Has note-taking gone the way of the dinosaur? With so much of life in general being managed through computer screens these days, the art of simply writing things down on paper on a regular basis is far less prominent than it was just recently. I mean, let’s face it, back in my university days, it was literally impossible to take our computers with us everywhere we went. They will big and bulky and had to be plugged in at all times. We had no choice but to write things down on paper if we wanted to retain information or keep track of important dates. So we got really good at it.
But at this particular moment in time, there are apps, cloud-based services, and word processing tools designed for the express purpose of capturing your thoughts, planning your days, handling your to-do list, and more, all with the small computer we have with us all the time: our phones. And while I am all for embracing new technology, does it make us more organized and help us retain information better?
Let’s take a look:
My step-son is in his last semester of college. One day while helping him study for an exam, I asked to see his class notes. I was shocked that he pulled out his laptop and opened up a file. And while he did take really good notes, almost verbatim I am assuming by the look of it, his ability to assess and recall the information he had recorded was less than stellar. This totally aligns with many studies that have been done that have found that writing is a better strategy to store and internalize ideas in the long haul.
But we aren’t in school anymore. As midlifer’s does it matter how we choose to store information?
In fact, there are some really good reasons to start writing things down on paper again – whether in the form of a journal, a series of notes and observations about a book you might be reading, or just in regards to a to-do list.
Here are a few reasons why you should start writing things down on paper:
3 Ways Traditional Note-Taking Is Better Than Digital
1. It’s a great way of keeping track of your chores and obligations while simultaneously distressing
Writing things down on paper has often been used as a therapeutic practice, because there is something directly visceral and satisfying about getting your thoughts down on a blank page, or, for that matter, crossing items off on a to-do list.
Not only can writing things out on paper help you to de-stress, it’s also a great way of keeping track of your various chores and obligations – just so long as you use a reasonable system for keeping your notes in one place. I personally love my bullet journal and carry it with me at all times. It has a calendar as well as many trackers that help me not only recall when I did something, like the day I mailed an application, to helping me stay on top of my finances and recording things I want to remember later. (I’m old and my memory is not as sharp as it used to be. lol)
The thing about digital task and project management tools and word processor programs, is that they take up no space and can easily end up seeming unreal and insubstantial. You could easily capture hundreds if not thousands of “notes” and “to-dos” only to then promptly forget about them and never see them again. You have to actually go in and look at them. And if you don’t have a routine of doing that, the chances of remembering or implementing anything you recorded is probably nil. Unlike my bullet journal that is usually open and waiting for me on my desk every morning.
When you’ve got a notebook full of reminders telling you to contact some expert window cleaners, or deal with a particular project, it’s more difficult to just forget all about it. And I can’t tell you how many times those types of notes came in handy months later. From, “what colour did we paint our living room?” to “what was the name and number of that technician we used last year?”, is easily accessed by a few flips of pages in my notebook.
2. Your mind processes things more effectively when you write them down by hand
Interestingly, research has found that students who handwrite notes retain more information, and have a better grasp of the subjects, than students who type their notes out on a computer. As I found with regards to my step-son and his class notes.
There seem to be various reasons for this, including the fact that people who write things down by hand have to be better at “summarizing” information, since it’s harder to note things down as quickly and accurately, when using a pen and paper. Another factor seems to be that the physical motor action of handwriting just helps to activate the brain differently.
Ultimately, there’s reason to think that your mind simply processes things more effectively when you’re writing them down by hand.
So if you find yourself constantly looking for or looking up the same information over and over again, like say how you removed a certain kind of stain or how you refinished that nightstand that turned out awesome, hand written notes will not only help you recall that information faster, better and easier, it will also make sure you can access that very same information in the future should you need it.
3. It’s relaxing to get things down on paper
If you are sitting in bed with a notebook, a pen, and a hot beverage, you’ll likely be in a pretty relaxed state of mind and will find the general experience of managing your notes therapeutic and relaxing.
If you are trying to manage notes and to-do lists on a phone, laptop, or tablet, however, you will likely be distracted – and probably stressed to some degree – by your emails, your social media profiles, news updates, and more. Writing things down on paper doesn’t come with all the “baggage” associated with other systems and allows you to focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not all it is cracked up to be and if you find it really hard to concentrate, maybe you are trying to juggle too many things at once.
Looking at your to-do list written down on paper seems much more manageable and easier to prioritize than using apps in my opinion. Simply because a notebook doesn’t make noise.
Let’s face it. As we get older, we need more help retaining and recalling information. And while new technology seems to have all the tools to handle the job, nothing is as good as going old school and using a pen and paper. I encourage you to start writing things down as a way to organize your life. You will love it. And besides, a new notebook is always a joy in itself.