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The Productive Power of Writing by Hand

The Productive Power of Writing by Hand

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 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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