Lesson Logs and Other Mnemonic Devices

I’ve always believed that one of the keys to being successful in any venture is to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Gnōthi seauton or Know Thyself as the ancient Greeks would have said.   Me, I was blessed with the ability to remember all kinds of useless, small items. What was the name of that makeup artist on the shoot three years ago who complained and whined all day?   I can still remember it. As a result of this freaky ability to remember stuff I was able to go through school and my early career without really having to right stuff down, keep to do lists or any of the other basic things that we should really do in order to lead productive lives.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m no longer in my early career, but in the heart of it. I have a family, a mortgage, bills, a dog, bills, a lot more clients than I used to and a whole lot less memory. I don’t know if it’s simply a function of getting older, not having enough sleep, or having too much on my mind, but to be honest, I don’t really care. The long and short of it is I need to get stuff done. If I can’t remember it, I need to write it down. So now I’m a firm believer in the power of the pen. I have to do lists all over the place: on my desk, in my wallet, on the computer. iCal and I are new best friends and I probably couldn’t function without my Blackberry.

One of the new methods I use for keeping things straight is what I call the lesson log. It’s a simple three ring binder that sits on the book shelf in my office. At the conclusion of every job I try and make and entry of something I’ve learned. It might be a lighting diagram or a technical trick I’ve used. It might be something specific about this client or this type of work. The point is to write it down. First off, (as my 9th grade history teacher said) the act of writing something down can cement the knowledge in your brain. Second, even if you don’t remember it, the log book serves as a reference.

lesson log
lesson log

Of course the best written information in the world is useless if you can’t find it when you need it. I keep all of my notes chronologically and listed by invoice number (which is the same system I use for backups). My memory might not be what it used to be, but I can usually remember the fact that I’ve worked for this client before. Using that info, I can search my invoices and come up with a list of past jobs.

The systems I’ve set up are specific to me and the way I work. They may or may not work for you but the point is: have a system in place. Whether you use pen and ink, journal entries on your laptop, private pages on a blog or some other system, the goal is the same. Getting the information into a permanent format that won’t fade with time is important, no matter the system you use. After all, you know yourself best.

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