Science Says We Take Better Notes with Pen and Paper

College is (or was) a busy and overwhelming time for many of us. You’re doing your best to absorb as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time to earn good grades. It’s not easy to do—but one thing I remember about my time in college is how important taking good notes was in helping me to remember (and relay) the information I learned.

My generation had plenty of choices—sometimes too many choices. Depending on your own preference, you could take notes quickly on your laptop, use an app on your phone, or even take a picture of each slide that your teacher presented the material. All of these methods do the same thing: record information. But those notes were never as good as when I made them by hand using a pen and paper. My ability to retain what I learned was always stronger when I used this classic note-taking method—listening intently and writing down only what was important and in a way that was most convenient for me.

If this sounds familiar to you, we’re not crazy! Recent studies have actually proven that taking notes with pen and paper is much more efficient than with the more popular laptop or phone method.

The Facts

Conducted on college students, the study asked one group of participants to take notes during a lecture on their laptops, while another group had to use pen and paper. The students who used pen and paper were able to remember the information they learned much better than those who used their laptops.

A follow-up to the study had both sets of students go back into their notes and use them as cheat sheets when discussing the information in a lecture format. Again, the students who took notes with pen and paper did much better. But why is that?

First, computers come with a plethora of distractions. Emails, ads, the internet… The list goes on. Those who used pen and paper were not tempted by those distractions at all, meaning they gave all of their focus to the task at hand: taking fantastic notes.

The one advantage that laptop users had was the ability to take more detailed notes simply because they were able to write more and faster than the pen and paper group. However, this doesn’t mean that those notes translated better into retention. Even though they could write faster, they didn’t have to focus as intently as students from the pen and paper group. They were able to speed type exactly what was being said just for the sake of recording it instead of having to listen carefully and write only what was important.

The pen and paper group wrote far less; in doing so, those students focused only on what was truly important. This also meant that they listened intently and absorbed the information as they were receiving it, and the notes were simply regarded as a backup. In short, our brains prefer that we listen intently to lectures but appreciate the notes we take in case a detail was missed.

What’s Your Point?

While I’m sure you’re interested (as I was) by this research, you may be wondering why any of this matters today in your adult, business life. If your office environment is anything like mine, you’re probably surrounded by technology. You use a laptop or phone all day and rarely put pen to paper like you did in the golden days of college.

I’m here to tell you that it’s worth incorporating into your current note-taking strategy. Take away the laptop distractions and put pen to paper in order to take good, informative notes, and help your brain focus better on what’s happening.

It’s extremely tempting to check email and multitask during meetings, especially if you’re as busy as most of us are. But again, science tells us that it’s not really possible to focus on two separate communication tasks at once. No matter how much you brag about being able to multitask, you’re not as good at it as you think. While you’re writing an email or reading one, you’re missing something important during that conference call.

Get Started

Today, I’m challenging you to go “old school” at your next meeting. Take some beautifully printed, branded notepad paper, and write down your notes at your next meeting. Really listen to what’s being said, and write down what’s most important to help you remember the information later on.

After your meeting, use your notes and retained information to write up a great post-meeting review. I bet that you’ll surprise yourself with how much better you remembered everything, and you’ll be able to write it up for everyone else. Then, spill your new secret! Get the office writing with pen and paper to improve productivity and have better overall meetings.If you’re in need of some new and exciting notepads or letterhead, contact us today to check out all of our high-quality and fast printing options to impress clients and colleagues during your next conference room meeting.