Be Sure to Write It Down

For various reasons, most off us don't write down the things we should remember. No matter the business situation, and even in this world of computers, it makes good sense to have a pad and pen with you. Let's explore why we should take accurate notes for later use:


Whether it's a sales call or another type of business meeting, I can't imagine not taking notes to make sure I remember the facts accurately. However, many don't agree, as evidenced by the fact that the great majority don't take such notes.

Many salespeople don't take notes during calls at prospects' offices, but put together their notes after the call. This results in incomplete, inaccurate notes. I believe in taking notes as the prospect speaks. I've always felt it compliments prospects if they see that what they're saying is important enough for the salesperson to write down.

When addressing large audiences when workbooks weren't provided, I gauged my success by the number of people taking notes. It always amazed me how few take notes regardless of the importance of the material to their careers.

At a recent meeting of the condominium owners in my building, where plans for the upcoming year were discussed, I was interested to see that only two people within my view of about 100 took full notes. The woman next to me took beautiful, clear notes that would allow her to summarize the meeting accurately for someone who didn't attend.

I used to think that people who don't take notes at meetings had better memories than I, but now I know that most of them don't care enough to record pertinent notes — or think that their memories are better than they are.

Instructions from the boss

When I was leaving the office for several days, I would give verbal assignments to several people for completion in my absence. If the person made notes during an assignment, it relaxed me. But if the person didn't take any notes during 20 minutes of fairly complicated assignments, it made me crazy. I would tell the person to write it down and sarcastically add, “I know you are gifted and talented but we both know that your memory isn't at that level.” This didn't endear me to my staff, but, sorry to say, I couldn't help myself.

To-do list

I normally make daily to-do lists but I've gone many days without them. Without a doubt, you get more done on days when you use such a list. If I have 10 items on it, I will usually complete eight or nine; without my to-do list I probably average only five or six.

I would guess that the greater production resulting from use of a list comes from visualizing the requirements better on a list than when the projects are scattered all over my desk or office.

Another aid is to estimate the time each task will take and add the estimates to the list. This allows me to know if I am ahead of or behind my schedule for the day.

Using a to-do list to prioritize tasks is a good idea. Many people, including me, have a tendency to complete the easy tasks before moving on to tougher ones that are more important from a return point of view. I learned after often making this mistake that I might not be able to complete the most important tasks on a timely basis if I maintained this habit.

I hope you are convinced, as I am, that writing it down will make us more productive in many aspects of your business and personal life. Try it and enjoy the results you'll see.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-931-0757.

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