Write once, read never

CDs and DVDs are WORMs — “Write once, read many” data storage devices (hey, so were punch cards). My everyday spiral notebook is WORN — not worn out, but “write once, read never”.

I often take notes during meetings and research, but it’s pretty rare that I go back and read my notes later. Just the process of taking notes helps me remember the information. I thought this was a perhaps unique way of working, but over the years I have met others who work the same way.

Information designer Kevin Hoffman recently tweeted:

Lots of people write things to remember them. People like @ryanirelan …

I followed Kevin’s link to a post by Ryan Irelan, and read how he too takes to notes in the moment to help him learn, but does not necessarily revisit the information later:

But I hardly reference the notes later. I write down the notes to help me process the meeting as it happens.

Why do I do this? It’s not because I’m a bad listener. I’m just not good at retaining most of the information I hear. I can process information I hear on the spot and provide feedback and responses that make sense, but for deeper analytical thoughts and responses, I need to write the information I’m hearing down in order to properly process it.

That’s a pretty good description of how my process works as well. Although sometimes I am a bad listener. When I am, it’s good that I have the written record to go back to.