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Why writing by hand is still the best way to retain information

Typing might be faster, but longhand stays with you better

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Picture this: it’s a work day at an enterprise payments processing company, and there is a critical data engineering task that needs to be completed. In this case, I’m the data engineer who needs to finish the task, but I am missing information necessary for my data model to be finished. I heard the information in a meeting. It was discussed in the daily standup. I have some vague typed notes, but I can’t recall the technical details I need to finish my work. No one is available to answer my question. It’s then that it hits me: I should have written down notes by hand during the meeting. 

Writing notes by hand would have given me several different tangible resources that could help me find the critical missing information: a stronger memory of the meeting I was in, the gaps in the details of the discussion that occurred, and the notes themselves that would help me trigger a stronger recall of the events just by reviewing them on paper. Detailed typed notes would not help my recall and retention of the information in the meetings in the same way that notes written by hand would, though they would have been helpful.

It’s hard to keep documentation accurate for a whole organization or even a team with day-to-day process, programming, business, and client changes at the micro and macro levels. But as individuals who consume new information on a minute-by-minute basis, we can learn what we need to with more information retention, cognitive recall, stronger reading comprehension, and a tactile, visual memory of the information we consumed just by hand writing our notes. Writing by hand still remains the most powerful way to learn and retain information. 

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