Why You Should Be Taking Notes Old School Style

Here are some reasons why you should be taking notes old school style...using pen and paper as opposed to digitally.

Why You Should Be Taking Notes Old School Style

We talk a lot about taking notes in my classes—both in the college classes I teach and at Glory House, the women’s restoration house where I teach. I wrote previously about why it’s important to write things down and take notes. Some of the benefits I discussed earlier were…

  • It helps the information to sink in.
  • Writing things down gives us something to go back and reference.
  • Our written notes can be a resource to share with others.
  • Writing things down can show us our growth and progress as we look back on our notes.

Today, I thought I’d stay more on the practical side to talk to you about why we should take notes old school style. You know…with actual pen and paper! 🙂 This of course is as opposed to using electronics and devices such as computers, phone, tablets, etc.

But technology makes it easier!

Technology these days has made it so easy to be more efficient and to make things more convenient. Unfortunately, with convenience and efficiency we lose some things. I guess there’s a give and take to anything isn’t there?

Even though there is all kinds of technology out there for taking notes now, I’m still a little bit old school. If I’m in a meeting at work, I pull out the old pen and paper. When I attend a training or a conference, I typically write notes in a journal or spiral notebook. My morning quiet times are ALWAYS accompanied by a pencil and journal. Additionally, I have a journal dedicated specifically for sermon notes at church.

I don’t know why really—I just like to write things out by hand. Partially, I think it forces me to pay better attention because I have to listen in order to take good notes. Another reason might be that I’ve noticed I remember more when I’ve written something out longhand.

I probably look funny at church

My church uses the Bible app “Events” where the sermon notes and points are already input along with the scriptures. It has the capability to just type your own notes right in with them and then e-mail the notes to yourself or save them to the device. I even use this same feature when I speak at conferences. It’s awesome! …But I totally still take notes by hand.

I still use the app to refer to along with my actual, REAL bible. 🙂 Chances are, I probably look a bit odd at church taking notes sitting there with my bible, my journal and pencil, and then my phone on top of it all open to the exact notes that I still choose to write out again anyway. I know, weird right? Once a friend next to me whispered, “You know you can email those notes to yourself don’t you?” I just whisper back, “Yes, I know.” A look of confusion met my reply, and I just smiled. I’m a creature of habit I guess.

It’s nice though that all of my notes are compiled together in date order all in one place. I refer back to them often too—especially my quiet time journals. So I guess my system works well for me. I know everyone needs their own system that works for them too. However, I have learned though that there is actual scientific research acknowledging the benefits and advantages taking notes by hand.

A legit study—I’m not making it up!

A few years ago Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer published a study in Psychological Science about the advantages taking notes longhand as opposed to via laptop. Their discoveries showed that students who took notes by hand performed better on tests than those who were laptop note takers. The study revealed that taking notes by hand helped with remembering the information better.

They believed there were some reasons for the outperformance. Taking notes longhand forces the students to think more actively about what they are writing. The reason is they can’t write as fast as the laptop note takers could type. Therefore, they have to be more selective about what they actually write down. Basically, they are more driven to decide what the main points are because they are limited as to how much they can write.

On the other hand, students who took notes via laptop didn’t have to be as selective. This group typically ended up taking notes verbatim, thus not requiring as much thought process. For the longhand note takers, that extra processing time of thinking about what they were writing paid off more later in their memory recall. They actually remembered the concepts of the material better than those students who took notes on their computers.

*This article discusses the study a little more in depth.

Another perspective

In Michael Hyatt’s article, One Old-Tech Secret for High Tech Achievers, he gives a few reasons why taking notes on paper beats digital note-taking. First, he discusses how our brains are engaged more and we learn more when taking notes by hand. This is caused in part by the message processing we discussed earlier, but it is also due the fact that it “engages different parts of our brain”.

Another reason Hyatt gives for the upside of longhand notes is that “digital devices are too distracting”. With everything accessible, it’s easy to stop listening and start browsing. At the touch of button or a tap of the finger, we can check e-mail, reply to that text that just came in, or even surf the internet. Each of these takes our mind off of the material we are learning at the time.

In summary…

Apparently then, technology has the unfortunate ability to cause us to disengage. This disengagement affects how much we learn and retain. According to these studies, the more active we are in the process—taking notes by hand and actively thinking about what we are writing—the more we will get from what we are trying to learn. Moral of the story: Take notes old school style using pen and paper. 

Take Some Practical Steps To Start Taking Notes Old School Style:

  • First—Take notes! If you’re not a note taker, maybe it’s time to start. All through the bible people were instructed to take notes and write things down:

“…the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder…” Exodus 17:14 (NLT)

“This says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write all the words that I have spoken to you in a book.” Jeremiah 30:2 (AMP)

“And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV)

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”…Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Revelation 1:10-11, 19 (NIV)

  • Break out the old pen and paper! Decide not to solely rely on technology—even though it might be easier and more efficient. Research shows you’ll learn more.
  • Use a journal or notebook for taking notes at church. You can still use your phone apps, but try supplementing with some paper notes too. I even have a special bible cover that has a pocket where my notebook just slips in to make it more convenient to carry to church.
  • Starting taking notes during your quiet times or during your bible reading sessions. You’ll get more out of your time with God when you do. You can read more about the benefits of doing this in this previously mentioned post.
  • Keep pen/pencil and paper handy if you are ever in a situation where you may be trying to learn something or need to remember something. This might include school, work, trainings, workshops/conferences. You can even keep some at your bedside in case you wake up in the middle of the night and need to write something down to remember the next morning.

How do you take notes? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

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If you know anyone that could benefit from this, please pay it forward!  Share this post via the sharing links below.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) 

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