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When on the move a scrap of notepaper is
far more effective than a laptop
It’s a great challenge to capture the words you want
to recall. Use any old paper for this purpose.
During a keynote talk (at the Institute
of Director’s Annual Conference at the
Royal Albert Hall, London, on 27 April
1993) Sir Richard Branson, founder of
the Virgin Group, stressed the
importance of carrying a notebook.
Like many other inspirational leaders
he is a keen listener and prepared to
learn from his customers and
employees alike. He argued that unless you jot something
important down you risk losing the valuable information
Without pen and notepaper handy there is a risk that a key
message goes in one ear and out the other. The valuable things
that people say then get lost and are not acted upon, let alone
kept for future reference.
In my opinion a scrap of paper (or notepad) is far more effective
than any portable laptop. It is so easy to use. You don’t need to
boot it up before capturing the word of the moment! You can
use pen and paper on a train, a plane or even when waiting to
pay at the checkout. You can readily scribble down the name of
the front-liner who gives you excellent service and then
subsequently drop an email to her boss. You can jot down a
telephone number on a promotional poster for future follow-up.
You can list people to contact over the next few days or you can
note down titles of books recommended to you. If you hear a
Your memory is far
less effective in
information than a
simple jot in a
memorable quote a blank sheet of paper is invaluable
for capturing it. You can even write down any important ideas
The discipline of note taking will enhance the information
available to you in improving your performance on the job as
well as developing your career. You can use your laptop later to
transcribe the notes and get them into actionable order.
I am always surprised by the large number of people who do not
practise note taking. I am currently staying in a hotel where the
service is a little lacking. I ask to see the duty manager. He comes
along and I give him some feedback that I hope he will find
helpful. But then I observe that he does not take notes of what I
am saying. He just nods, smiles, says ‘Yes’ and ‘Thank you for
letting me know’ and disappears.
The very first time I attended a presentation by Tom Peters (the
co-author of the 1982 business classic In Search of Excellence
one of the world’s leading business speakers) I returned home
with 20 pages of notes. I typed them up afterwards and because
of these notes I can still refer to the key lessons 20 years later. We
should not rely on memory alone.
Memory is fallible unless you are a genius such as Shakuntala
Devi, known as the human computer and who calls herself
India’s ‘Maths ambassador’. She has such a phenomenal memory
that she can undertake amazingly large mathematical calcula-
tions in her head. Most of us are not like her, indeed we are quite
forgetful. Yesterday I was introduced to a new neighbour’s wife.
Instantly I forgot her name. How dreadful! I used to know the
daughter of the late entertainer known as the ‘memory man’,
whose speciality was memorising key sports results going back
In Search of Excellence, Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jnr, Harper & Row, 1982
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decades. But for weeks I could not recall his name. (Actually it
was Lesley Welch.) Aid your memory with a scrap of notepaper
and a pen.
PRA C T I CA L TI P S
Colour up your life by having seven different pocket-size
notebooks, with seven different colours for each day of
Get into the habit of carrying a notepad and pen with you all
the time. You never know when you are going to need it. (I
find the notepads provided in most hotel rooms invaluable
for this purpose.)
Devote half an hour at the end of every week (or at the end of
the day) to transcribing key notes into the ‘notes file’ on your
computer. Keep these notes files for ever.
Refer to your notes periodically so that you can reinforce the