I’ve made it a habit to research new topics constantly. My knowledge is my value. I can’t code (read html and CSS just fine). I’m not in an IT/Support role. I’m not an editor or really a writer (even with Teaching of Writing cert.). No, I’m somewhere lacking in all of these areas, but I excel at finding out more information and capturing it. Why?

Because no one likes a PM that states, “Yeah, the devs are doing a thingy to another do-hicky while the designer is doodling. Can you do that thing, you know, where you setup the stuff to make the site work better? That would be great thanks”.

Capturing information has become a useful skill. Anymore it means that I have to keep detailed notes on everything. Meeting notes, project notes, notes for research, notes for blog posts, and notes for difficult tasks are just some of the notes I have to take.

I was asked a few questions this week regarding a big project with a long timeline. Months ago, I was told to keep a doc on everything (meetings, tasks, timeline, links to supporting docs, etc). I also kept my own hand-written notes. As a result, I noticed something.

I’m getting better at my job.

I don’t know how often you tell yourself you’re getting better. I don’t think it’s something that comes naturally to most of us. Most people work, and work, and work, and work without looking up to reflect on anything. Sure, many companies and Universities have a more formal employee reviews where they can get raises, promotions, etc, but how often can you see the progress you make?

My notes reveal a change. Just 6 months ago, my notes were only for my eyes. Now, knowing I’ll be sharing them constantly, I have a checklist of what I need to capture every single time.

Context – In the past, I wrote down some mangled header that was supposed to indicate what the meeting was about. One of them just says “Lee”, another “Martin”. I know who those people are, but I can only guess at what those meetings were really about. Now, it’s not only the title, but the purpose of that meeting.

Dates – I’m only guessing those old notes were 6 months ago from context. I see where I started adding dates, but nothing from the older notes. Very confusing if you have multiple meetings with similar names. Now, even a spur the moment phone call gets a date.

Attendance – It’s common (too common) to have someone agree to a meeting and not show. They often have a great reason, but the calendar still shows the green checkmark of awesomeness. (My mind looks at this and says, “You don’t deserve that. You weren’t there”. As if I was a soldier calling out a combat-vet pretender wearing a campaign ribbon). The other half of my mind says, “It’s okay, but if we say we all agree to a course of action then did we actually all agree?” I don’t think so. Keep a list of who was there. The missing person may be key.

Next Steps – Simply put, I used to have meetings where everyone seemed to be on board at the end. A week later everyone is scratching their heads trying to figure out the specifics. Some people would “just forget” what to do. I was often asked, “do you remember what I’m supposed to be doing?”. I started the habit of marking down next steps for everyone. If everyone knows what to do, then no one is left inappropriately waiting.

Sharing – This week I had the revelation that I need to share my notes more. There’s a couple of meetings where this is expected as we talk through tasks, but nothing official. Even just now, I realize I should be communicating on a bigger project that has had some minor hiccups. Share, share, share.

I’m excited to see how I develop in the next year. I hope that I can recognize the work like I was able to do with my notes. Even though I’ve been taught how to write notes for myself, I never thought I would be writing them for others. If anything, it builds up my credibility to do my job and I just like helping people do theirs.

As always, I hope you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. Thank you for reading.