Do you have a good—even great—memory? If you briefly meet someone in the hall and they make an appointment to see you this Thursday at 10:45 a.m. in meeting room D3020, will you remember that? You may be guessing, and you’d be right; that this doesn’t work well for me. Enter To Do lists.
Back when I did event coordination, I couldn’t believe the 1,001 details that had to be dealt with for any meeting or event involving more than a handful of people (sometimes for those too). Smartphones didn’t exist at the time; nor did the ability to synchronize appointments across devices. And very little was Cloud-based. So I did the two things I knew how to do best, and, not surprisingly, they still work well to this day. First, I created, organized, and kept lists. Second, I used a paper calendar system.
If you jot something down when you hear it, or in the case of that meeting in the hallway, right after hearing it, you’re now more likely to remember it. It’s become more concrete. If you transfer your many scraps of hand-written notes—originally recorded on everything from the back of an envelope, to a pad of paper, to a napkin—to one place, while presenting a little more work, it will help you in the long run. A little trick some colleagues of mine used to do with business cards was to write something on the back of the card about the person that gave it to them, along with the date it was given to them.
Put in a little extra effort and your list may almost become multi-functional. For example, design a list with a specific project or set of tasks in mind. If for an event, make one list for speakers, and their needs, and another list for all other attendees, and their needs. Make a list for catering or dietary needs, and make another one for A/V requirements. Carry all lists around in a folder, or binder. Check-off items as you do them.
Of course, if you have a tablet or Smartphone (or any other phone with note-taking capabilities), put your reminders, To Do tasks, or other items in the device. I remember once when I had to remember someone’s license plate, but didn’t have pen or paper. I had my BlackBerry with me, and instead of opening its memo function, I simplified: I took a photo of the plate. If you do have a SmartPhone, make as much use of it as you can. Most have voice recorders (if you can find the app!), that’s one way to go. All come with a note or memo function. Don’t forget to synchronize. The one massive advantage of putting information in a device is that it’s searchable: much more so than having to sort through paper.
Note from Pat: I use and highly recommend Evernote. Add a note on one device and it syncs to all the devices you’ve installed Evernote on. Each note can be a maximum of 25 MG on the free account and can be shared with others. In addition to text, Evernote allows you to upload images, scans, pdfs, and audio. If you need more space, the paid account is $5 per month or $45 annually.