Taking notes on paper

I see this advice a lot of places, but I really enjoy taking notes on paper. I know people point to research about how writing engages a different part of the brain and helps increase long-term retention. I feel like every day or two I read a post about that topic. That certainly seems reasonable to me, but I honestly haven’t read any of the research. I find taking notes on paper helpful for a few different reasons:

  • It helps me focus. Unlike my laptop or my iPad, my paper notebooks don’t have access to email or Slack — a big help in making sure I focus on the topic at hand.
  • I have to synthesize. I type faster than I write, so I’m tempted to type up notes about nearly everything that’s said. Writing by hand forces to me synthesize and abbreviate — which often helps me to understand.
  • It works everywhere. In some of my meetings, pulling up a laptop or iPad just isn’t acceptable. Taking notes on paper works for everyone.

Of course, I want the best of both worlds — including easy access to all my notes from any device. That means I typically type up my handwritten notes every day or two. I find this process helpful (and it helps remind me to add action items to my task list), but it is time-consuming and can fall by the wayside.

I also enjoy brainstorming and working through problems on paper. Keeping a notebook around is helpful so I can do that. As I’ve written before, I often find that my creativity flows better with analog tools — paper chief among them.

So, despite my proclivity for buying the latest gadgets, paper is still a key part of my workflow. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Originally published at jeffkeltner.com on September 11, 2018.

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