3 Reasons to Step Away from the Keyboard and Start Writing Stuff Down

As a business owner who runs everything from her laptop, I’ve become accustomed to using online tools to help me stay focused and on task.

While on the one hand this is helpful in terms of working with team members and keeping track of client notes, on the other hand I have found myself forgetting things. I also noticed that I was really bad at keeping track of stuff outside of work – like going to the doctor for my annual check up.

In an effort to remedy this situation, I got myself an evergreen planner and started physically writing stuff down. I figured that if things were written down in ink then I couldn’t just “move” them like I could on Google Calendar.

What resulted was better clarity in terms of what I needed to get done – both in my business and outside of it. Something about physically writing stuff down helped it stick in my brain and I decided to find out why.

It engages different parts of the brain.

Different parts of our brain are responsible for different things. For example, if you’re listening to a lecture, then the auditory part of your brain lights up; if you’re looking at a piece of art, the part of the brain the processes visual learning lights up, and so forth.

Physically writing stuff down tends to engage different parts of the brain at once. In 2014 The New York Times published an article called This is Your Brain on Writing. The article reports on the first ever experiments where writers were placed in fMRI scanners to see how their brains behaved while they wrote.

While the writers were working on fiction pieces and not to-do lists, the experiment still brings up some interesting information about how the physical act of writing affects the brain because they couldn’t use keyboards in the fMRI machine.

As they were writing, the visual parts of the brain became active as well as the part of the brain responsible for retaining information. They also noticed that more seasoned writers stared engaging these parts of the brain even before they started to physically write, such as when they were brainstorming.

It helps you focus.

What’s interesting about physically writing stuff down is that it creates a sort of filter. When you physically use pen and paper to write something down you begin to engage the RAS part of the brain — a collection of cells at the base of your brain that are responsible for filtering information — and helps you give proper attention to things.

Taking down notes creates a spatial relation between the different bits of information we are learning. The part of the brain that handles this is responsible for filtering out the stuff that doesn’t really matter, meaning we tend to remember the important stuff much better just because we wrote it down. Additonally, by engaging the RAS, the physical act of writing literally brings the information to the forefront of the brain.

The use of your hands develops your brain.

Psychology Today has also looked into how physically writing stuff down affects brain function. The report states how several studies suggest that physically using our hands – from children playing with toys to playing the piano – helps develop the brain. More specifically, it helps with spatial abilities, which help us learn math and science.

It turns out the same is true when we write. Because we have more physical use of our hands when we write stuff down, we engage parts of the brain that may not get used otherwise when we’re typing away. This is why research shows that people who physically write down notes instead of typing them retain more information. It’s also why studies have shown that children who write in cursive express better ideas than those who type.

Overall, physically writing stuff down has some major advantages backed by science. While technology is certainly useful in helping us become more efficient, it turns out that writing touches parts of the brain typing cannot. If technological tools aren’t cutting it for you, you may want to consider going back to pen and paper.


Vincent T
Past Member 8 months ago

thank you

Camilla V
Camilla Vaga8 months ago


Sue H
Sue H8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Peggy B
Peggy B8 months ago


Peggy B
Peggy B8 months ago

I do this.

.3 years ago

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing. help with papers

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you

Jon T.
Jon T3 years ago

Interesting article, although the conclusions are actually assumptions the author has made based on the studies. These showed the affect of creative writing and note taking but did not compare against using a computer. The only study that did compare both concluded that it was most likely the thought process involved in note taking - summarising and analysing vs verbatim transcription that led to better memory. So it's actually how you use either method, not the method itself, that makes the difference. Make sure you engage your brain and you are more likely to remember!

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Thanks for this. I think writing things down is more likely to get results too.