The Pen Beats the Keyboard ~ Why Using a Handwritten Zen-Journal Will Make You Smarter and More Competitive

“If you want to start retaining more information, stop using your laptop or tablet.”

That’s not just some a suggestion from a guy who think’s Zen-Journal is a cool productivity tool, (hey, that rhymes) it’s what research studies are proving from looking at the topic of student/user productivity and retention of information.

Pam A. Mueller (Princeton University) and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (University of California, Los Angeles), studied this topic and published a paper in 2014 in the journal, Psychological Science that presented their findings when studying the effects of digital versus manual technologies for college / university students.

The results of their study and others suggest that laptop note taking, while faster and more user-friendly, isn’t as effective a system for retaining information and processing information. In fact, three separate studies found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.

Taking notes on a laptop is decreasingly effective

When I was in college, laptops were just getting to the market and were very expensive. (Yes, I’m much older than you.) We all took notes by hand…and we liked it!

Actually, we didn’t but what choice did we have? There were no smart phones, digital tablets, or smart pens. We didn’t know what we were missing. But as it turns out, these ubercool digital tools, that we now can’t live without, might not have helped us acquire the benefits we wanted in the first place.

The difference between typing and writing

In lectures and meetings, attendees need to take notes. If you look around a university lecture hall or any business conference, you’ll see Chromebooks, iPads, MacBooks, and Surfaces in use; some have built in keyboards while others utilize portable keyboards. Only a few people are taking notes with pen and paper.

Attendees, regardless of their choice of technology, all share similar goals: They want to retain the information.

While note taking with a laptop or tablet via a keyboard produces more notes as compared with handwritten notes, the information isn’t processed in the brain the same way. Elena Prokopets, writing in an article on

Our brains use two different types of cognitive processing when doing these two operations: typing and writing. As tested on a group of undergrads, the research proved that laptop users type almost everything they hear without processing the meaning or devoting much thought to what it is they’re taking notes on. Basically, when you type, all you’re doing is mindlessly transcribing, and that does not require much cognitive activity.

When you take notes by hand, however, you obviously can’t write down every single word your professor utters. So you listen, summarize, and list only the key points. Your brain is more engaged in the process of comprehension and so the information processed this way is remembered better.

You can’t check Facebook with a pen

Multitasking is a myth; No person can actually perform two tasks at once and be in complete conscious control of either activity. It’s just isn’t possible. That’s why walking and chewing gum is such a dangerous undertaking.  😉

How many times have you gotten bored in a business meeting (raising hand) or lecture (ditto) and had the thought, “I’ll check what’s happening on Facebook” or “Damn, did she actually said that? I have to tweet this!”

Suddenly you’re pursuing a separate activity and distraction has taken over. Checking your Facebook feed leads to a writing a comment. And as long as you’re on the net, you might as well do a quick check on your Gmail or Twitter stream, right? No harm, no foul.

Later, when you’re reviewing the your digital notes and discussing them with your study group, you see that you missed a huge and critical point:

“And just when did he actually state that E, in fact, equals MC2?”

Zen-Journal will make you smarter and more competitive

Zen-Journal users understand that writing by hand forces them to process information cognitively and with deliberate intent. It’s mentation and not just transcription.

Zen-Journal’s handwritten foundation takes advantage of our uniquely human ability to process information, prioritize it, and record it in a meaningful format.

Taking notes in lectures, meetings, and conferences via handwritten pen and paper will help you perform these basic operations each time you write.  And while I don’t recommend that a university student use their Zen-Journal for taking class notes, I do recommend they use the Cornell Method of using pen and paper.

In my experience those in business and academia who seem to progress faster through the ranks than most, do so because of their productivity, ability to attract positive attention, and their command of their responsibilities.

Superior information retention, continually being at the top of their field, and being one-step ahead of the competition, are all traits of those I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

My money is on the probability that, while they may not be Zen-Journal users, each has adopted a system of life and information management that helps them stay ahead of their competition.

Zen-Journal is available to you, free. Take advantage of this simple system and you’ll be on your way to becoming smarter and more competitive in your area of endeavor.

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