I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. All of the books I’ve read in the last 6 weeks have been about human behavior. I’m fascinated by how each of us makes decisions. Mostly because I like giving advice — solicited or in-solicited. I happen to think I’m really good at it, but all of you would be better judges of that since you’ve at least read some of my advice here. I love analyzing choices, whether they’re mine or yours, and thinking through all the potential consequences of each choice. I like to assess my own thought process, especially my hesitations or rationalizations around my choices, and then post-decision, see which thoughts were right or wrong so I can either avoid or replicate making decisions based on a certain feeling.
I’ve read three books so far, all of which have been awesome. I went through the first two relatively quickly and thought after finishing them, “Wow, those were good, but if someone asked me for a few of the key points, I’d be at a loss.”
I’ve had this same experience with meetings or situations at work. Even when I’m truly interested in what I’m hearing, I’m most likely going to forget big points of what I experience. Especially if it’s a totally new concept for me, and most of community health concepts are (at work), as are a lot of the behavioral economics concepts I’ve been reading about.
When I was about a third of the way through my most recent book, I stared at the big bold letters that read Chapter 6. I knew I’d read a TON of interesting information up to that point, but I felt like I couldn’t confidently explain it to anyone if someone had asked. So, I decided to start from the beginning, this time taking notes of all the interesting concepts, along with notes that applied the concept to something in real life, usually a work situation, but sometimes my personal behavior, especially in regard to working out, eating healthy or cleaning my house.
Now that I have my notes, I feel a million times better about how I’ve spent my time. Not only can I go back and reference something, but I actually think the concepts are more ingrained in my brain because I read them, wrote them and read them again.
I actually learned this lesson at work a long time ago, yet clearly I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. A couple years ago at a previous job, I had a boss who would ask me to do things at times that felt random. Not that his requests were random, they just came out of the blue for me — like they weren’t tied to a meeting about the specific topic or at a 1:1. Ha, most of you are probably thinking, “Oh, so he just asked you to do something like everyone else does in the real world?” Yes.
But I learned quickly that I needed to write down everything — from the specifics of his request down to the wording he was using. If I didn’t write that down, I would forget how he worded it and would have basically no recollection of the conversation the next time I looked at those notes.
I didn’t take a picture of this, but you can basically imagine me smacking myself upside my head in disbelief at my lack of a memory. Moving on.
At my current job, I have to take tons of notes in meetings in order to feel like I ‘get’ it. And I definitely have to take notes if someone comes to my desk about a request that wasn’t top of mind or even on my list of things to consider that week or month. The requests my coworkers have are totally legitimate and I’m the person they should ask, but I will 100% forget without detailed notes. I usually make them send me an email, that way I get it in their exact words (my paraphrasing of things with which I’m unfamiliar is pretty horrible) and, more importantly, I have a record of it.
I took detailed notes all through high school and college too, so again, none of this is new behavior, really. It’s more about just accepting — from the beginning — that I will not retain anything without notes.
All of that being said, there are certain times where my memory is crazy good. I remember birthdays for tons of people who I either haven’t talked to in decades or who are spouses of my best friends. Remembering their birthdays is not at all critical to my friendships so I have no idea why those dates stay in my mind. I remember most of my friends’ wedding anniversaries. I remember phone numbers. I can almost always tell Dan where he last had his wallet, keys or cell phone. If I’m missing a tube of chapstick, I can remember which purse or pocket it’s in. I’m sure there is some kind of obvious explanation for this. Maybe this isn’t special — maybe all of you can already do this, PLUS remember people’s requests of you at work. Either way, I will try to read a book about it and take notes so that I remember the answer and can tell you about it later.
Anyway, I’m LOVING these books. In case you’re interested in behavioral economics or human behavior, here are the books I’ve finished (or am about to start):
- Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H Pink
- To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H Pink
Here are the details about my fabulous reading/note-taking attire. My sweatshirt is from Express. It’s super comfortable and lightweight. The sequins on the front are reversible — one side is a combo of grey and pale pink; the other side is gold. I don’t know how to clearly describe this in writing, but I’ll try: If you move your hands up the front of the shirt, the sequins turn gold; if you move your hands down the front of the shirt, the sequins told grey and pink. My pants are a pair of lounge capris from Gap Body that I bought last Christmas for like $5. They are crazy comfortable! The adorable fur-ball next to me is my maltipoo Digger.
When I was taking these photos, I realized how pathetic it was that Dan and I don’t have a headboard. I have another post coming later this week or early next week all about that and why I think it’s a sign that I haven’t fully reached adulthood.