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Productive on Paper: Taking Notes on Paper

Productive on Paper: Taking Notes on Paper

Productive on Paper: Taking Notes on Paper

By: Johnny Gamber

As an aficionado of sorts in the stationery world since 2005, I love to read research which promotes the benefits of using paper products in today’s ultra-connected, hyper-virtual, super-digital world. One of the benefits that are cropping up in research projects is that using paper to take notes improves one’s memory and comprehension. Taking notes on paper is a useful practice for everyone from students to professionals attending meetings and conferences.

First, the paper one uses for note taking is a mostly single-purpose product. While we can doodle in the margins of notes, the possibilities for being unproductive on paper pale in comparison with what happens when we try to use that hard-won words-per-minute count to take notes on a laptop. As NPR notes, digital devices can be huge sources of distraction. With ready access to Facebook, email, and online games, laptops -- and even tablets -- can defeat their purpose in the classroom. Taking notes on paper can help to keep us focused.

We understand what we hear better when we take notes on paper. Individuals with excellent typing skills are often capable of typing nearly as quickly as a speaker can talk, usually recording what they hear word for word. This amounts to the same task performed by a recording app on one's smartphone. When we take notes, the important thing is to process the information that the speaker is presenting to us. In a recent article in Psychology Today, Dr. William R. Klemm wonders if note taking might be a dying art. He writes, “Just what is it that I think is valuable about note taking? First and foremost is the requirement for engagement. Paying attention is essential for encoding information. Nobody can remember anything that never registered in the first place.” Taking notes on paper forces us to economize our language and to put what we hear into our own words. This requires us to pay attention and to process what we hear, engaging our brains and placing the information in front of our consciousness in a way that performing as human recording devices cannot.

Moreover, taking notes on paper can help us actually to retain the information that we process. Translating the words that we hear into concepts in our brains introduces the data in a way that allows us to recall it better later. The increased effort pays off in better and more accurate memory. This is because we have selected the essential pieces of information for study and because integrating this information into our minds helps it to stick there in a way that is impossible when taking notes verbatim with a keyboard.

Whether with a wooden pencil, an expensive vintage fountain pen with custom-ground nib, or even just that Blic Clic that you pocketed when the server brought your check at your favorite brewpub, taking notes on paper can help you to not only understand but also to better remember what you hear and read. Durable paper goods on which to take notes are vital, and we have you covered. Whether you need pocket notebooks to accompany you on walks or transit rides, meeting notebooks to help you to define further actions, or even simply blank notebooks for general note taking, you will find all of your paper needs to be met by Write Notepads and Co. paper goods. 

Johnny Gamber is a full-time Dad and writer who lives in his native Baltimore in a home full of pencils and notebooks. Find him at Pencil Revolution and as co-host of the Erasable Podcast.

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Dr. james Barnes - March 28, 2019

My days as an undergraduate began in 1960. There were no computers, and in looking back on that time, I am so very grateful that my note taking materials were paper, a pencil and an erasure. Half way through my first quarter, I noticed my notes were messy, lacking information, an of no use to me when studying for an exam. I had to change my study habits, and in thinking back I still don’t remember how I came up with the strategy that I am going to describe.

First, I decided to take copious lecture notes. Most professors used blackboards, again a blessing. I wrote down every word or drawing that the professor said or drew. Yes, at the end of a lecture, my notes were messy, words in a shorthand I developed, and ugly drawings…but I had the basic information.

Next, I would go through the mess I had produced, and filled in the missing pieces. That same evening I would find a guilt place in the library, get out my notes that I took earlier in the day, and a clean pad of paper. My next step would be to start recoding my notes, in neat hand writing, redo the drawings, while organizing my notes in concepts. The mornIndid this, the more I realized, it was taking me less time, but more importantly, I realized, the re-copying my notes was now engaging my visual learning too….hands, brain, visual learning. If there was something I did not understand, I put a ? Mark by that section of my notes and the next day visited the professor during his/her office hours to get assistance. The end product was a beautiful set of notes, in which the information I was well on my way to understanding and learning.

I also added two further steps…2 or 3 days before the exam I would read my notes out…one more learning connection. Two days before the exam, I would get my notes out, and on a clean sheet of paper, I would write down the major concept headings…I always tried to only one sheet of paper. The day or night before the exam, I would only use the one sheet of paper on wich the major concepts were listed. I would explain these concepts out loud, and I might even redraw the figures.

Was this tedious ? Yes, at first, but as Inprogressed through school, I became more and more efficient. I think in retrospect, I was using all my important learning pathways.

One last hint, get a study group…but only include in the group students that come to study sessions as prepared as you are. Another word of advice…if you use a computer, that’s fine, but don’t open your FB and IGbscreens while trying to take notes. And, remember writing involves more learning skills than typing, and use your professors office hours, immediately if you do not understand a concept…don’t wait until the day before or the day of the exam…it won’t work.

Support Write Pads Company, they can supply you with all your paper needs. Good luck and Write might also want to learn cursive writing, it’s faster than printing.

Tess Enterline - March 28, 2019

Enjoyed your article, Johnny! Hope we’ll be seeing more.

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