“Follow up is the difference between success and failure” was advice I received after being chewed out as a young NCO. I had put in a lot of work to prepare for a certain task to be completed, I put the plan into motion and then assumed because my part was done so was I. Apparently, I was wrong. From that moment on, I worked very hard on creating systems for following up on the things for which I am responsible. The key thing is to take better notes.

When we are starting off as Airmen and new NCOs, we can get away with the little green books that get stuffed in our cargo pockets. This is a great idea, but it does not scale well as your list of responsibilities grow. Lists and random notes in notebooks are very tough to reference and recall with any degree of efficiency.

Most of you may be responsible for multiple areas or specialties. Many SNCOs running a unit may have dozens of programs they’re tracking, people they are concerned with, and many other things. I have “stolen” two ideas from people who I thought were REALLY good at staying on top of things and here they are.

People: My team is more than a collection of people gathered under one roof. I am a firm believer that once you are on the same path as me, we are connected for life. Not in the creepy Cable Guy way, but connected as a brother or sister in arms. They trust me to care for their career needs and that is something I take seriously. Two things I do to help here are to take notes on who they are and create a care-list.

On my contacts app, I note the spouse’s and child’s names and even notes about pets. Personal info that I know they care about, I need to care about too. This helped me because I used to be very bad with names. Now, I rarely reference this information as I have grown this muscle a lot over the years. However, it is still very handy to me when their spouse spells their name uniquely.

The other great follow up tool is the care-list. I learned this from my shirt. He had a list of those with family issues, medical procedures, other big events and he would call routinely to check up on them. I put a list in my outlook of things going on like a college class I heard them stressing over, a big trip they were excited about and, of course, issues they are working through. Then I created reminders on my calendar that correlated with the event to make sure I could talk to them about it while it was still relevant.

Productivity: Sadly, we stop learning how to learn in the middle school years. Every now and then we hear a good tip or see a new tool, but we rarely advance our skills in many areas. One area for me was note taking. I have experimented with several methods over the years as I saw things others were doing. Some did folds in the paper that meant certain things, others used highlighters. All of these things had their merits, but the method I really like is known as the Cornell Note Method. When I saw this, I thought I was onto some cutting edge method designed recently. However, this method was created in the 1940’s. This video explains the method better than I could:

I use this method for taking notes and then review them weekly and make reminders to follow up on key areas.

Being better at taking notes does not really take any more time than we are spending now. Most of us are taking notes anyways, make sure you are using a system that works for you. Any other ideas that you use that you find helpful?

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