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6 Times When Using A Pen Is Better Than Using A Keyboard

6 Times When Using A Pen Is Better Than Using A Keyboard

Even in technology-driven 2014, there are still a lot of benefits to doing things manually. In particular, using a pen and writing in a notebook can often prove to be a better way to get down ideas or information than using a keyboard on a computer or tablet. For all the software out there to make writing simpler and more efficient, sometimes you can’t beat the tools that have been used since cavemen were carving on walls. For first drafts, using handwriting is often superior to even the most advanced word processor. Here are six situations where using a pen is superior to using a keyboard.

1. Brainstorming

Your flurry of ideas shouldn’t be held back by the constraints of a word processor. Writing free-form is much more flexible than typing in something like Microsoft Word; it allows you to put all of your thoughts onto the page in whatever form those ideas come to you. If you’re having a burst of inspiration your big ideas probably won’t come in a linear order, so why should you write them in one?

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2. Making Quick Mind Maps

Mind maps are an awesome way to organize information visually. They let you make connections that you wouldn’t have made otherwise and allow you to branch out a simple concept into a series of sub-categories and sub-sub-categories. Mind maps can be made on a computer, but are much more effective when they’re made by hand because adding a new concept is as easy as drawing an oval.

3. Sketching

Apps like Paper are great at replicating the drawing experience on a tablet, but they’re still not as effective as simply sketching with pen and paper. If you have an idea you can easily scribble it into your notebook to explain it to someone, and you’re also able to tear out the page and hand it to them right then and there. Additionally, even with popular apps like Notability available, there’s no way to draw and take notes on the same document that’s as legible and intuitive as plain, old pen and paper.

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4. Annotating

Do you know how to make a quick annotation in a word processor? Probably not. Meanwhile, it’s extremely easy in a notebook; just put an asterisk (*) after the thing that needs annotating and include the annotation at the bottom of that page. If you’re writing the draft that you’re going to be turning in to your editor or professor you’ll probably want to make it professional, but if you’re just jotting down a first or even second draft, then using a pen and notebook is a better option.

5. Tracking Your Changes

Having Track Changes on while you’re writing something in Microsoft Word is distracting. Every time you delete a word, or even just a letter, the page gets more cluttered, but it’s the only way you can keep a record of what you’re changing as you’re writing. Know what you can do using a pen that’s not nearly as distracting? Cross out words or letters as you write in a notebook.

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6. Learning as You Write

A lot of people take furious notes in the classroom but don’t actually study those notes. If that’s the case, the only chance they have at not failing their tests is if they wrote those notes by hand. When typing you’re just transcribing what your teachers or professors are saying, not pausing long enough to really consider the meaning of the words. When you’re using a pen, the words you’re hearing and writing have just enough time to gestate in your head so that you’re actually learning during the lecture. When Scientific American covered the subject, the magazine cited how handwriting requires different kinds of cognitive processing than typing on a computer. Even science agrees that, at times, the best technology for writing is a pen rather than a keyboard.

Featured photo credit: Chris Chapman via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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

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