headbee 16 days ago

I can attest to this and took all of my notes on paper in college. However, once I started a real job I realized that this strategy doesn't scale to all situations. In college, I needed to be able to recall all of the information I had ingested: it was low-write, high-read. In the workplace, there's much more information, but I'm unlikely to need most of it: it's high-write, low-read. I need to be able to reference the information, but not necessarily recall it. Taking paper notes became too much of a burden and I moved to a wiki of markdown notes.

  • dchuk 16 days ago

    I came to the same conclusion, however, here’s how I handle that:

    I carry around a folder with just a bunch of printer paper, and some index cards in it. I write my todo lists on an index card because it’s intentionally small so I can’t overload it, and it feels good to cross out the last thing and just throw it away.

    I take notes through the day on the printer paper, and then I review them frequently and type up what I want to preserve in Notion (recently switched from WorkFlowy, as much as I love outlines, I need free form writing options too).

    Anything I don’t type up, I just throw away.


    Super cheap

    Intentionally not opinionated, just pen and paper.

    If I need to think about a hard problem, I can lay out all of my notes on a flat surface. I think spatially, this is so valuable and not possible with notebooks or even software (miro kinda)

    I started this about a month ago and it’s going great so far. And this is coming from w notebook and note taking software snob.

    • CSSer 16 days ago

      Have you considered buying loose leaf notebook paper instead of printer paper? You get lines and I’d imagine it’s even cheaper.

      • dchuk 16 days ago

        I actually distinctly prefer not having lines on my paper, because my notes are typically big outlines and drawings and diagrams.

        I am planning on coming up with a few different paper templates that I can easily print when I need it (I have a cheap $100 brother laser b&w printer that works perfectly and cheaply for this purpose).

        • cratermoon 16 days ago

          How about dot grid paper?

          • walderf 16 days ago

            i use grid paper all the time for notes.

            i found a little orange notebook for sale at an obscure place many years ago. honestly, it's changed my life.

            well, at any rate, to make a short story long, since i like orange, have no concept of the value of a dollar, and, have every intention of perhaps someday using at least a few of the methodically-growing collection of various notepads i, for <insert totally legitimate and intentional reason here>, possess, i purchased this particular notepad.

            to paint a better picture of that day, which occurred oh so long ago, i will provide only the important, totally accurate and truthful details.

            the setting, if you will. mid-morning, early-fall. it's probably a Saturday. the temperature calls for a light-jacket as the over-cast sky emits it's mixture of sunshine amongst the calming grey-blue cover of moisture-laden clouds.

            walking toward an outdoor vendor's booth as the vendor stands proudly behind his u-shaped arrangement of cloth-covered display tables. these tables contain an assortment of hand-drawn bookmarks and sketches, along with, let's say, some reading materials, like magazines and a few books, both the hard-backed and paper-backed variety. also present are different combinations of bound-together materials, which are probably notebooks or notepads. each one has a different size, shape, thickness, and design.

            perusing through places like this, a crucial, well-practiced defense strategy is used.

            keeping an over-all casual demeanor and adhering to a strict no-eye-contact rule, this unknown vendor's booth is approached while a series of covert glances toward the wares on display are quickly performed. initially, a not-my-tempo or no-way-jose kind of vibe was formed. in order to bide some time, most likely, a few easy-to-decipher, interest-grabbing ganders towards a direction away from this particular merchant occurred.

            a decision still not made, the tried-and-true apathetic nod-of-head, where two-to-three down-up movements as you plan to callously stroll past this offending concessionaire, was kept in mind and ready to be performed.

            however, between a fanned-out stack of various flower-print 9x11's and a neatly organized array of light to dark shaded faux-leather bound 5x8.5s, basically hiding in plain sight, an innocuous orange item is spotted. a feeling arises. it's obviously camouflaged, no doubt, at least to any passer by lacking dignity, style, or taste.

            getting closer, the item comes into clear view. with a palette of orange, white, and brown, it forms a perfect rectangle, concisely contained within it's own precision cut, sharp, rigid edges.

            it's immediately obvious that this pad's particular conglomeration of bound materials was, in fact, nothing of the ordinary variety.

