You’ve spent your life in front of a keyboard, and thanks to years of practice, can now take notes at a sizzling 300 words per minute. You’ve never been more productive! Not so fast. It may be better if you pick up a pen. Many experts now champion the advantages of taking notes by hand.
Research published in the Association for Psychological Science shows manual note-taking typically leads to better retention and learning when compared to notes generated on a computer.
Note-taking has two advantages. The first is pretty obvious: It gives you a reference to help jog your memory about your meeting, professional development class or phone call. You’re making a solid, tangible record of what was said, so when your brain doesn’t come through, you have a hardcopy as a reference.
The second advantage? When you’re taking notes, you’re actually processing information. You have to evaluate each idea as important or non-important, then finding a way to paraphrase the information itself.
It’s counter-intuitive, but speed kills effective note-taking. Because most people write much more slowly than they type, they’re forced to evaluate and paraphrase information as a mere matter of keeping up. Start typing at blazing speeds, and the need to evaluate and paraphrase evaporates, as many note-takers transcribe conversations nearly in their entirety.
That means they’re cutting out two important steps, processes in which their brains get a chance to “handle” the information. And the more time a brain works with key information, the easier it is to recall.
Where this really plays out is beyond minor factual details. Researchers show that college students who manually take notes recall abstract and conceptual information much better than those who take notes on a laptop.
The upshot for business professionals? It’s time to rely on Moleskine rather than Microsoft and rethink your approach to note-taking. While the slow-and-steady approach might seem clunky, it’s actually one of the biggest advantages of taking notes by hand.