The Power of Handwritten Notes and Reminders



“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” — Isaac Asimov

I like to think on paper for planning my actions.  Sure, I type a lot of notes.  And, I like to store things in a digital way.

But I’ve found time and again that writing things on paper engages my brain in a more meaningful way.

When I type, it’s more like cruise control.  I’m aware of how the words flow, but they flow so easily that I could almost do it with my eyes closed.

Actually, I can.

I just tested.  I closed my eyes and it was easy to type this entire sentence without even paying much attention.

Type is cheap.

Feel the Words

But when I write things down on paper, it’s a little more work.  I’m a little more engaged.  I need to be more deliberate.  I’m more involved in the process.  Even my hand gets more wrapped up in the process.  My hand feels the words, as I write them down.

Hand-crafted words on paper engage us more deeply.

I use this to my advantage.  When I plan my week, I start by thinking of three wins for the week.  I’ll say them in my mind.  Then, I’ll say them out loud.  When they start to sound simple and sticky, I write them down.  I look at them on paper.  They start to sink in.

Etch Things in Your Mind

It’s a process.  The beauty of the process is that it’s writing things down on paper that seems to really etch things in my mind.  Later, in my mind’s eye, I can see the shape of my writing on the paper, and the keywords I wrote that remind me of my goals.

Even if I threw the paper away, the process of writing things down really helps to make things stick.

My hand remembers the motion of writing things down, and my mind recalls the thought process of transforming thought to paper.

Sure, I could cruise through this, but planning is exactly the right place to slow down, to speed up.

After all, if I’m going to spend my time on things this week, I really should take a step back and ask the simple question …

Will it be worth it? Or, better yet, are these the next best things to do?

Yellow Sticky Notes Stick to Your Mind

The power of paper gets better.   I can scratch and scribble as I choose.  I can scrumple it all up and throw it away.  In fact, I like to use yellow sticky notes here because I can arrange them as I see fit.  I can also set simple limits, such as “No more than 1 big idea per sticky note,” or, “No more than three actions per sticky note”, etc.

I especially enjoy the process when I plan my three wins each day.  whether I write three wins down on a single note, or if I write on win per note, it’s like holding a winning hand at my finger tips.

It’s my Ace up my sleeve.

Remind Yourself of What’s Important

No matter what comes at me throughout the day, I have my simple set of three wins that I hope to achieve.  They help me stay focused.  They help me prioritize.  They help remind me of what’s important, or at least what I thought was important before I got mired in the thick of things.

Most importantly, my three wins help me establish my own tests for success.

Think on Paper to Rise Above the Noise of the Day

Each day, I can use my three wins to drive forward and make progress, or to look back and remind myself what I achieved.   For example, yesterday, I created a vision scope deck, blazed a trail of research for a tough technical topic, and won a raving fan by helping them over a significant hump.

Is that all I did yesterday?

Not even close.

Yesterday was a day of madness and mayhem, but my three wins helped me rise above the noise, create order out of chaos, and take the balcony view.

Best of all, I can still remember the feeling of writing my intended wins for the day, down on paper.

While I’m glad I have the option to type so freely, I’m also glad that I can put the power of handwritten notes and reminders on my side.

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Image by Caleb Roenigk.