NotetakingOne of this site’s most read posts is about the resurrection of handwritten letters. If you haven’t yet read it, I suggest you do. It’s quality work! 🙂

Riffing on that idea, I recently unpacked (for a MediaPost column) the importance of handwritten notes…


If you ever meet me in a professional setting, you may notice my black notebook and black-ink pen.

I carry it around like an evangelical Christian does his copy of the Bible.

There are four reasons:

First, my best thoughts come spontaneously. If I achieve some epiphany, or simply make iterative progress on some larger problem I’m working on, I don’t want to forget it. So I write it down in my notebook.

Second, there’s an even better chance someone else will say something meaningful or important. I want to be sure to capture that value. So I write it down in my notebook.

Third, notetaking signals engagement and respect to the people you’re listening to, and that encourages them to engage more intensely and divulge more.

Fourth, notetaking forces your brain to absorb and interpret information more effectively. The work involved in writing sentences and drawing illustrations and maps is deeply personal and immersive.

Now, before you go and start taking notes, please take note of this: The analog pen-and-paper method is far superior to electronic ones like laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Why? Pen and paper is more intimate and deliberate, resulting in higher quality notes and thought process. Conversely, the multiple functions and stimuli inherent in electronic gadgets are distracting and energy-sucking — both for the notetaker and other people. While intentions may be good, the presence of electronic devices is often offensive in many social contexts.

Additionally, I’ve yet to see an electronic device perform as reliably as pen and paper. Paper and ink is always on, always ready to go. Electronic gadgets are expensive, clunky and dependent on electric umbilical cords, or a charged battery. They create more greenhouse gases.

It’s often said the world’s greatest modern creations originated on the back of a napkin.

There’s a reason why.

Smart people take handwritten notes, while ignorant ones don’t.

(Photo: AmsterdamPrinting)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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