Pen vs. Keyboard: Why Traditional Note-Taking is More Productive

The modern world offers hundreds of ways to log your thoughts, scribble your ideas and organise your life. Considering the number of laptops, tablets, phone models and numerous developing technologies now at our disposal you might well assume that the majority of us use one of these as our ‘go-to’ note taking accessory.

However, despite these technologies being more honed on efficiency and functionality with every new model, regardless of the fact that they are designed specifically to make our lives easier and even though there is a programme for every possible need and preference, most of us still favour a pen and a piece of paper. This opinion is held by no small margin, in fact it is quite the landslide; one study shows that over 80% of us prefer a nice notebook and a reliable ballpoint to a screen and keyboard.

Why is this?
Devices have numerous obvious benefits and applications to suit a huge variety of requirements. The reasons given for their usage among those who favour these more modern mediums of note taking include some extremely fair and clear arguments. The majority find that typing is considerably easier and faster than scribing with a pen. Some struggle to read their own handwriting, and therefore find computerised notation much easier to read. Of course, paper is nowhere near as ‘multi-functional’ as a computer, and many of those who prefer device supported note-taking do so because they require numerous applications and programmes when gathering information.

Despite the arguments for upgrading to computerised transcription methods, handwritten notation is still the most popular note-scribbling system. Why? There are plenty of good reasons. On the whole, research tells us that traditional note taking is infinitely better for our general functionality and perpetuates considerably more efficient and productive habits.

 

Let’s have a look at the specific benefits of the medium

1. Focus

One of the biggest problems with our devices, when it comes to productivity, is the amount of distractions that insist themselves upon us. The internet is designed to engage us and pull us in, and it does this very well. So, the issue with taking notes on a computer is that it is a struggle to be fully focussed on the task. A piece of paper is just that, no internet, no videos, no Social Media and no noises or notifications. Just you, a pen and a piece of paper; perfect for productive, efficient and distraction free transcription.

 

2. Lean Note-Taking

Writing on a keyboard is much faster than writing by hand, that is a fact. But fast note taking does not necessarily produce the most effective or useful notes. Writing through a keyboard can be quite a vacant act, it lacks a conscious connection with the content. Because of the rapid nature of computerised note-taking, the tendency is to transcribe information verbatim; concentrating more on the act of scribing than the subject in hand.

Device based note-takers often find that they have ended up with a perfect impression of the meeting or talk but have a weaker grasp on what their notes mean as they were not engaging with the actual content at the time the notes were being taken. In fact, 95% of traditional note takers said that they completely understood their notes when returning to them, compared to 85% of device users.

Traditional note takers are slower, yes, but their information is more valuable because of it. They have to sift through the content being offered in order to notate the most relevant points. Not only does this require them to really listen to what is being said, but their account of the subject will be much more lean and relevant than if they had typed their notes.

 

3. Neurological and Sensory Engagement

Of the 80% of us who prefer the pen and paper method of transcription, the majority do so because, essentially, they perceive it to be more beneficial to the way in which their brain processes the information. The top reasons include better engagement with the subject matter and notes being noticeably easier to remember. It is a fact that writing by hand is more neurologically challenging than typing on a computer; and this is a good thing. The brain, like all other muscles, requires exercise to retain and improve fitness and functionality. Hand written work improves your general brain function, increases your neurological efficiency and helps to create productive patterns and habits.

We also have much more affection, as a general rule, for traditional stationary than we do for computers and devices. There is something more personal and more ‘connected’ about the objects used to write by hand as they better lend themselves to self-expression and personality than the harsh uniformity of modern technologies. Traditional stationary offers a multi-sensory experience. This engagement helps us to get more pleasure out of note-taking, and therefore encourages us to better engage with the subject and with the quality of our notation.

 

4. Flexible and Convenient

Although a computer has access to every programme you could possibly need, rarely is it simple (or even possible) to collate a variety of notation styles on one page. There is no programme in which you can quickly scribble notes, bullet points, sketches, designs, diagrams and highlighting without clunky insertions or bespoke formatting. Paper, on the other hand, does offer this flexibility.

A notebook and pen is also much more portable and easier to access than a device. When giving a speech, running a meeting or notating on the move, the last thing you want to be doing is wrestling with a cumbersome laptop or wasting time trying to find where you saved the notes from the last meeting!\

 

Laura McLoughlin writes for My Own Stationery, a leading personalised stationery e-seller based in Northern Ireland. At over 100 years old, they have considerable manufacturing experience in the making of paper stationery products, and are dedicated to eco-friendly production with Swan label, FSC and PEFC certification.
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