Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Father's Wisdom

Other than his wallet, my dad always carried two items in a trouser pocket. One was a very short stubby pencil, hand sharpened almost down to the eraser. Too short and blunt to be a stabbing hazard, the pencil rode in his the right side trouser pocket along with the pen knife he used to sharpen it and a clean handkerchief. The other item, always carried in a hip pocket, was a piece of paper, most often the remains of a used envelope, neatly folded and tucked inside of his wallet. Wherever he was, Dad used these two items to record and conduct the business of farming.

I've watched him spread the paper on a dusty tractor tire to record the number of a needed part. I've seen him spread it out on a wagon bed or the hood of the pickup to calculate how much additional fertilizer or how many plants were needed to prepare or plant out a field. And I've seen him support the paper against a wall or even on his knee to write down some item for future action. Once the needed information was recorded, the pencil went back into the correct pocket and the paper was again folded carefully and returned to the wallet from whence it came.

Dad pretty much ran his farm by writing things down. In the evening, he would look over what he had written during the day as he considered and recorded what he needed to do or think about tomorrow, the next day, the next week, or the next time he went to town.

 From my Dad, I learned the wisdom of always carrying something to write with and something to write on. In fact, woe be unto me if Dad ever asked me to write something down and I was found without the necessary equipment. As a result, writing things down became and remains a fairly consistent habit.

As my circumstances changed, I graduated from writing things on the backs of used envelopes with stubby pencils to writing in bound notebooks with some pretty fancy pens, but the principles remain as my father taught me. "Write it down. Get it on paper. Deal with it later".

Amazingly, the act of writing helps me remember what I've written. And, although I review and deal with my notes after I have written them, I'm don't really write them to remember later so much as to remember now!

 Long before David Allen documented and popularized how to get things done, my Dad was using his stubby pencil and neatly folded used envelope to apply the Getting Things Done principles. A wise man, my Dad. Makes me proud to be a chip off the old block.

How do your record things you need to remember later?