I am a sucker for metrics, but hopefully not a sucker. When I read in Law Practice (April/May 2005 at pg. 5) that “[b]ehavioral experts say that your chances of accomplishing something increase by 70 percent if you write it down,” my “magic metrics” meter jumped into the red.
So I will write. If a busy in-house lawyer jots down what needs to be done, I suspect the lawyer will more likely remember the tasks and finish them off. If writing a note implies thinking about the topic for at least a bit, I suspect thoughtfulness alone raises the odds of achieving a goal. If others see a commitment in writing, or see their own obligation set out clearly, success is more likely. The inner voice of memory fades; post-it notes harangue you forever.
Having accepted the point of writing, whence the 70 percent? Probably a sociologist tested 45 undergraduates and created the number, which has since been worn smooth as a pebble in a stream by efficiency epigones. Forget the urban legend, the faux figure, and the magical metric: write clearly what you and others ought to do and your performance will improve.