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The Productive Power of Writing by Hand

The Productive Power of Writing by Hand
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Despite today’s advanced technological devices, there’s nothing like scribbling down a daily to-do list or strategically placing Post-it® Note reminders throughout your office and living space. To others, this is now a foreign concept. Why would anyone waste time making a list they’d most likely forget when they race out the door each day?

Writing by hand is an art. We have a personal connection to our individual styles and techniques for creating what appears before us; whereas, tapping a screen or keyboard creates virtual, uniform text that lacks personality. Sure, some fonts are more spirited and festive while others lean toward a more professional appeal. But with any digital font, each letter looks the same no matter how many times it appears on the screen.

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Benefits of Handwritten To-Do Lists

It may take us longer to hand write anything than to type it, but for many, the benefits of scribbling on things like Post-it® Notes or calendars far outweigh those of typing up a list or using organizational apps.

More Memorable
If you’re jotting down brief reminders throughout the day, just the physical action of writing a note can help cement the task in your brain. Sticky notes are extra convenient because you are able to place them anywhere, from the bathroom mirror to your front door, to help you stay on target. With apps, you waste more time setting reminder notifications than if you’d just stick a note nearby.

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Feeling of Accomplishment
Doesn’t it feel amazing to physically cross off tasks you’ve completed? There’s something rewarding about drawing that bold line through one of your to-dos and knowing you’ve been productive. This feeling of accomplishment not only makes you feel great about what you’ve already done, it provides a lot of positive momentum as you move onto other tasks. Of course productivity apps allow users to check items off their lists, but for many, the feeling of reward just isn’t quite achieved by tapping a screen.

Fewer Distractions
Technology may be a blessing, but it’s also a curse. Creating handwritten lists allows you to avoid irrelevant websites, apps, or activities that are known for straying you from the task at hand. The only distraction you may need to resist is the urge to doodle.

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Color Code Priorities
Notepads, Post-its, and other organizational paper products come in all shapes, sizes, and colors to help you stay on task. Small, narrow sticky flags are particularly useful when studying. Match colors with subjects to create a more organized study routine—use green to mark your biology textbook, pink for math, or different colors for subtopics. Students can also check out this article for more information on using Post-it® Notes for school.

Color-coded notes can be used as a brainstorming method to create business charts. They work well when organizing a tangible project management system, since you can color code tasks according to importance and move each note individually to track your progress.

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Learning Experience
If you’re teaching a foreign language to someone young or old, notecards are the way to go. They’re ideal for mastering everyday vocabulary. Stick them on the desk, window, closet, pencil sharpener, and other items throughout the room so your tutee is constantly exposed to the language.

Nevertheless, handwritten notes are ideal for personal organization and productivity. They’re a necessity for adding a unique, personal touch to every office desk and home, and they can help you stay on task and organized throughout your day. Don’t give up on your habit of writing by hand! From studying to sending handwritten notes, show off your style with a little bit of handwritten flair.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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