            picking up the item, an aptly heft weight matches it's precedent set by observing the sturdy outer covering.

            flipping it over, a sense of superior craftsmanship is given off. flipping back over to open the front cover, a set of accurately aligned factory-creases are noticed. opening the pad, the ability to fold it's front cover backwards over it's self is realized. gripping the pad, the cover stays out of the way, neatly positioned behind the pad's heftier, solid cardboard, backside.

            it's clear that writing and/or carrying while open is made comfortable and easy.

            noticing the thick, special paper inside the pad, you get goosebumps.

            the vendor then states that it's imported from France.

            money is thrown at the vendor and the notepad, in all it's glory, has a new owner, as immediately, there is love for what is formally known as the "Rhodia No 12 Pad".

            the vendor states he has more notepads with different styles and sizes. they all get purchased. they all get loved. over time, a special life-long bond with a brand is formed.

            the end.

            so, yeah, i mean, Rhodia pads are pretty cool. btw, i am just an idiot. i have no affiliation with Rhodia pads. i merely wanted to spread the word about a well-made "life-changing" product.

            oh. also. grid paper note pads kick ass. so does graph paper. i actually like graph paper better. don't tell my grid pads that, though.

            • cratermoon 15 days ago

              Rhodia notebooks are great. Also check out Rite in the Rain. As a lefty I don't care for spiral-bound anything, but I use a pocket-size Rite in the Rain in the gym to track my exercise goals & results.

        • CSSer 15 days ago

          Ah, I see. I love the template idea. I had to look this up just now, but do you mean copy paper? Apparently copy paper is typically a bit thinner and not as bright white. I think my problem may be that I was originally picturing high-end, color quality paper.

          I might try this out.

        • greyhair 14 days ago

          I like very lightly printed graph paper. Very pale blue at 5 lines per inch. I can ignore the lines for free hand, but they provide nice guidance for more structured drawings.

      • koolba 16 days ago

        Indeed. It’s pretty hard to be $.25 store brand spiral notepads for cost per page.

        • syntheweave 16 days ago

          Cheap filler note paper is a source of difficulty when writing(ball pens will skip, dark inks will bleed, scratchy pencils and nibs will tear). The index cards work, but I would also go for the slightly more expensive paper brands one can find on JetPens. If you're going for a stationary experience, investing a little more in it goes a long way.

          • Wistar 16 days ago

            I like use a 5.5 x 8.5 or 9 x 12 Strathmore 300 Sketch tablet for notes. They are sturdy and the paper is quite good. They are a pain if you want to scan/copy them as the paper is either smaller or larger than standard letter size.


            • Myrmornis 15 days ago

              Yes I also use sketch pads with no lines (The grey spiral-bound ones sold by WHSmith in the UK). I don't understand the attraction of lines given that software is hard to describe without diagrams.

        • liketochill 16 days ago

          And longevity. I have my note books from 20 years ago on the same shelf as my notebooks from last year. Apart from pictures (I had a digital camera in the mid nineties) The number of files that have survived the transition between a dozen computers is not that high.

    • hanoz 16 days ago

      What sort of folder do you use? Is it something you can lean on when writing?

      • dchuk 16 days ago

        That's actually the only real downside to this system currently, I'm just using a cheap flimsy folder that can't really be used to write on without being on a surface itself. I'd like something a bit more firm, but that isn't big and bulky. Still on the hunt.

  • vasco 16 days ago

    I still do it and it has worked for me from being an individual contributor, to leading a team, to leading a part of the org that has a tree of ~50 people across multiple contexts.

    The way I see it, if you know the best way to retain information, why would you stop using it. I note down almost everything during meetings, 1-1s, agile rituals, etc. Very rarely I move things to a computer, most things I just need to write down even if I never read them again, others I re-read, others are to-dos. No organization, just a flow of braindump, and lots of little drawings everywhere and arrows connecting things and so on. If you'd read it you'd not understand anything, both because the handwriting is atrocious and because there's practically no structure.

    • smeej 16 days ago

      > if you know the best way to retain information, why would you stop using it.

