Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Screen_Shot_2014-06-03_at_4.55.00_PM

    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?

    Advertising

    ***

    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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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

      More by this author

      Elena Prokopets

      Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

      7 Ways To Learn a New Language Faster (Backed by Science) 22 Amazing Pineapple Health Benefits (With Simple Pineapple Recipes) 15 Cool And Practical Apps For Couples 14 Things No One Tells You About Being in a Long-Distance Relationship 9 Tips to Prepare For Your First Multi Day Hike

      Trending in Productivity

      1 15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators 2 How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods 3 How To Be A Successful Person (And What Makes One Unsuccessful) 4 How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work 5 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on April 6, 2020

      15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

      15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

      Let me guess.

      You should be doing something else rather than reading this article. But due to some unknown force of nature, you decided to procrastinate by reading an article about how to hack procrastination. You deserve a pat on the back.

      Fortunately, procrastination is not a disease. It’s just a mindset that can be changed, however, here are some productivity tips you need to start getting work done:

      First, you need to acknowledge that procrastinating is an unhealthy habit. Not only you’re prioritizing unimportant things, basically, nothing gets done. Still unsure if you’re a procrastinator? Check out this article: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

      Second, your commitment to change is very important. You should be physically, emotionally, and mentally determined to change this habit. If not, then you’ll just succumb to the tempting lure of doing other things rather than your tasks or chores.

      Here are sthe best productivity hacks to improve productivity and keep yourself from procrastinating at work:

      1. Give (10+2)*5 a Try

      Let’s start with a classic but very effective hack called (10+2)*5 created by Merlin Mann,[1] author of 43Folders.com. Don’t worry. This is not a complicated Mathematical formula you need to solve.

      Advertising

      The (10+2)*5 simply means 10 minutes work + 2 minutes break multiplied by 5, completing 1 hour. It is crucial to stick with the time limits and not skipping work and break schedules. The point of this is for you to create a jam-packed routine of work and break schedules. The result? You will eventually skip your break schedules.

      2. Use Red and Blue More Often

      Clean your desk and remove things that might distract you. According to a Science Daily study[2] about which colors improve brain performance, red was found out to increase attention to details while blue sparks creativity. Surrounding your workplace with these colors not only benefits your brain, it’s also pleasing to the eye.

      3. Create a Break Agenda

      List all the things you want to do on your break, be it surfing the web, checking your emails, snack time, taking selfies, Facebook/Twitter—everything.

      Like the (10+2)*5 hack, squeeze these in between work time but the difference is you schedule these activities for ONLY 20 minutes. Eventually, you’ll take your break minutes wisely. You’re finishing tasks while sidetracking to doing the things you enjoy.

      4. Set a Timetable for Your Tasks

      Like any other habits, procrastinating is a tough wall to break. Replace this habit with another habit. When you’re assigned a task, set a timetable for each step. Let’s say you have a big research task. Here’s a sample timetable:

      9:00 – 9:10 am – Set up all your tools, browser tabs, emails, coffee, etc..
      9:10 – 10:00 am – Internet research
      10:00 – 10:45 am – Look through existing files
      10:45 – 11:00 am – Break time!
      11:00 – 12:00 pm – Outline the research report

      Deadlines are the best hack for getting things done. Setting a specific time to finish a task creates time pressure even if the deadline has passed.

      Advertising

      5. Take It Outside!

      Do yourself a favor and don’t ruin the comfy vibe of your home. If you need to work on a stressful project, do it in a library or coffee shop. You’ll never finish it anyway. Your cozy sofa and toasty bed will just lure you into napping yourself to doom.

      6. Become Productively Lazy

      Instead of finding all sorts of ways to unproductively procrastinate, use your habit to look for shortcuts and new ways to finish your tasks. Staple multiple papers at a time or master the 3-second t-shirt folding technique. A strong drive combined with laziness sometimes bring out the productive and creative side you never knew you have!

      7. Assign a ‘Task Deputy’

      It could be your colleague, your supervisor, or your significant other, anyone who has the unforgiving guts to reprimand you when you procrastinate. You could go the extra mile by paying up unfinished tasks or times you open your Facebook or watch a funny cat video on YouTube. Let’s see how five bucks every time you procrastinate will change you.

      8. Consider a Gadget-Free Desk

      According to a study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, average users check on their phones 150 times per day and having your phone just an elbow away just creates sizzle to this habit.[3]

      Removing mobile devices and gadgets allows you to focus on your work without the constant interruption from notifications, calls, and text messages. It eliminates the very distracting ambiance and the urge to unlock your phone just because.

      9. Prepping the Night

      Before hitting the sack to oblivion, prepare everything you’ll need the next day. This will probably take you 15 minutes tops, saving you more time for coffee in the morning.

      Spin class at am? Pack up your gym clothes, shoes, socks, etc. or better, create a checklist so you don’t miss anything. You can also prep your food into containers and just grab one before leaving.

      Advertising

      10. Do a 7-Minute Workout in the Morning

      Exercising is proven to increase productivity and stimulate release of endorphin or “Happy Hormones”.

      Take a jog outdoors and get warmed up for the day. Don’t feel like running outside? Hop on a treadmilli. It’s a great investment and there are a lot of ways you can use a treadmill like endurance running and metabolism training. On a budget? Here’s a 7 minute, no-equipment needed workout you can do at home:

      11. Set-up Mini Tasks

      If you’re given a big project, break it down into mini tasks. Create a checklist and start with the easy ones until you finish. Got an article to write? Just start with the title and the first sentence. Or perhaps you have a visual presentation to make?

      Spend 15 minutes on your outline, take five minutes coffee break, then finish the first two slides. Accomplishing something, no matter how tiny, still gives you that sense of fulfillment.

      12. Create an Inspirational Board or Reminder

      I found these mini desk chalkboards from Etsy you can use to write motivating quotes.

      Or you know what? Simply write “Do it now!” and stare at it for 10 seconds every time you feel like dropping by on Reddit.

      13. Redecorate Your Room

      Redecorating my room motivates me to maintain that ‘new’ look for some time until I get use to it and eventually stop. So I redecorate again and again, it became a monthly habit really. Here are some DIY ideas you can do to any room without spending much.

      Advertising

      14. Ready Your Nibbles

      You know that trip to the pantry? It’s just seconds away but it took you several minutes just to get your fruit snacks in the fridge. Before starting a task, prepare your nibbles on your desk to avoid zoning out and losing yourself on the way to the pantry.

      Bonus productivity hacks you can do at home:

      15. Schedule Your Chores

      Write down your chores in a weekly basis with matching day and time when you should be doing these.

      For the artsy folks, you can create fun chore charts like these or simply stick the list somewhere visibly annoying e.g. mirrors, doors, TV. The trick is listing as many chores as you can for the week and including unfinished chores the following week. Who likes seeing a long list of chores first thing in the morning?

      More Tips to Overcome Procrastination

      Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next