When is the last time you actually wrote an idea or strategy down... with your actual hand? Today, using a pencil or pen is becoming as rare as pulling out a Blackberry. Just this week, Time Magazine dedicated an article to the science of manually writing things down. Writing is now feared to be a vanishing art, like memorizing phone numbers or going to a bookstore.
Time Magazine found that there is no scientific proof that writing things down makes a difference, but I've found something does transform when we put away the keyboard and actually put things down in a notepad, scribble into a Moleskine, or scrawl something onto a napkin. I recently did a TED Talk on the power of writing our big ideas on little pieces of paper. It doesn't have to be on a little piece of paper, though. It can be on whatever you wish. It is the manual act of writing itself that is valuable.
Today we default to texting something into our smartphone or whipping out the laptop, but we often forget the power of handwriting. Here is why you should consider writing your next thoughts down instead of typing them out:
- Filter your thoughts: We go through a filtering process when we write things down. If you're like me, you can type much faster than you can write--and the additional time and energy required to move your pen means you are more thoughtful in what you capture on the page. It's not limited to words, either: Doing a quick sketch or diagram can sometimes be the key to focusing your thoughts and expressing hard-to-articulate ideas.
- Remember what you were thinking: I write everything down on an index card whenever I have a big idea or need to work something out, as cards are compact, portable and efficient. Some of my index card ideas are rubbish, but the ones that are the most valuable eventually get put in a recipe box. (Thankfully, post-TED Talk, they are no longer all over my office.) Now I can access brainstorms or thoughts I had months, even years ago--and they are often strong ideas I would have long forgotten. It's like having a Google for my brain.
- Articulate the abstract: Consider it an elevator pitch to yourself. While ideas are broad and encompassing, words are limiting and linear. Use this to your advantage: Find the right language to express your next product or venture. Writing out your thoughts takes them out of your head and forces you to capture them in a cohesive manner without potential distractions or aids like PowerPoint, spellcheck or the World Wide Web. Your scribbles can be both raw in concept and structured in words--a powerful combination.
When is the last time you tried writing down your thoughts, rather than typing things out, to get through an impasse or to work out a strategy?