      Because I can type something like 10x as fast as I can write by hand (I'm both extremely fast at typing and fairly slow at writing), but the recall benefit is not 10x.

      I can recall anything I hear or see well enough that I'm not looking at double-digit multiples of effectiveness for any method over nothing, much less between methods.

      The sheer volume of things I can take down typing with 9 fingers on a keyboard vs. writing with one pen outweighs any day-to-day advantage of how much better I would be able to recall the few things I would have the time to write down.

    • sevensor 16 days ago

      Likewise. Same reasons, same process, and I've found it just as helpful in middle management as I did when I was an individual contributor.

      There's an additional benefit. This is the reason I started doing it in the first place: many years ago, as a junior engineer, I was obliged to spend long hours in daily meetings. I found that the only way I could avoid actually falling asleep was to take detailed, copious notes. It was only afterwards that I discovered I was retaining information better and forming a big-picture view of the work. Also, what took me another decade to discover, is that nice stationery -- which for me means a fountain pen and a good notebook -- can make this a positive pleasure.

    • randomdata 16 days ago

      > if you know the best way to retain information, why would you stop using it.

      I wonder that myself. Earlier in my career, when the internet wasn't so great, we had to rely on textual communication for everything. This left the ideal 'paper' trail to look back on for reference. Everything well communicated, everything perfectly retained. It was unbelievably efficient.

      Now that the technology has improved, easily transmitting voice and even video, there is a curious push in that direction. Communication quality has declined dramatically as you now have to suffer through a bumbling stream of consciousness instead of words someone put effort into writing, which adds significantly more human time involvement to get a point across, and once spoken the information is automatically lost save even more human best effort to retain what can and never perfectly so.

      I likely shiny newfangled tech as much as the next guy, but there's a time and a place. Why we stopped using what worked best boggles the mind.

  • mywacaday 16 days ago

    Thats a great way to put it, "high-write, low-read". I take a lot of notes and screenshots on calls, I may never need to go back and look but when I do look its always there. I use Onenote and the search is excellent in conjunction to the structure and tags I have build up around it. What works great is I have setup autohotkey to take a screenshot in the same area as the previous screenshot and insert it on my onenote page in context by hitting the F12 key. For me being visual with my notes is better than writing them.

    • pbhjpbhj 16 days ago

      As a more vanilla alternative...

      Ctrl+win+s screenshots to clipboard in Win10. Ctrl+shift+z screenshots to OneNote (though an update overwrote it at one point, not sure if it's fixed in general).

      You can use OneNote settings to determine how that capture is used, eg placing in the current page (I have it set to make a new page, but I almost exclusively capture to clipboard).

  • hdjjhhvvhga 16 days ago

    It's come to the point almost the opposite is the case: I actively try not to remember most information but try to make sure it's registered somewhere as plain text so that I can find it easily should I need it. People are surprised I can answer them so quickly when they ask about some trifle from last year - but it's only because I managed to register it (e.g. by refusing to proceed on the basis of an oral request and asking them to write an email instead).

    Moreover, I choose what to remember very carefully as it's something that also influences my personality.

    • ycombinator_acc 15 days ago

      How does what you remember influence your personality?

  • jimmaswell 16 days ago

    Notes were a kind of write only memory for me - I rarely referred to them, preferring the textbook or other resources, but I still wrote them because it's supposed to help retention.

    • 998244353 16 days ago

      I'm the same way. I discovered that taking notes was a fairly effective way to make sure I actually thoroughly read the material and that I don't just lapse into skimming the book. Not sure how important doing them in handwriting was, but it felt more useful.

  • CrypticShift 16 days ago

    Yes! these read/write, and reference/recall ratios are good measures of how we should do things. the article case is only valid for a certain range.

    Maybe, for you, a system like mem.ai [1] is another step forward beyond the burdens of markdown wiki (for certain high-write/low-read use cases at least)

    1- You "write" new information without each time asking yourself: where to put a new page in the hierarchy? what to name it? maybe I should include this into an existing page? which one? No. You just write "memos" (and maybe tag them).

