The Research - Why You Should WRITE it Down


A keyboard is quicker than handwriting, but what if I told you that is where its advantages end. As computers, software, tablets and phones develop, technology is an ever-growing solution for so many areas of our lives. There are a multitude of jobs I perform daily that would be unimaginable without the efficiency of these tools. So we are not discrediting technology's usefulness in completing work, but research from Princeton University and The University of California have shown multiple strengths to physically writing over digital means for learning and retention.

The Study's Findings

The researchers ran three tests, each with a group taking handwritten notes versus a group taking digital notes. Test one gave an exam to the groups immediately after taking notes on a lecture, the second was the same except the typing group was warned of weaknesses in copying notes verbatim, and the third test gave each group a weeks delay before the test to study their notes. In each case the hand writing group outperformed the digital note takers. Why is this?

These studies repeatedly show that users who typed, even when warned of the weaknesses, were more likely to simply copy information verbatim rather than internalize information like in short hand writing. This was an obvious advantage for hand-writers in tests taken directly after lectures (Test 1&2), but the surprise was the digital note takers were still out performed by the hand-writers even when they were given additional time with their more extensive notes (In Test 3). “You’d think that those who took nearly verbatim notes would benefit from the extra detail when they were allowed time to study, but that wasn’t the case,’’ said Pam Mueller researcher from Princeton. The conclusion of this study was physically writing notes has “superior external storage [for future use] as well as superior encoding functions [for retention and true internalization of concepts]."

Writing increased learning and retention over typing by:

    • Concepts being better internalized by thoughts fully developing before summarizing
    • Writing engages parts of the brain that remain dormant while typing 
    • Writing increased future recall by developing stronger encoded prompts 
    • Future external storage was of higher quality to the hand-writer

Science Aside 

A simpler fact, that does not require extensive research, is our devices are incredibly distracting. In this day in age, we have gone from being connected by the internet to hyper connected by phones and social media. The noise is impossible to get away from. To try to share a space meant for organization and reflection, such as taking notes, journaling or daily planning, on the same screen  with fifty open tabs and notifications popping in and out is an impossible feat. The most effective people, as shown above and in our previous article, are those that know when to unplug, focus, execute one task at a time and afterwards reflect on their effectiveness.


  1. Leverage technology where it is strongest. Use it for it's efficiency and speed in completing daily tasks.
  2. When learning new concepts, documenting events, planning out your days/weeks/years or reflecting, leverage the strengths writing provides in furthering your learning, retention and internalization.  
  3. We recommend using a single journal daily for items like those above. The alternate of keeping this information spread in multiple locations and forms (Notebooks, notepads, sticky notes...etc) weakens the added benefit of keeping the information for future reference and implementation. Keeping this journal will also ensure you always have a writing source within reach when it is most needed.

Blessings In Your Endeavors,

Ruben Watson

The Manager's Journal

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