Audio version (9:0)
In a recent webinar I delivered to a couple of hundred HR professionals, I mentioned that we retain far more information when we handwrite rather than when we type.
Although the webinar topic was nothing to do with handwriting, my throwaway comment caused quite a fuss in the Q&A section at the end.
I’m a huge believer in the power of handwriting when it comes to certain things, such as learning and goal setting. In this week’s article, I’ll explain the advantages of handwriting for these purposes as a valuable tool for personal growth and success.
In the digital age, where keyboards and touchscreens dominate our lives, handwriting may seem outdated. However, there is undeniable power in the simple act of putting pen to paper, especially when it comes to setting and achieving our goals, as well as learning and retaining information.
While typing notes and goals on a computer or smartphone offers convenience, handwriting offers unique benefits that can enhance our focus, memory, creativity, and overall goal attainment.
(N.B. I am not advocating doing away with digital note-taking completely!) In this article, I specifically refer to the benefits of handwriting goals and other important information that you wish to retain and may need to recall sometime in the future, e.g. training, exams, etc.
1. Enhanced Cognitive Engagement
Handwriting demands a higher level of cognitive engagement compared to typing. The process of forming each letter activates multiple neural pathways in the brain, stimulating areas associated with language, memory, and motor skills.
This enhanced engagement increases our comprehension and retention of the information, promoting a deeper connection to our goals and the information we are transcribing. When we physically write, we mentally and physically internalise the words, making them more meaningful and memorable.
I am a touch-typist. I can both listen and type or copy type an entire page of A4 while thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner. Afterwards, although the typing will be incredibly accurate, I can have no recollection of what I’ve written.
2. Improved Focus & Mindfulness
Handwriting in a deliberate and intentional manner requires focused attention. Unlike typing, which can easily lead to distractions and multitasking, handwriting encourages us to be fully present in the moment.
The deliberate strokes of the pen on paper promote mindfulness and help eliminate mental clutter. This focused state allows us to connect with our goals on a deeper level, reinforcing our commitment and determination to achieve them.
3. Personalisation & Creativity
Handwriting provides a unique opportunity for personalisation and creativity. Through the use of different writing styles, embellishments, and even drawings, we infuse our learning and goals with our own personality and artistic expression.
This process taps into our right brain, fostering creativity and imagination. By creating visually appealing notes and personalised goal sheets, we form a stronger emotional attachment to our aspirations, increasing our motivation and drive to work towards them.
4. Enhanced Memory Retention
Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of handwriting on memory retention. The physical act of writing engages the brain in a way that typing does not.
The combination of sensory input from the movement of the hand, visual feedback, and the cognitive processing of the information helps encode our goals and other information into long-term memory.
When we write our notes and goals by hand, we increase the likelihood of remembering and recalling them accurately.
5. Reinforcement of Commitment
Handwriting, especially when it comes to goals, reinforces our commitment to their achievement. The deliberate and intentional act of writing invokes a sense of ownership and responsibility.
As we observe our own handwriting on the paper, we establish a personal connection and a visual reminder of what we aspire to accomplish. This visual reinforcement helps us stay on track and motivates us to take consistent action towards our objectives.
6. Reduced Digital Distractions
The digital landscape is full of distractions, from incoming notifications to tempting websites and social media platforms. Bringing a laptop or tablet to a training session increases the likelihood of succumbing to these distractions, potentially hindering focus and active listening.
By choosing to take handwritten notes, you eliminate the appeal of digital distractions and create a focused learning environment.
7. Improved Active Listening & Interaction
When we write by hand, we naturally filter information, extracting key ideas and summarising them in our own words. This process necessitates active listening and engagement with the material, enabling better comprehension and retention.
In addition, the absence of a keyboard and screen allows for increased eye contact and interaction with the instructor or fellow students, fostering a more collaborative and participatory learning experience.
8. Reticular Activating System & Handwriting
I’ve talked previously about our reticular activating system. It’s the part of the brain that filters through the thousands of pieces of information (sight, sound, touch, smell). It systematically trawls through data, highlighting what’s important to us.
Our RAS is behind the ‘coincidence’ we’ve all experienced when we’ve purchased something new (car, dress, suit, holiday). Within a matter of hours or days, we see it everywhere!
When we physically write our goals, it reinforces to our RAS that those things are important to us. As a result, the seek-and-find missile that is our RAS activates instantly.
While technology continues to shape our lives, the act of handwriting remains a powerful and relevant tool for personal growth and goal attainment.
Handwriting provides enhanced cognitive engagement, improved focus and mindfulness, opportunities for personalisation and creativity, better memory retention, and a reinforced commitment to our aspirations.
By leveraging the unique benefits of handwriting, especially for note-taking and goal-setting, we tap into our innate potential and unlock greater success in our journey towards self-improvement.
If you think this article would be helpful to others, please consider forwarding it. It takes seconds and assists me in getting this free content in front of more people. Plus, you never know who you may be helping with that small act of kindness!
If you’ve never considered coaching or would like to hear more about my unique approach, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary 15-minute discovery call.
Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to receive my weekly newsletter, which contains my latest articles, news and special offers, click here. As a thank you, you’ll receive FREE access to my 30-page mini-course on ‘How to Hack Your Happy Hormones’.
As always, thank you for your continued support.