    2- Then, you are able to "reference" them without even recalling the exact keyword you used: You just ask a natural language question.

    [1] https://get.mem.ai/mem-x

  • greyhair 14 days ago

    I found just the opposite in college. For me it was high write, low read, concerning my own notes. The only value to taking notes for me was the active nature of writing helped pin the information in my head. Other than assignment and test dates, which were just bullet lists, I rarely looked back at my notes.

    I think that was the sole value of doing homework assignments and term papers. Going through the act of working out a problem, or researching then writing about a topic, is what reinforced the learning for me.

  • emodendroket 16 days ago

    I keep a text document for things like code snippets but I still find paper notes helpful when I have meetings or just to keep track of what I’m trying to do as I work.

  • _-_-__-_-_- 16 days ago

    What are you using the host your wiki and write markdown? I'm looking at self-hosting a similar system.

    • CodeIsMyFetish 16 days ago

      Not OP, but I use an app called Obsidian for this. It's my favorite way to take notes and make connections between topics.

      • psychomugs 16 days ago

        I also use Obsidian, and paired with a handwriting keyboard for Apple Pencil support (e.g. mazec; Apple's built-in scribble feature is too finnicky), it's been my Goldilocks note-taking method for the past few months.

    • headbee 16 days ago

      I don't host it, per-se: I use VimWiki, and occasionally Obsidian for the pretty graph. VimWiki even has a static site generator, but I use Pandoc for that. For search I use FZF and ripgrep.

    • inferense 16 days ago

      not OP (and biased) but I'm building https://acreom.com to do this and to support my own dev workflow. Made it into a product after realising other devs like it too.

  • ryyr 16 days ago

    very true, in my experience it's been hard to keep up by hand and much faster to type, but like handwritten notes i rarely reference meeting or project notes so i put little effort into organization. i settled on using onenote and different tabs for different teams

  • qwertox 16 days ago

    I used Confluence which is excellent for inputting data, but the search functionality is abysmal.

    • Tomte 15 days ago

      It has search functionality?

      At work we have a search field, sure, but I've never encountered a successful search in our Confluence. It's all browser bookmarks and "can someone tell me where x is?" in Teams channels.

      Our Confluence guru still swears to God that Confluence used to have search problems, but now it's perfect. Fortunately, Atlassian has made us move with their stupid "you can't host on premises, would you like to pay tenfold" move.

      Jokes on us, we're moving to Sharepoint…

  • iquerno 16 days ago

    a notebook is a great column oriented database for when you cannot bring technology with you. I don't think there is any useful scenario for one otherwise

  • ihaveabeardnow 16 days ago

    this. I write when I'm reviewing training material from a paid course and going to be testing for a cert, but I rarely write as part of my day-to-day work.

chefandy 16 days ago

If you're in charge of other people, it's worth noting that some very common cognitive problems like ADHD, Dysgraphia, and Dyslexia negate these benefits in some affected people. The cognitive load of making legible marks can become high enough to become the focus, rather than the actual content. Pressuring someone already struggling with working memory to do things like this, is counterproductive, if not demoralizing. Work style advice is great, but make sure you listen if they say it doesn't work for them rather than getting into the "it worked for me so you must be doing it wrong" mindset.

  • tiagod 16 days ago

    I have ADHD, which affects my short-term memory a lot, and my most valuable tool while working is a notebook and a pencil. I rarely look at the previous pages, and they invariably end full of scribbles, but it helps me a lot to keep my current goals in the current page and looking at it while thinking. Once it gets too messy I turn to the next blank page and copy whatever part of the text/diagrams that's still relevant.

    • knaik94 16 days ago

      I struggle similarly with ADHD but found that I prefer typing over writing. The valuable part of note taking is having somewhere external to use as an extra memory cache. With diagrams, I realized that using a digital tool made it easier for me to physically reorganize what I wrote down. I used pencil and paper in the past but my handwriting and organization were so messy that I never felt like revisiting it to extract information.

