Handwritten note-taking vs typed notes

When I was doing the research for my first Shine wellbeing course, I came across an article that made sense of something I'd recognised for sometime, but hadn't realised I'd not understood

Having had piano lessons for many years as a child and teenager, I'm quite a fast typer and I can touch type. I have typed this post so far entirely accurately and haven't had to look at my fingers on the keyboard once. And yet ask me what order the keys come in on a computer keyboard and I can't tell you. My fingers just know where to go. I might not use the exact same techniques as if I had been taught to type and not play the piano, but my fingers know where to go to get the right letter.


I can actually probably type as fast as I can hand write now, and, as I type more often than I hand write, my typing is significantly more legible than my hand-written scrawl


But there are some thing that I know, despite all of that, I prefer to hand write:

Notes in meetings where I have to later understand, interpret and deliver work based on that information

Plans and blue sky thinking notes about my life and my work

Journalling

Goal setting


All of these, even if I also type them so they're shareable, for my own purposes, I have to hand write them. Always have.


If I'm struggling to get my head around something - I'll always put the notes and thinking down in writing rather than typing.


And, until I read some research on the topic, I had no idea why I did it - why my sometimes indecipherable scrawl helps me "compute" things better than typing them on a device


The truth is, scientific research suggests we learn better when the notes we're taking are in our own handwriting. And this is for a couple of reasons:

  1. when we write notes in our own handwriting, our brain has to instruct the hand to shape the individual letters. When we type notes, our brain has to tell our fingers to press a key. While the location of the key differs, the action doesn't. And so our brain is not as actively engaged when typing notes as when handwriting notes. And therefore, when it comes to recall, that active involvement in the note-taking process is really important. It's possible to transcribe by keyboard, whole lessons or experiences being shared verbally, without taking in a single word or phrase - its a simple transactional process. When we hand-write the same transcription, our brain has to engage with the content to allow our hand and the pen to form the letters and so much more of it "goes in" and stays in

  2. regardless of how quickly the notes are written or how scrawly the handwriting, your brain recognises your own handwriting. And that recognition also helps with the memory part of the process AND with the commitment part of the process. Handwrite your goals and your brain recognises, commits and prioritises these words far more than it does with typed text

It's the commitment element that I'm most interested in. In many cases, I type for ease as the notes I'm taking need to be shared and others need to a) access and b) be able to read what's been written.


But knowing that writing plans and goals in my own handwriting provides a bit of a short-cut or extra stickyness for then sticking to and achieving those plans and goals is a real plus for me: I'm really passionate about achieving what I set out to achieve AND I'm also a big fan of an easy life. Something that combines the two for me is a definite winner


Claire x


(I also have some other note-writing habits I've developed to help with my regular short-term memory issues and my need for order: I number and date all of my notebooks so that I can find what I'm looking for easily. I have different notebooks for different types of notes. And every time I start a new set of notes, not only do I write the date and the title (like you used to have to at school!) I also start writing in a different coloured pen so that I can find where one set of notes starts and another finishes more easily)

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