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Here’s Why You Should Take Notes By Hand (Instead Of With A Laptop)

Here’s Why You Should Take Notes By Hand (Instead Of With A Laptop)

If you walk into any lecture these days, you see a majority of students staring at their screens. You hear a never-ending chorus of pounding keys. Yes, we live in digital age and I bet you can’t imagine not using your laptop for studying. Yes, laptops enable you to do more academic work and do it more efficiently. You can collaborate more easily on presentations and papers, get instant access to numerous libraries and sources online and take a huge amount of notes as you probably belong to the majority that types faster than they write.

The truth is, those who type do take more notes compared to those who use good old pen and paper. However, according to the new study published by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer (from Princeton University and University of California respectively) students who take notes on paper learn significantly more compared to their laptop-addicted peers. Here are the main reasons why:

Writing takes time and digestion is necessary

Our brain uses two different types of cognitive processing when doing these two operations: typing and writing. As tested on a group of undergrads, the research proved that laptop users type almost everything they hear without processing the meaning or devoting much thought to what it is they’re taking notes on. Basically, when you type, all you’re doing is mindlessly transcribing, and that does not require much cognitive activity.

When you take notes by hand, however, you obviously can’t write down every single word your professor utters. So you listen, summarize, and list only the key points. Your brain is more engaged in the process of comprehension and so the information processed this way is remembered better.

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Longer notes does not equal better notes

You may object to the point above by saying that transcribing everything will help you later on when studying for the test. Nope! Wrong again. Students who participated in the study were assessed within a week, and longhand note takers significantly out-performed those who took notes on their laptop. Oppenheimer states that handwriting provides more effective memory cues by recreating:

  • context, as you remember the original process of writing, the emotion, and the conclusions made in your own words, and–
  • content, e.g. some individual facts written and summarized.

When comparing test scores, researchers noted that laptop users and longhand note takers performed similarly on factual questions with slightly better results from the typers. However, laptop users did significantly worse on conceptual questions.

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    Laptops are overwhelmingly distracting

    Now this may sound like a no-brainier, but still, the facts are staggering. Students on average spend 40% of class time using all sorts of productivity killers, from instant chat messages to answering emails to simply browsing around the web. What may surprise you is that according to this research, undergrad and law students rated themselves less satisfied with their college education in general and were more likely to fail classes due to constant temptation to switch to unrelated tasks and the higher risks of academic dishonesty. Just think for a second, are you paying tens thousands of dollars per year to watch funny YouTube videos?

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    DeathtoStock_Wired4

      Have I convinced you? Great! Here are some tips for how to take notes by hand more effectively:

      Master shorthand

      There are numerous methods and shorthand systems for writing words and long letters faster by turning them into special symbols. One of the most popular ones is Teeline, commonly used for training journalists in the UK. You remove unnecessary letters (like silent letters or vowels, unless they come first or last) and twist them into simpler alphabet symbols that are faster to write.

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      If you find it hard to convert to shorthand entirely, try adopting a your own translation system for the most commonly used words in your writing – for example, “cld” for “could” or “w/” for “with.” Just make sure you don’t lose your cheat-sheet!

      Use the right formatting

      If you have just switched from laptop note taking to writing notes by hand, imagine the way you used to put down everything in Microsoft Word or any other writing app you’ve used. Make big titles, use bullet points and underline important phrases. Plus, leave enough white space between your notes so you can add extra information later on when studding for the test.

      Get a stress ball

      After a few hours of writing by hand your fingers, palm and wrist may be extremely exhausted. Get yourself a stress ball to squeeze once in a while to build up finger and hand strength. Also, do not forget to stretch out your writing hand to avoid elbow injuries and unpleasant muscle pains.

      Try the Cornell Notes method

      An old, yet still incredibly effective method, to take excellent study notes is the Cornell Notes method. Divide your page into two columns. The right one should be larger – that’s where you write down all the ideas, include tables, charts and pretty much everything else you do as you usually write notes. It can be messy. The left column is where you put big bulletin points and short statements, generalizing corresponding ideas from the right column.

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      Also, you can leave the end of each page blank and later write down a brief summary of the page in a couple sentences. Down the line, when studying for an exam or paper, it will help you find the necessary topics easily.

      Lefties: get a felt-tipped pen

      Ink stains, smudged letters and thus absolutely unreadable handwriting – sound familiar to you? Get a good felt-tipped pen that won’t smudge that bad when you drag your hand behind the pen while writing.

      Featured photo credit: Eric Jusino via flickr.com

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      Elena Prokopets

      Freelance Writer

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

      Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

      A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

      Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

      So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

      1. Purge Your Office

      De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

      Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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      Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

      2. Gather and Redistribute

      Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

      3. Establish Work “Zones”

      Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

      Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

      4. Close Proximity

      Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

      5. Get a Good Labeler

      Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

      6. Revise Your Filing System

      As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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      What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

      Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

      • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
      • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
      • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
      • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
      • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
      • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
      • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

      Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

      7. Clear off Your Desk

      Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

      If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

      8. Organize your Desktop

      Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

      Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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      Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

      9. Organize Your Drawers

      Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

      Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

      10. Separate Inboxes

      If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

      11. Clear Your Piles

      Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

      Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

      12. Sort Mails

      Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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      13. Assign Discard Dates

      You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

      Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

      14. Filter Your Emails

      Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

      When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

      Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

      15. Straighten Your Desk

      At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

      Bottom Line

      Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

      Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

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      Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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