"It Didn't Happen If You Didn't Write It Down"

Borrowing an idea from a Tom Clancy novel, software developer and blogger Christopher Schnack explains why he writes everything down, then suggests a handful of worthy tools for the job.

Photo by Jacob Bøtter.

If you think of a good idea and don't record it somewhere, you'll forget it. Inevitably. If you need something done by a certain time and don't record it somewhere, you'll miss it. If you learn something while roaming through code, or exploring a new tool, write your experiences down. You'll thank yourself later.

As far as his write-it-down tool suggestions go, Schnack discusses everything from the classic text editor Emacs and mind-mapping tool FreeMind to Evernote and pencil and paper. Ultimately, Schnack doesn't prescribe anything in particular — it's really an individual choice based on what works best for you — because it's not really about the tool you use to do the job, but the benefits of writing things down and taking notes in the first place.

It never fails to amaze me how much I learn by doodling notes about a problem, walking away for a couple days, emphatically not thinking about it, then coming back to it. The back of my brain apparently is really adept at making progress on a problem when I seed it and leave it alone. Having the original notes written down when I come back is key to making sure you don't forget a bunch of details.

So what about you? Do you prescribe to the "It didn't happen if you didn't write it down" philosophy? Tell us about it in the comments.

Methods of Work: It Didn't Happen If You Didn't Write It Down [Design By Gravity]


    Completely agree: the only way to be thorough and never miss anything is to always write everything down. I've seen so many people miss opportunities, or fail to impress at work, just because they're not organised with what's expected of them.

    Moreover, I've had execs tell me that they are not impressed when someone comes to see them and doesn't make notes about what's said. If you don't write down your actions or followup or their thoughts, they don't know you're serious about remembering it.

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