How to remember the write wayKoreans brag about being one of the leading producers of stationery goods designs. Products like notepads, diaries and pocket planners come in all shapes and sizes in Korea and are exported to Southeast Asia. Particularly popular are the stationery materials graced by quirky cartoon characters; fiercely trendy, these are snatched up by young consumers.
Koreans buy digital PDAs, or personal digital assistants, to organize their lives as well as pictures of their friends. They take mini-Polaroids and decorate them on the spot; buy mobile phones with digital cameras and use them as their visual diaries.
But what do they write about?
“They do all kinds of things with paper,” says Kim Cheol-gyum, a marketing manager of 3M Korea, a company that produces Post-its. “A growing number of people use Post-its for personal reminders. Homemakers, for example, stick them onto their refrigerators and use them as reminders for family events.”
Not only confined to the home, an emphasis on note-taking as a personal reminder is increasingly seen as an important business habit among professionals.
“The Techniques of Memo Taking,” by Sakato Junji, a former operations manager at a Japanese advertising firm, recently made it to Kyobo Book Store’s best-seller list of self-help books.
Mr. Junji advises his readers to reexamine their note-taking habits, even down to choosing paper. (Size does matter.) He contends that exchanging business memos among colleagues or jotting down a few key words before an important phone call help people communicate more effectively. The improvement in communication could lead to a decrease in time-consuming meetings, he says, while at the same time maximizing company efficiency.
“A memo is stronger than your memory,” Mr. Junji says. He offers this litmus test: “If you are the type of person who has too many notebooks or pens on your desk because you buy them every time you have forgotten to bring them along when you leave the office, you need to think carefully about your note-taking habits.”
Fact: we know that some of the most famous composers and politicians were archive-happy maniacs. Abraham Lincoln never had a formal education. But his meticulous note-taking habits ― he carried around a pencil and paper in his hat ― are what contributed to his reputation as a legendarily sharp-witted politician. Franz Schubert is said to have surrounded himself with notes whenever he was inspired to write. He wrote on pieces torn off restaurant menus, sometimes even scrawling musical ideas on his robe.
“You can’t make a bet that a good memo will always lead to success,” says Choi Jae-yoon, an editor of G. Information and Communication, an online bookstore.
“But taking quality notes shows how much passion you have about your job, and whether you are trying to make improvements.” Keep this in mind: “If you want to succeed, your body should tremble with the desperate need to write a memo whenever an idea pops into your head, no matter where you are.”
Here’s a summary of “The Techniques of Memo Taking.”
1. Try to take memos anywhere, anytime. The cardinal rule is to jot down ideas on the spot, as soon as they come to your mind.
2. To develop a healthy note-taking habit, try exercises to get you used to the activity. For example, when you are in a public setting, observe your neighbors closely and write down a few notes about their behavior, appearance, etc. Be sure they do not see your notes.
3. Develop your own style of taking memos. Take full advantage of symbols, code words and abbreviations. As long as you can recognize what you have written, and can remember what you were thinking after a quick read-through, your notes are working.
4. Take notes in a way that you can read the important points all in one glance. Underline them, make end notes or lists, use colored pencils ― whatever works.
5. Carve time out of your schedule to record your thoughts. If you reserve 30 minutes a day for more than a week, your habits of note-taking will naturally develop.
6. Don’t just let them gather dust on your desk ― use your memos to build a database. You will find the information useful in the future.
7. Develop a habit of reading your past memos. Organize them in whatever order you find useful, in chronological sequence or by category or theme. When you read them over again, use them as a springboard for another set of notes, this time more streamlined, including how you feel about the relevance of your past suggestions.
by Park Soo-mee