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Keyboard vs. Pen: What's the Best Way to Take Notes?

November 29, 2016
Aaron Polmeer

By epeters@hubspot.com (Eric Peters)

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Growing up, I was fascinated by my mom’s shorthand notes. The cryptic symbols she’d write blindly while listening through our 1980s-era phone with a 12-foot cord were a different language — vestiges of a different time.

“You’ll never need to learn shorthand because you’ll type all your notes,” she explained.

And as it turns out, she was right. These days, many of us have traded in our mechanical pencils and fancy notebooks in favor of laptops to ensure that our every word is perfectly spelled and neatly tucked away in “the cloud.”

It wasn’t until I attended a Bold Talk at INBOUND 2014 about note-taking that I put much thought into the difference between writing and typing notes. In his session — “The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think” — New York Times Magazine writer Clive Thompson explained why handwriting is better for taking notes and remembering big-picture thinking, while typing is better for composing your ideas and communicating with others.

Ever since I attended that session, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was he right? Were we doing this all wrong? To get some answers, I dug into some research on handwritten notes versus typed notes.

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

TL;DR: As it turns out, understanding how your mind captures, retains, and recalls information can help you become more productive. Writing notes by hand in long-form will force you to synthesize the information, which helps you remember and recall it. So next time you head to a meeting, consider just a notepad and pen.

When we take notes by hand, we typically can’t keep pace with the information being presented to us. As a result, our brains are forced to quickly synthesize the information into two categories: “important: write this down” and “not important: don’t write this down.”

That simple neurological process is valuable to us, as it begins to stamp those important notes in our memory. In other words, when we’re forced to mentally prioritize information, it becomes a little bit stickier in our mind.

In his Bold Talk, Thompson described a series of experiments conducted by researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer that demonstrated the benefits of handwritten notes:

A couple of scientists decided to test this. They set up an auditorium of people. Half of them took notes on keyboard and half of them took notes handwriting while someone spoke. They wanted to figure out who would remember the most, who would retain the most. They tested them afterwards. It turns out that handwriting won, hands down, pun intended. Handwriting completely won out. People understood more, they retained more, they remembered more when they wrote by hand.”

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Source:: HubSpot Blog

      

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