Memo for the Record

So often in life we are drawn to the short-cut, the easier path.  Note-taking is a perfect example.  We start in the classroom as students.  What to write down, what not to write down.  I recall a Studies Skills class in elementary school.  Not much else in that regard.

My wife teaches middle school, where they teach Cornell Notes.  THAT is a great approach. I use my own variance of that approach when I take notes at work.  I’ve got binders of work notes stacked on shelves at home.   Candidly speaking, I LOVE notes.

Overall, for important decisions, instructions, ideas, insights, it’s a good idea to write things down.  In cases of managing affairs in your work life, or business affairs of your personal life, this discipline is resonates with additional importance.

The importance of writing things down can be found in the Memo for the Record.  Used in the military and government work especially, the Memo for the Record allow the author to document decisions conveyed through conversation, but must be retained for future reference.

Here’s a great example.  It confirms the Kill Order given to proceed with the operation against Osama Bin Laden when CIA believed they had found him in Pakistan.  The author is then CIA Director Leon Panetta.  One can easily understand the importance of writing things down in this instance.


Memo for the Record_KillOrder_OBL_29apr2011

It reads:

“Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the president had made the decision with regard to AC1. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making, and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the president for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get Bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 AM.”

As the old proverb goes, “The palest ink is better than the strongest memory.”  Bottom Line, WRITE IT DOWN.  You’ll be glad you did.


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