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Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age

Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age
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Handwritten

    It seems like those of us who spend most of our day at a computer are slowly losing those handwriting skills our elementary school teachers spent years drilling into us. More than anything else, it’s a matter of disuse: many people hardly ever write anything out by hand and, if they do, it’s a quick note meant only to last until the next time they’re at a computer.

    But good handwriting is a skill worth honing, especially in a digital age, and for plenty more than writing your aging grandmother — although I’m sure she appreciates legible writing.

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    Bad Handwriting Kills

    In any given year, approximately 7,000 people die because a pharmacist couldn’t read a prescription. And while prescription pads will likely become electronic in the future, there will always be professions that rely on hastily jotted notes. Not all of these jobs will go electronic any time soon. Consider construction sites: not practical places for most electronic devices. But if you wander around a building site before anyone gets around to painting, you’ll see pencil marks on most of the lumber. Measurements, locations and quantities are all written on the wall, and while an illegible note might not kill anyone, there’s a high likelihood it could cost a contractor some money.

    Good Handwriting Saves Lives

    There are several diseases and conditions that can affect the brain and, in turn, the motor skills required for writing notes by hand. Neurologists can often tell a great deal about what is happening inside someone’s skull by looking at samples of their handwriting — especially if they have past samples. For instance, you can follow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in a patient very clearly through writing samples — handwriting can show the affects of the disease even in very early stages.

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    Different neurological disorders manifest themselves in different ways, especially on paper. Some can cause an overall decay in handwriting skills, while others can cause a patient to drop letters or words. There are, of course, a wide variety of psychologists who use graphology (handwriting analysis) for the purpose of understanding a person’s mindset as well. However, there is far more controversy about graphology than the simple observances made for the purpose of diagnosing neurological problems.

    Handwriting as Learning Mechanism

    Handwriting notes is a technique recommended by many educators as an excellent way to cement ideas in your mind. But handwritten notes work best if you can go back and look them over — and can tell just what they say. Pen and paper also offer a flexibility for diagramming that just isn’t available in word processing software. You can draw arrows quickly and create mind maps that aren’t restricted by a programmer that you’ve never met. You can even tear up paper (or use smaller pieces) and shift them around.

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    Writing out papers or notes by hand can also help provide a certain amount of focus that is difficult — if not impossible — with a computer. I know I have trouble focusing on a writing project when I want to check my email, read a few blogs or generally distract myself with the internet. To keep myself on track, I’ve had to pick up a pad of paper and go somewhere without a computer. Some days, it’s the only way I can stay focused.

    Preparing for Emergencies

    What if your power goes out? Your Blackberry runs out of juice? You’re stranded away from a printer? There are times that legible handwriting is absolutely crucial. Whether the power is on or off, odds are you have work that must get done. You may have to write out a document by hand and FedEx it to a client, or you may be writing in order to type it up later. You may even have to scribble down the phone number of a tow truck. No matter which, the effort is worthless if no one can read it afterwards. It’s practically a version of Murphy’s Law: if you write down something important, it’s bound to be illegible.

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    And there are jobs that may take you away from your computer — hard to believe, but true. If you’re interested in philanthropic work that will take you deep into a third world country, it’s in your best interest to have good handwriting. Even if you have access to email at all hours of the day, the people you might work with probably won’t.

    Handwriting is a Digital Age Skill

    Handwriting is an important skill — equally important to that ability to type 75 words per minute that you listed on your resume. You may not need to spend hours a day on perfecting your letters, but writing often enough to maintain a legible hand is worth your time. If nothing else, writing a long letter or outlining your next project can give your mouse hand a rest and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome a little while longer. Writing uses far different muscles in your hands than typing and can break up a series of repetitive actions: consider handwriting a stretching exercise.

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    And you don’t need to go to the extreme of calligraphy. All you need is a legible style of writing: writing as if you left your mental caps lock on can be a quick way to write an easy-to-read note. A suggestion to keep in mind, though, is that writing in capital letter or in print usually takes longer than cursive. If you’re going to work towards legible handwriting, cursive letters may be the most productive in the long run.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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