Is “Old School” Ineffective?

I love sports! Most of my weekends are consumed with watching sports. In the fall, I watch football, in the winter I watch basketball and hockey, and, in the spring, I watch baseball and women’s softball! If I were to choose a favorite, I would probably say softball – simply because my daughter plays. A close second would be baseball and being a good New Yorker, I root for the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, due to current events, I have been stuck watching replays of past games. While watching a replay of a Yankees game this past weekend, a comment from one of the announcers struck a chord with me. The Yankees coach was standing in the dugout writing in a notebook with a pen. I suspect that he was keeping track of what pitches worked for certain players, what pitches hadn’t worked in earlier innings and other strategic information.

The fact that the coach was writing this information on paper didn’t strike me as odd – what struck me is the announcer stated that this behavior was “old school.” Writing information down with a pen and paper is “OLD SCHOOL”? When did this happen?

In our modern era of rapid and evolving technological advances, we have acquired countless new ways to do things. As an example, many people carry mobile phones that function as minicomputers. With these little devices, we can talk to our friends and family from most anywhere. We are able take pictures and videos as well as look up information about our locations. We could even look up our favorite player’s statistics! I personally love having my little minicomputer with me for all these reasons.

However, despite having a minicomputer that could capture information and keep me on track, I prefer to write things on paper. After hearing the announcer state that this behavior is “old school”, I was left pondering whether this is outdated or ineffective?

While reflecting on whether writing information down on paper is effective or not, I thought about four specific times in which I personally prefer pen and paper:

  1. Appointments: On my desk, I maintain a small planner that is my main way to organize my schedule. I have used a planner for over two decades to keep myself on track. I also keep an electronic calendar however that is more for others than myself. There is something about writing an appointment or a priority for the day on my planner that motivates me to follow through.
  2. Training notes: Any time I attend a training, a class or a conference, I find myself writing short notes regarding what has been taught. There is a connection, for me, between the physical act of writing and future recollection of what I have learned. I love knowing that I have valuable information written down in a notebook. Further, sifting through the pages to find what I am looking for reminds me of the events occurring at that time. For me, the information written, and the timeline of events documented throughout my notebooks places the learning in context leading to deeper understanding.
  3. Directions: Yes – directions to where I need to drive. Although I have a GPS (Global Positioning System) in my car, I also spend time looking directions up and writing them down. This may seem like duplicate efforts and useless to some, but for me, it helps me anticipate distance, time and turns that come literally down the road.
  4. Meeting notes: In my work, I meet with people for a variety of reasons. I coach people, I mediate between people and I offer consultation to people. I find that the only way I can truly stay in tune to and aware of the concerns brought up by others is to write them down. This process allows me to review, recount and ensure what I have heard is accurate.

So, to answer my question if “old school” is ineffective, I have discovered, for me, that it is not. In fact, it helps me stay organized, focused and tuned into others.

However, just because this “old school” way of staying organized works for me, I can’t assume that it works for others. In fact, as I look at that list, I recognize that I have seen others effectively utilize technology as their prime instrument. I have witnessed people who have predominately used their electronic calendar and stating that it is the only way that they are able to keep track of their appointments. I have watched people keep notes during classes and conferences on their laptop computers. I know people that only use their GPS to find out where to go and I know that many put clinically oriented notes directly into an electronic medical record.

Does this mean that my way of doing is better? Does this mean that their way of doing it is better? The simple answer is no. It is just different.

I appreciate that the announcer called the coach’s behavior “old school.” I appreciate it because it forced me to pause and reflect. I appreciate that it forced me to think deeply about how I do certain things and why I do it that way. I also appreciate that it forced me to recognize that my way isn’t necessarily the “right” way.

People are different and that is just fine. Take some time to stop and reflect before assuming that things can only be done “your” way. You may learn to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate the uniqueness of others.

Kathleen Glow-Morgan is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker that has been employed by the Veterans Health Administration since 2008. She currently works as a National Transformational Coach Captain and Health Systems Specialist within the Office for Veterans Access to Care. Ms. Glow-Morgan is a Certified Alternate Dispute Resolution Mediator and a Certified Change Management Practitioner. Ms. Glow-Morgan has expertise in conflict management, communication strategies, coaching and change management. She has presented at numerous national conferences and workshops. 

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