Its or in my task manager -- any time I need to do something.

That's a good move, according to Ali Hale. Writing on Dumb Little Man, she lists five reasons why writing things down is a powerfully productive approach.

  • It helps you remember things. The act of writing helps you lodge things in your long-term memory instead of your short-term memory.
  • It creates a record. Keeping a log of your action items and daily to-do's can be helpful for both business and personal items. You can prove to yourself (or to someone else) that you did indeed make that phone call, or just reminisce about what you were doing at a particular point in time a year or two back.
  • It shows you're serious. Writing down a contract shows you intend to honor it. Putting your goals in writing is a commitment rather than a wish.
  • It keeps you accountable. For example, keeping a food diary or a spending log makes it harder for you to lie to yourself -- and it supports your self-discipline.
  • It can clarify things. Writing down the key points of a problem or decision can make it easier to sort through things and arrive at an answer. Writing in a journal or diary can help you work through emotions and difficult situations by getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
I find that jotting notes to myself helps in all these situations. It might sound old fashioned, but sometimes taking a pen to paper really does help keep your life on track.

(image by tnarik via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.