    • chefandy 16 days ago

      Yeah, I know a lot of other folks with ADHD who get a ton of use out of a bullet journal or something similar. The variance is not at all surprising considering that even the two primary symptoms, inattention and impulsivity, often aren't both present. These things aren't cut-and-dried, but these sorts of cognitive problems often impact writing: sometimes enough to make basic mark making a real chore.

  • chrischen 16 days ago

    Interesting I was diagnosed with ADHD and always felt the teacher was stupid for making us hand write because I spent more time focusing on the writing than remembering what I had written down (and I thought this was likely the case for most people)… but never knew these two things could be related.

    • quacked 14 days ago

      I had the same problem, and unfortunately continued taking handwritten notes well into college, despite the fact that I literally never referenced my notes. I never knew what the point was, only that if I didn't take notes I'd be "breaking the unwritten rule".

      The only point of creating any sort of reference material is to increase the likelihood that you'll be able to recall the information later. Handwritten notes are one of the many possible ways to do this. I find that re-designing an abbreviated textbook and splitting all information into tables is the only way that I can reliably learn, but I didn't think of that in school and thus struggled some with grades.

    • EntropyIsAHoax 16 days ago

      As a fellow ADHD-er, the way I handled this as a student was to customize my note-taking system. My whole life people had told me how to take notes in an extremely structured way, and insisted they must be detailed. That required so much focus like you that I couldn't learn. So when I was allowed to stop taking notes, I did, and my grades slightly improved.

      Then in university it was too much information to not take notes, and I started on my own again, in my own way. Most importantly there was almost no structure, and very little detail. Never take notes in full sentences, just keywords that are semi-digestable to you, and in math there were lots of equations and diagrams. Secondly I got a tablet with a pressure sensitive pen. This allowed me to still take hand "written" notes that looked and felt like my real handwriting, but I didn't have to deal with trying to organize my notes in real space, which inevitably would end up crushed at the bottom of my backpack or strewn around my room; digital notes are self-organizing.

      • chefandy 12 days ago

        Sounds like you were primarily having trouble balancing focus with the content side of making notes. With many people, the challenge is actual mark making. We need to intellectualize writing words the way I've heard some people with autism need to intellectualize ingesting and responding to social queues. That muscle memory just doesn't connect the way it does for most people... it's like I'm using the mental process for drawing and don't have some parallel, more automatic mental process for writing. For me, typing is an instant cure for that.

  • brailsafe 16 days ago

    I don't think you can lump those 3 together like that, though you did qualify it. I don't know anything about dysgraphia, but dyslexia is probably the standout thing in that list that make writing very stressful.

    With ADHD, I've always struggled with consistency and memory, and what's been helping for a few months is to start my day by writing it out in detail, so I'm forced to work out the kinks.

    • chefandy 16 days ago

      I wasn't qualifying categorizing these things, I just gave a list of things that can cause difficulty writing among some who have them. Dysgraphia is a writing-specific neurological disorder.

      • brailsafe 16 days ago

        I meant that you qualified it with "some" which is probably true, but I guess on the ADHD side, there are so many other management issues that would supercede this and be much more impactful. For example, my formerly laidback team lead used to give me the agency to get my work done without much oversight, but now they feel like checking in frequently to get "updates" is a good idea. It's provoking me to procrastinate and avoid being near my keyboard, and will probably push me to look for a new job.

        • chefandy 16 days ago

          Sure, there are. Using written notes is the topic of the article, though, so that's what I was commenting on.

vogt 16 days ago

I'd be curious if anyone had good advice on how to improve your handwriting ability well into adulthood (I'm 35). My penmanship was so bad in grade school that I attended special education classes to improve it, but it still was and remains horrible. This is a source of insecurity for me and since I've always been glued to a keyboard it has been easy to handwave away as "screw this, the world is all typing-based anyhow".

But I have seen evidence before that handwriting notes leads to improved retention, and seeing it here now, I'm wondering if there's a framework or resource that can help me feel a little bit more confident in my ability to, you know...write words with pen and paper. It's embarrassing even talking about it, honestly.

  • wanderingstan 16 days ago

    A helpful search keyword would be handwriting repair.

    There are a lot of videos and pdfs on the subject.

