Paper is definitely down in popularity, as we are more likely to open up a note application or send a quick email to ourselves than to physically write down something. Even classic journals like Moleskine are going digital.

It's all the more reason to check out NPR's recent interview of two University of California, Los Angeles researchers comparing students' handwritten note taking versus typed out notes. The results were stunning:

"When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective -- because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."

The scientists found that laptop and written note-takers were equal when it came to facts and figures, but laptop note takers did "significantly worse" when it came to internalizing concepts. 

The prevailing theory is this: When you write something by hand, your brain actually has to process the information because it is often not possible to write down every thing being said. Typing, on the other hand, lends itself to speed. You are more likely to try to capture every word rather than jot down the intent.

It is not practical, if impossible to write down everything by hand, but there are some key situations where writing would be more effective than typing:

  • Capturing a lecture or presentation 
  • Preparing for your own lecture or presentation
  • Documenting an initial business meeting to set expectations
  • Creating a framework for your new business idea

As I shared in my latest TED talk, some of the most brilliant ideas of our time were based on things jotted on scrap pieces of paper. It's hard to imagine your strongest breakthroughs coming through mindlessly typing what you hear.

Published on: Apr 28, 2016