4 Reasons to Write Things Down by Hand

I’m a big believer in the power of writing things down on paper and, let’s be honest, cute stationery is definitely a factor. That said, there’s quite a bit of research to back me up. 

Let’s see if I can also convince you that carrying around a notebook is still worthwhile – even in the age of the cloud:

1- Writing by hand improves recall

When you write by hand, it wakes up a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS helps you to focus and process information more actively, which is critical for retention and understanding. It also helps with being able to apply the things you’ve learned and recall them later on. 

Maybe this is why it’s easier to remember the contents of a shopping list that you scribbled by hand over one created in an app on your phone.

2- Better organization and prioritization

Writing things down also improves conceptual understanding because it forces us to slow down and actually process information. Since most of us can’t write by hand nearly as fast as we can type, we have no choice but to identify key points and make decisions about what details are most important. 

This “concept mapping” helps us organize ideas so that we prioritize and summarize more effectively.

3- It helps with focus

Even with the best of intentions, we may spend over 40% of our time multitasking when using a computer. It’s hard to ignore incoming messages or the temptation to jump into a different tab, but all that switching makes us less productive. You don’t have to disconnect from the grid all day, but switching off occasionally can help to build that (proverbial) focus muscle.

Plus, there’s no chance of a pop-up notification in your notebook. 

4- Achieve your goals

In addition to note-taking, write out your goals by hand.

Try this: open the windows and set a timer, then close your eyes. Do a brief visualization exercise and imagine what your life looks like in a few year’s (or month’s) time – Where are you? What are you doing? How do you feel? 

Jot down all of the details, then write down specific actions you can take to make your goals a reality. Identify the most critical steps and give yourself a timeline to achieve them. From there, regularly review your progress, remembering to take note of your achievements along the way.

One study found that people who wrote out their goals achieved significantly more than those with unwritten goals – a 42% increase in goal achievement! The results were even higher when goals were shared, so find an accountability buddy and let them know what you’re working toward.

And hey, while you’re pen in hand, write down five things you’re grateful for. Even if you do it once a week, it can have a positive impact on your happiness.

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