    That said, I find all of them wanting and have thought of making my own course/book someday. Bottom line is learn a good alphabet, then practice it whenever you can until it becomes automatic like playing with a fidget spinner.

    Self plug: I hit Reddit’s front page with some of my work practice alphabets. https://old.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/969vta/i_practice_alp...

  • aussiesnack 16 days ago

    I've returned to writing by hand increasingly over the last couple of years, after a couple of decades of rarely holding a pen. To start with, my handwriting was barely legible, and my hand painful after a couple of sentences. Now I write comfortably and legibly. My advice would be:

    - as several others have written, slow down. This is by far the most important to start with. If you really needed to record something quickly, you wouldn't be handwriting. So accept it's going to be slow.

    - consciously relax your writing hand and arm, where by consciously I mean quite literally reminding yourself, and tensing/relaxing the hand and arm to cement the physical sense of what the relaxed limb feels like. This helps with the cramping/pain

    - if legibility matters for your purposes, find the letter forms you write most poorly. Read some of your handwriting, find the words you stumble over, and identify the letters causing this. Show someone your writing and ask them if you're not sure (for me it was 'o' and 'e' - in both cases I wasn't keeping the loop open). Now find a new more legible form for these letters, and use the new form as often as you can remember. In my case I reversed the loop direction I had learned for the 'o' (the physical difference concentrated my mind on keeping it open).

  • bbx 16 days ago

    Have you tried the D'Nealian Pencil Grasp? It might not improve your handwriting but it’s way more comfortable because you apply virtually no tension on your fingers: https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/pencil-held-betwe...

    • MivLives 16 days ago

      Can confirm this improved my handwriting. It also made it not degrade over time as my hand got more tired and lazy from using the pen.

      That said pen width is important. My hand writing tends to be more legible with ultrafine tips

  • DiggyJohnson 16 days ago

    What I did - and I'm handwriting the manuscript/first rough draft of a non-technical book - is the slow down to whatever speed allowed me to form letters consistently and neatly.

    I found this to be massively effective, and I recovered my cursive script that I hadn't really used since I was 12, and am now up to "full speed" again. Like anything really, slow deliberate practice is pretty much the only, best tool you've got.

  • gofreddygo 16 days ago

    "good" handwriting ranges from readable on one end to "is this printed?" on the other.

    To me handwriting that looks good has the strokes parallel, spaced equally and almost all circles and curves identical.

    Start slow on day 1. Repeat the same stuff on day 2 and 3. Try speeding up a bit on day 4. Then slow down again on day 5. Take a day's break and try again on day 6.

    Any human skill I have acquired in my 30s has this pattern. Repeat the same thing, slow at first, speed up till you are barely comfortable without compromising on errors.

    Once you hit a plateau, only then introduce more samples and more complexity. The simple stuff the brain encodes has non-linear effects on learning.

    In this case, you'd have nothing incredible in week 1. The effects show in week 3-4 onwards.

    Same applies here.

  • naet 16 days ago

    I don't have a resource but I'd recommend slowing down your writing speed, doing some practice, and possibly experimenting with other writing styles. Writing is like other physical skills, you need to get your practice and reps in to build your muscle memory.

    My writing is pretty illegible when I write quickly, but when I slow down and use capital style block letters my notes are a lot easier to read back later.

    As a side note, sometimes it doesn't matter if the notes are illegible later. Just the very act of trying to write it helps with the later retention as you are more deeply engaging with your brain and muscle combination. In school I often took written notes that never got looked at again, but just having taken the notes helped a lot.

  • AcedCapes 16 days ago

    I used to have pretty poor handwriting as well. It didn't help growing up in school when learning to write they would just have me trace letters, and never taught what actually makes handwriting legible. A few years back I started practicing calligraphy for fun and it helped out quite a bit. The basics that translate to everyday handwriting are:

    1.Use your big muscles to write.(Move your shoulder/elbow, while keeping your wrist and fingers relatively stable.)

    2.Make sure vertical lines are all on the same angle. Vertical parts of "l's","h's","T's" etc...

