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Think on a paper

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Think on a paper – that’s an advice I give to everyone. Write down everything, your thinking process, scraps, lists of anything, everything that could be written down. Some of you already know that. However, I’ve been recently surprised how many people don’t do it.

Why bother?

  • Writing clarifies thoughts. Whether you take notes, draw a map, a scheme, you make a map of what you think about. And it allows you to focus, analyze, see a bigger picture. Finally, helps to solve a problem, faster and better. Having all on paper helps you see if didn’t omit anything and focus on solution. Works perfectly with brainstorming, when you flush everything from you brain, then sort out what’s important. I guess you already know the trick of breaking down big tasks or problems into smaller, separated pieces. Do it on a paper. It works well as it was designed exclusively for it.
  • Helps you to focus. Focusing on solutions comes easier, when you have a problem on a piece of paper rather than on your mind.
  • Makes you less stressed about what you think of. Putting on a paper complex ideas often reveals their simplicity. As result, you feel less overwhelmed, more focused and relaxed. It works the same with “to-do” lists. There’s even more. Keeping a diary during hard times (and all times) gives you context on what is happenning and where you are. Eventually, it may appear to be powerfull in helping you move things forward.
  • Writing down sets your mind free. Imagine you’re making up an idea or solving problem. When you put it on a paper, it’s taken off your mind and memory, and let focus on the next steps.
  • Taking notes helps you to remember. It’s for two reasons. First, when you write down, you focus on what’s next, not on trying to remember. Your mind is free, less tensed. Second, it appears that there’s a deep link between your subconscious, memory and your pen. If you write down something to remember, there’s a good chance that you will not get back to these notes. Personally I think it’s partially connected with handling stress. Writing down takes something off your mind, you feel less tense. And obviously, you get to remember more, when you’re relaxed.
  • Your notebook will help you to sleep well. One more time, something connected with stress and setting your mind free. Here’s an excerpt from Tony Schwartz’s blog post about sleep:

“Write down what’s on your mind — especially unfinished to-do’s and unresolved issues — just before you go to bed. If you leave items in your working memory, they’ll make it harder to fall asleep, and you’ll end up ruminating about them if you should wake up during the night.” (read the full post: http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/sleep-is-more-important-than-f.html)

It’s a good, common-sensed idea to practice all of the above, however, as Stephen Covey says, common sense is not commonly practiced. My advice – make writing down your habit. It will take some time, but once you seriously apply it, you will notice the very advantages of it. Write down everything – ideas, sketches, thoughts, designs, titles of songs that you heard on a radio and want to buy a CD, a great book that somebody recomended and you don’t want to forget a title, information about articles that may prove useful in the future, your task lists.

Personally, I use one small hardcover notebook that I carry with me almost all the time. I write everything in it, from tasks to sketches of some website features. I use Microsoft OneNote, a powerfull digital notebook, and keep it online (yes, there’s an online app, make yourself account on live.com if you want to use it). I keep a file online, and access it from home and work, and have my notebook always up-to-date (I will write more about it in another post). Google Docs also does its job. And have my cell phone or iPod Touch also ready, when I don’t have anything else. It’s a matter of if you do it, not how you do it. I made thinking on a paper a habit. All my personal and professional projects start on a piece of paper (or in OneNote, still it’s a notebook for me). All my ideas are in the notebooks. Shopping lists (some contain items to buy in a very future) are also there. And funny movie quotes. And some Garfield’s strips too.

The whole idea is not new, and definitely recommended by successful people and organizations: Stephen Covey mentions to write your personall mission on a paper. Brian Tracy advices always to make a lists and take notes. McKinsey, a top consulting company, recommends using some techniques for solving or visualizing problems – starting on a piece of paper. And there’s more. Highly successful people do it, so should you.

Start now. Make writing things down your habit. Like with every method – you won’t see a dramatic and fast change. But in time, you will notice a big difference.