Benefits of Writing: Note Taking in a Digital Age

Should we rely on our trusty computers and leave our notebooks behind?

Picture this: Monday morning, you just arrived at the office and started your daily routine. With your coffee poured and email checked, you take a glance at your calendar and see there’s a big meeting on the schedule. You know you should probably take some notes, but there’s a big decision that looms ahead of you – do you use your laptop or your notebook?


From my experience, most people take their laptops out of convenience. All their other documents and spreadsheets are already on there, in addition all of their email, so they just jot their notes on their trusty computers too and leave their notebooks behind.

However, we’re in favor of taking the analog route.


Hand-written notes may seem like some quaint and archaic relic from the past, but putting pen to paper is still the best way to take notes. Writing notes by hand better engages your brain, increases focus and information comprehension and gives way to more creativity.

The appeal of typed notes is obvious; humans typically type faster than they write, so taking the laptop to do some note-taking is a move of convenience and habit. However, when a computer is on your lap, the temptation is to just type everything the presenter or the meeting leader is saying word-by-word, which doesn’t lead to better information retention.

On the flip side, when it’s a notebook in your lap, your brain is doing a better job of interpreting the information as you’re digesting it, because it’s constantly making decisions about the most important bits to jot down on paper since, most likely, you can’t capture all of what is being said.

But don’t just take our word for it.

A study conducted at Princeton in 2014 set out to prove which was the more efficient note-taking method. During the study, subjects were asked to watch a 30-minute TED Talk, and then take a quiz about said TED Talk. When the results came in, the subjects who took hand-written notes had outperformed digital notes, mostly because the digital-note takers had written the TED Talk verbatim. A subsequent round was conducted, during which a warning against verbatim notes was given, and the digital note-takers had done just as poorly.


All the science and psychology behind hand-writing notes should be reason enough to do it, but let’s be real, maybe the biggest reason to choose your notebook over your laptop is that there are too many distractions on your computer. The siren song of social media is powerful these days and checking Facebook and/or Twitter is probably not the best use of your time when you’re supposed to be paying attention during the next big meeting. No such distractions with good ol’ pen and paper.

If the thought of leaving the shiny, warm glow of the computer screen for the unknown terrain of a notebook seems too daunting, then don’t worry! I’m here to help. Personally, my note-taking method is to mark each meeting/moment with a date and a title and then jot down simple bullet points. Oh, and make sure to keep your notes organized, so you can easily refer to them.

So, the next time you have a meeting on the horizon, just choose your favorite pen, grab some paper, sit down at your next meeting and just start writing! That’s all it takes.

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