Home > Uncategorized > What an old sergeant can teach you…

What an old sergeant can teach you…

I remember years ago when I was a young man in the service (kid, actually) talking to an old, retiring sergeant. In the age of fax machines, electric typewriters, and the ever-so-faint glimmering dawn of personal computing, he still ran his entire operation using a clipboard, some note paper and a pencil – not a pen – a pencil.

If someone needed special training, it was on his clipboard. If there was a pay problem with one of his troops, it was on the clipboard. Change to the training schedule? On the clipboard. Commander’s meeting? On the clipboard. Nothing went on the clipboard that wasn’t important and nothing came off the clipboard until the action was complete.

He told me, at the time, he felt like a relic. It was 1980, the Army was changing and guys who used clipboards were on the way out.

I confess, I still use a No 2 pencil and a steno pad.

Make no mistake, I love technology. But there comes a point of diminishing returns when you try to put everything into the computer. By the time you logon, find your Outlook and record your “to-do” activity you could have been done with a steno pad and pencil.

Let’s face it; sometimes tech is neither faster nor better.

Which brings me to my point.

What mattered to the Sergeant was getting the job done – not making sure it was logged in, had a paper trail or a meeting scheduled (in which everyone and his brother was invited or copied). He wasn’t worried about looks. He just wanted the problems or issues in front of him so he knew what needed to be done next.

He then spent his time actually getting things done.

Concentrate on getting things done. Use whatever means you desire to record your list or your activity, but don’t get caught up getting the list down in the right format. Just get it down as quickly as possible and begin your work.

Believe me, no one will remember if you had a computerized list, clipboard or a steno pad to keep track of things. But they will remember if you succeeded or failed in your work. Paper trails and meetings are wonderful things. But solving problems and getting results are what you’re paid for. And ultimately what you’re judged on.

Until next time…

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ann Shannon
    February 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Mike. I also use a number 2 pencil and always have a pad of paper or some scrap hanging around in my purse. When it comes down to it, as a writer, my ideas are not planned. When those creative juices hit and I think i’ve got something great, I need something to write it down on at that moment. If I didn’t, by the time I get home and remember what those ideas were, well frankly they have changed or have gone completely. Not everything can be typed when we want it to be. I think my favorite author, Stephen King, also hand writes most of his material before even setting it down to his computer. Technology is great, but sometimes, good old fashion penmanship is better… What would happen if technology ceased to exist and we are forced to write things down. We would become invaluable…** my next story perhaps…

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