(I recently enjoyed reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, so a nod to his title that I’ve played off of here.)
It is the details of a thing that either serve us well and move our plans forward, or that trip us up. Back in school, if we answered that the civil war happened sometime in the 1800s we most likely were marked wrong on a test and asked for more detail if it was a class discussion. While vaguely correct, the level of detail needed for accuracy is missing in this broad answer.
Impressions stick with me – the patterns of a process, reactions of a person or a group – but not details. When I need to remember something, I search in my memory for any placeholders such as what day it was, who might have been there, where I was located. If I can recreate the scene to a moderate level of detail, I have a better chance of retrieving some specifics. I rely upon notes to dig deeper and bring back greater, finer details.
In my family, I am the de facto keeper of memorabilia – all the physical prompts that open the flood gates of ‘remember when’; the pictures and trinkets of our past. These are talisman to bring up those impressions of large, small, important, and mundane activities and moments of life. What we each produce of this memory and then share can become a more complete recreation of the original since we each have different sensibilities which trigger what and how we will remember something.
In business, I have honed the note taking that I learned in school (and diverge from my regular method at my peril) to develop a pretty good practice which records the right level of detail for retention and reference later. The notes help me to get from that overall impression level of detail into more complete who, what, where, when, why particulars. When I am really on my game, I sift back through the notes as soon as possible to develop the next level of associations – what goes with what.
I have a habit of writing call notes that has served me very well in personal as well as professional business. I learned this habit the hard way when faced with retractions or changes to agreements and could only go back to my own impressions of the previous interactions. Now when I can say that I called on this day and spoke to this person and was told this specific thing would happen, I am more likely to get the result that I expect.
Impressions of events are fine when sitting around at a family gathering and bringing out the old pictures to indulge in ‘remember when’. But we all need to have methods of retaining finer details when it comes to moving our plans forward and keeping them on track.
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Tagged: Information management, Life, Perspective, Philosophy, Purpose, Reflection, Thinking, Working
Beth, I agree with your point about writing down the date/time/content of conversations. In addition to providing a future reference, I find that the act of writing something down will make it easier for me to remember it in the future.
(Also, congratulations on the new blog. It looks great!)
Hey Allan – Good to hear from you (read from you…). Man, when I remember the pain in the past of getting close to a solution, but not having the details when I had to follow up and then being told that it wasn’t going to happen… And I couldn’t offer any proof. Now when I have to follow up and I can offer all the details I stick to my ground.