I’ve always been a list maker and a note taker. This practice was not because I was always an efficient person, far from it. I raised four children as a single mom and either worked two jobs or one and double shifts. Without lists and notes my life would have been more chaotic than it already was. There was business meetings, new policy’s to learn, teachers meetings, event dates, birthdays, grocery shopping and on and on.
After the kids grew up and moved out I still found myself making lists and taking notes. I just never considered doing it any other way. I’m a big believer in technology and use it all the time, however, when I attempted to use my phone or tablet memo app’s or my laptop software I lost control of my organization and had to keep looking back at the memos so I wouldn’t forget. Seemed like I couldn’t keep anything in my thoughts. That made me curious why and how memory works in the brain so I did some research and found some interesting facts. Our brain uses two different types of cognitive processing when doing typing and hand writing. When taking notes on your laptop you tend to type quickly and almost every word you hear without processing the meaning or prioritizing the points you want to remember. When you type it’s mainly mindless transcribing and doesn’t require much brain activity.
When you are hand writing notes and lists it’s too time consuming to write down every word. You listen then filter out the excess and keep the key points. This selection of information engages your brain to process and comprehend. Since you “listen” with a different part of your brain than you “write” with, digesting and evaluating what you hear and writing it by hand, builds a link between the different parts of your brain and reinforces memory. You are stimulating a collection of cells in the base of your brain called reticular activating system which is the brains filter for information for what you are focusing on. That’s why when you hand write a shopping list you can usually remember most all the items without looking at it until almost time to check out but if you transcribe it on your phone you’re constantly checking it. This “link” allows your brain to place the information in long term memory rather than short term.
These facts make sense as to why hand writing is still the best way to remember notes and lists because of the way the brain processes. I never knew that way back then, I just grabbed the first empty envelope or scrap of paper and organized my life as well as I could. I love technology and use it every day but sticky notes are still my best friend.