In a world driven by technology and a time when there is an app for nearly everything, why should we still bother to write things down on paper? Could there be some real life changing value inherent or is it just an old-fashioned way of doing things?
But why do some IT experts who develop the technology we use still keep a notebook? Perhaps, it’s not a coincidence that many successful people write regularly on paper despite the various digital alternatives available to them.
Here are 7 benefits of writing in longhand, or as they say – when the pen is mightier than the keyboard.
1. IT HELPS YOU FOCUS
This is one of the biggest benefits of writing on paper. While we’re grateful for how technology has simplified our lives; unfortunately, we have to pay the price in the form of the many distractions that come with it. Whether with our smartphones, tablets or laptops, there is always something calling our attention.
Apart from being distracted by various notifications or the need to attend to calls and messages, we often feel the urge to just fiddle with these devices from time to time. A study by dscout in 2016 revealed that we touch our phones about 2,617 times a day. For heavy users, it’s about 5,427 times. By the way, this includes tapping, swiping and clicking.
As useful as these devices are, they may not be suitable for certain activities – particularly those that require a lot of focus. How many times have you decided to do some work on the laptop only to end up on social media or surfing the internet for other things?
A proven way of avoiding digital distractions is to block out some time to work with just a pen and notebook – of course without the gadgets.
2. IT AIDS LEARNING
Writing with a pen and typing with a keyboard have been said to have different effects on the cognitive process. Many educators have set out to understand this difference through various researches and experiments.
Prominent among the key talking points have been how we process information and its retention. It turns out that writing on paper may actually aid learning, as observed by Pam Muller and Daniel Oppenheimer.
Their experiment revealed that a group of students taking notes with a computer tended to transcribe information from a TED Talk verbatim. As a result, they had longer notes than those writing in longhand, who had a more condensed version of the same talk – apparently giving more thoughts to what they wrote. The latter went on to perform better in a test on the same talk, suggesting that it’s easier to recall information when it’s written by hand.
Similarly, a journal published on Science Daily, reported that our brain receives a different kind of feedback when writing on paper – just as reiterated by other studies. Perhaps, you should give this a try the next time you’re learning something new.
3. IT'S IMPORTANT FOR GOAL SETTING
It’s a no brainer that not taking action on our goals means we will NOT achieve them and taking well thought out actions means there is a chance of achieving them. It is often said that one of the first steps of achieving any goal is to write it down; perhaps that is why mentors usually advise their mentees to write down their goals.
Writing with a pen requires more mental energy than typing with a keyboard, as it slows you down to think longer before writing. Writing your goals this way increases engagement and commitment to the process.
In addition, writing your goals on paper can make you more accountable and provide a constant reminder which prompts you to take action. Some people display their handwritten goals at prominent places at home or in the office. Of course, it’s easy to imagine that the more you see your goals, the more you’re likely to act on them.
4. IT'S GREAT FOR BRAINSTORMING AND IDEA DEVELOPMENT
Thinking on paper is a technique used by many successful people to conceive new ideas and develop existing ones. Writing our ideas on paper allows us visualise them better and arrange our thoughts in a way that sparks further creativity.
The experience you have at your desk with just a pen and paper is simply personal and inspiring. The rest of the world and its distractions are locked away, allowing a seamless flow of your imagination in a safe place devoid of judgement.
It’s not a coincidence that most industry leading professionals prefer to sketch their ideas on paper before developing them using IT software or other means. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series in an interview on amazon.co.uk talked about how she still does her first draft using a pen and paper. You would imagine the same goes for many other renowned creators and inventors.
5. IT HELPS YOU REMEMBER THINGS
Simply put, if you don’t want to forget, write it down. Even for those with the most eidetic memory, there comes a point where referencing written materials becomes a necessity. We’ve all been at the receiving end of the forgetting curve at one point or the other, so recording a life changing idea is not only natural but a wise thing to do.
While writing with digital devices may suffice in some situations, there are times when using a pen and paper might just be more effective. When writing on paper you have the flexibility of quickly using texts, symbols, images and annotations in one go without having to select, deselect or switch tools.
Also, great ideas never announce their impending arrival, as they sometimes visit at the oddest places and strangest times. Can you imagine being on the train when your devices have run out of battery power and you experience one of those light bulb moments? You can only hope you have a notebook in hand to scribble your idea on.
Our notebook is a ‘personal companion’ and an extension of our thoughts and imaginations. So, carrying them around is highly recommended.
6. IT HELPS YOU SHARE COMPLEX IDEAS WITH CLARITY
Writing things down on paper allows us leverage the power of visualisation. We sometimes find ourselves spontaneously generating ideas that are complex and genuinely tricky to describe.
Since people are likely to process information differently to create their own unique version of events, sketching these ideas on paper might be an effective way to convey them - thereby ensuring everybody’s on the same page.
At a time when we’re constantly bombarded with a lot of information, sharing ideas with visuals can reduce the risk of people nodding on without necessarily grasping the key message being shared. Getting your audience to understand your idea might be crucial to getting the key buy-ins required for its execution.
7. IT HELPS YOU THINK MORE CLEARLY
Our brain they say is like a hard drive. When we write things down we free our mental RAM and are able to think more clearly. Therefore, we won’t have to try to remember everything - ranging from new ideas to items on a shopping list.
In circumstances mentioned above, a pen and paper may well come in handy. Having an idea stuck in your brain, while you try not to forget it limits your capacity to conceive and process new thoughts effectively.
A good analogy might be to compare delegation with trying to do everything yourself. While the former frees you up to focus on what really matters, the latter will most likely get you stuck even in the least value adding tasks.
Technology has become an integral part of our lives and it’s hard to find an activity these days that does not have a tech angle to it - and rightly so. Despite the availability of various digital writing options, nothing still compares to putting pen to paper.
Leverage the power of technology and know when to switch to writing in longhand, as you reinvent yourself. A good starting point is to get a notebook and Capture your Thoughts™ on the go.
Segun Ojediran (MSc) | Rhodium Mines®
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