    3.The round parts of letters are the same shape (For example the rounded parts of "o's","e's", and "c's" are all the same)

  • throwaway22032 16 days ago

    I'd suggest basically just starting again.

    I learned some alternate alphabets (non-Latin) and I used to just pin up a reference behind my desk.

    I then went back and did the same for cursive English. I still have to look at it every now and then, but I don't see that as being an issue.

  • v-erne 16 days ago

    As otheres have said - just sit down and write. But sometimes if you do not feel like writing - try to do at least some light drawing exercises (like drawing small straight line thousend times over, or small circles or other geometrical shapes). I used to do this because I wanted to draw better but in the meantime my handwriting got legible by accident.

    It appears that in reality writing is nothing more than drawing and same rules apply. The secret is hand-eye coordination (hence simple shapes), consistency (hence thousend times over and then thousend more) and the ability to observe subject (this is not so important at first with writing, but if you want to have really nice style, it can be useful).

  • captainkrtek 16 days ago

    I struggled with this as well in school. In elementary we were taught cursive, then in middle school switched curriculum to print, so I ended up with a weird messy print/cursive hybrid.

    I can thankfully write cursive, for my own notes, but it can be hard to read back for others.

    I had to make a conscious effort to write my print neatly, only tips I can give is having good reason to write, and using that to take your time and write slowly. Most of my sloppiness in writing came from being too quick and not caring enough. I take weekly classes for a second language, and use my homework as opportunities to write slowly and legibly. Best of luck!

  • admend 16 days ago

    Check out this concept called "Bullet Journaling" (lots of YouTube videos on it). That, with a dot grid notebook, could do wonders for keeping your notes organized.

    But for the writing itself, look into "calligraphy basics" - doesn't mean you have to write every letter in a fancy way, but the mere exercise of practicing it will at least build better habits for letter height (which makes everything more legible).

    Lastly, I recommend switching to a fountain pen (yes). I don't know what it is - but I just care a bit more when writing with one. There are cheap ones (Pilot Kakuno Fine), no need to get fancy.

  • retrac 16 days ago

    Unconventional: switch hands for a bit. Most people can write legibly with their non-dominant hand with a bit of practice. After a few days of tears of frustration doing this, take what you've learned about how the pen flows over the page and apply it to your dominant hand. Everything about how a letter is formed is excruciatingly obvious when you are fighting your hand to move in the way you want it, rather than automatically as has been ingrained in your dominant hand.

  • rramadass 16 days ago

    There are plenty of resources on Youtube on how to better your Handwriting: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=handwriting+adu...

    But i would say don't worry about it as long as you can read what you have written down. Notes are for personal use only. For example, my handwriting is atrocious and most other people can't read it but that is fine by me.

  • Broken_Hippo 16 days ago

    Honestly, handwriting is mostly just practice, kind of like art. The exceptions are generally medical sorts of things (including stuff like dyslexia).

    In that vein: Have you tried learning calligraphy? If you use the more traditional nib shapes (even if using a fountain pen), you'll likely form letters in a different manner than with a ball point pen. You can move from more traditional stuff to things that look like print or cursive that you like. And then it is just practice.

  • _wolfie_ 16 days ago

    I guess that depends on what your goal with hand writing is. My handwriting is horrible too (no idea if to your degree), it's basically my personal cipher by now. My wife can read it, sometimes. But that's basically it. And my attitude is "so what, I write those notes for myself and I can read them just fine". No idea if this helps.

  • amberglow 16 days ago

    Improve is vague. You probably want to change the style, so that it's more readable. For that you need to find a style you like(reddit's probably full of good ones). And practice copying it. Slow and careful at first. This is how I changed mine in school, when I decided certain letters should look differently.

  • Zircom 16 days ago

    Just buy some handwriting workbooks and complete them. And then keep practicing, a lot. It might be slow going for a bit, you're trying to change something you've been doing for over 20 years now the same way, it'll take time.

  • awd 16 days ago

    Is your spelling also bad? Do you have trouble reading even short strings of digits like 2223232? Do you have trouble reading?

    You may have some (mild) form of dyslexia. You triggered me with your remedial classes to improve it, but no improvement.

