What happens when the conference or meeting is over and you can’t recall the important bits of information you wanted to remember? A new study from Princeton University and the University of California shows that, to avoid such a situation, you should take notes with good old fashioned pen and paper, rather than on your laptop or iPad (or relying solely on memory). Over on The American Scholar, Jessica Love explains a theory why this is the case:

For the typists, researchers noted “greater verbatim overlap with the lecture” than for longhand note-takers. Why bother to think deeply about what we are learning, and how our notes should be structured, when we can just do our damnedest to type, verbatim, everything as it is being said? When we type quickly, we also spend less time with any given piece of information—important, because memories take time to encode….

The study offers an obvious takeaway: don’t let your mind go on the lam just because your fingers can keep up with a speaker.

Typing may let you capture more information quickly, but it also relaxes the parts of your brain that are essential for processing that information and (more importantly) recalling it later-on.

Whether you’re trying to take notes in a meeting or hoping to remember the most compelling information from your favorite speaker at a conference, do your brain a favor and use pen and paper to take notes.

But first, head over to The American Scholar to learn about the research and results.

  • Saraspunza

    This makes so much sense to me. Ah, the days of the old fashioned lecture…

  • http://jakekaskey.com/ Jake Kaskey

    Completely agree with all this, and I think once you’re forced (by choice or necessity) to pull out the trusted pen and paper to take some serious notes, the difference in how you retain the information becomes clear. Same goes with daily to-do lists; after seemingly endless testing with so many of the different apps and solutions, I keep coming back to my physical notepad and post-it notes where I end up having the best success.

  • http://www.madelienerose.com Madeliene Rose

    There’s something of the old world in taking up a pen and paper but besides that, I agree, with writing, the act feels more permanent so there’s usually a greater need to write only that which is important. http://madelienerose.com

  • Erin Burns

    This isn’t the case for me in the slightest. When I’m physically writing I spend too much of my attention on making sure my notes are legible to get good benefit. On the other hand, when I’m typing I don’t have to worry about that, and the greater speed gives me more time to include my thoughts or questions or things I need to go back and research. I can also more easily go back and include points where they make better sense instead of it just being in a running commentary down the page rather than logical order. I don’t type verbatim at all though, so that might be the difference.

  • Rjmachin

    It’s all to do with processing, rather than just channelling information. ‘Processing’ means you think about it as it’s going in, if only to be selective. If you type notes verbatim, I suspect this doesn’t happen.
    I use both approaches – I often make handwritten notes that end up looking like mind-maps. This is effective for remembering and thinking about stuff, but time-consuming to transcribe – though the act of doing that stimulates further thought and often creates good deliverables.
    If I’m typing notes, I’ll usually create a few headers first, representing information I’m looking for or expect to hear – then as I’m listening I’m thinking about what kind of information I’m hearing and categorising accordingly. Again, it’s processing and helps you to absorb what you’re listening to.

  • http://www.alexdresko.com Alex Dresko

    Would the pencil and paper theory work when typing if there was some kind of program running that would limit how fast you can type? Would that still force you to think more carefully about how to structure your notes and, ultimately, have the same effect as writing with pencil and paper (except you’d actually be able to read it)?

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Interesting point. I must admit I don’t write by hand much these days. As a result, my hand writing isn’t the best.

  • Daniel Carpinteyro

    Its so true, i made an experiment and in last meeting taking notes by hand make me remember about all we talked.

  • divonsirborges

    O comodismo e a facilidade, deixaram o homem desleixado.!. Ler é viver…

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