Write It Down!

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Recently I set up a new process to pull data out of a MySQL database and into SQL Server. Pretty standard ETL stuff, but it’s the organization’s first time moving data in this direction, so we had some extra work to do.

After installing the SSIS package and the MySQL .NET connector in the development environment, we went through a few rounds of “why isn’t this working? why isn’t that working?” The last error gave probably the clearest indication of the root cause - the development SQL Server VM couldn’t talk to the MySQL server.

No problem, I’ll have a quick chat with our DevOps Engineer. He confirmed that the firewall was blocking the traffic and fixed the configuration. Once everything lit up green, I concluded the conversation with “we’ll have to do the same thing in production tomorrow.”

And that was where I screwed up. The minute I identified a task that needed to be done, I should have written it down on paper. I didn’t. It only existed in a Teams chat.

I even had a checklist for the deployment - but I didn’t put the firewall on it because it was a late addition.

The following day as we deployed to production, the exact same thing happened - no connectivity between the two servers. Our release verification was delayed by about 30 minutes. Instead of proactively requesting the firewall change as I worked through my checklist, I (and our DevOps & Network Engineers) were _re_actively making that change to get the deployment finished.

What Sticks For You?

I’ve tried a lot of “list making” apps over the years. Reminders on my phone. ToDoist. Microsoft ToDo. Lists in OneNote. Even “New 73” in Notepad++. None of them work for me the way putting pen to paper does. What good is making lots of electronic lists, collecting a whole bunch of “things,” but never looking at them again? None. Those notes get stashed “somewhere”, never to be seen again.

Writing with pen on paper wires the ideas into your brain differently than typing them out. The Field Notes Brand tagline is “I’m not writing it down to remember later, I’m writing it down to remember it now”. Typing things out, they’re put into the same mental “bucket” as the mindless chat on a Discord server.

Ever have a brilliant idea and 30 seconds later, it’s gone? Write it down right away, and that hopefully won’t happen.


Seeing these notes on a page of the notebook sitting beside my keyboard gives me a constant visual reminder of the things I need to track. That notebook is also a record of what I’ve been doing when it comes to the weekly check-in with my boss, or annual review time.

And lastly - you can’t tell me that there isn’t something viscerally satisfying about putting a ✔ or line through that one item that you’ve been chipping away at all week.