  • pkrotich 16 days ago

    I can relate - I struggle spelling words on paper, but not on the keyboard! So I rarely write handwriten notes to avoid looking stupid!

  • fedeb95 16 days ago

    Just write. No one is going to judge you for your notes. After a lot of pages you get better. Also reading helps

  • dchuk 16 days ago

    Use a fine tip pin (no bigger than 0.38mm), and write slower

moth-fuzz 16 days ago

I'm going to challenge the question - if I've got something written down, why would I need to memorize it? Maybe in school where closed-notes tests are a thing, sure, but nowhere in the 'real-world' tests one's ability to memorize in the strict sense. I write things down for a reason and that reason is not just accessory to memorizing it. I put things on paper precisely so I don't have to put them in my brain. To keep them in both places would be redundant.

On that note, I have ADHD, and very little 'brain-RAM', and really lack the ability to memorize things or recall what I've memorized. The only consistent way I've found to 'memorize' things is to deep-learn them, to the point where I can infer all the answers from prior knowledge, and draw new conclusions from existing conclusions, pretty much all the way down. I can't just brute-force-memorize the conclusions themselves. Every step inbetween has to make sense. It's like memorizing the square series as individual numbers, 1, 4, 9, 16, etc. (something I cannot do) vs memorizing the formula x^2 and being able to calculate the resulting numbers when needed (something I can do).

  • beezlebroxxxxxx 16 days ago

    > I put things on paper precisely so I don't have to put them in my brain. To keep them in both places would be redundant.

    I think that makes sense if your only goal is to reference the information, like looking up information in a personal library. But I like to write by hand so I can record my understanding of the information, my putting the information in context in my own words. Sometimes I'll never refer to the written thing again. The writing is part of the leading to understanding by way of reformulating the information into my own words --- situating it in a context that makes sense for me. Writing by hand feels more connected to the development of my understanding. Typing never really gets to that point for me.

    But I think it's also very subject oriented. Writing in a technical context requires handling information in a different way than if it's in a more analytical or critical/expository context.

    • rramadass 16 days ago

      >The writing is part of the leading to understanding by way of reformulating the information into my own words --- situating it in a context that makes sense for me

      This is the essence of why it is important to learn to Write/Diagram by hand. It helps in the memorization and understanding of data within my personal framework.

  • karmakaze 16 days ago

    My andecdata-points are (1) As soon as I make a shopping or to do list, I promptly forget the items on the list as that responsibility has been delegated to the piece of paper which I can rarely later find, and (2) I never took notes in class and instead payed good attention in (most) of my classes connecting the dots so that they fit and made sense to me in some way rather than rote memorization. I was usually slower at solving problems as I would often start closer to first principles but was usually able to get to the answer soon enough. Some classes didn't lend themselves to this form of learning requiring memorization of tricks or unexplained long formulas to get answers fast enough or at all--I didn't like those ones.

    Where I find this method problematic is professionally: documentation scales well and I don't know if/where there's a limit to when it stops paying off.

  • moffkalast 16 days ago

    Before the internet was a thing the only two ways to get information were by remembering it (or remembering by proxy by asking somebody else) or checking a book. Since it was still impossible to lug around an entire library, schooling gave a large emphasis on memorization.

    These days at least some university tier education has adapted to the model of just acquainting people with a concept quickly to the point where they can search for it when they need it. Most of the educational system still needs to catch up though.

  • zulban 14 days ago

    > if I've got something written down, why would I need to memorize it?

    The extreme example is this: would you rather see a doctor, or see someone capable of doing med school?

    Externalizing memory has greatly expanded what we can "remember", but access is very slow compared to the jello in our skull. Plus, it won't be incorporated into your deeper thoughts. Don't externalize memory which shapes your thinking to be better.

  • jononomo 15 days ago

    The speed of recalling information from your brain vs looking it up is the important thing. Suppose it takes you 1/100th of a second to remember some formula or protocol but it would take you 10 minutes to look it up. Now suppose you are faced with several dozen such situations each day.

ekTHEN 16 days ago

I made the observation that hand-writing extremely helps me to solve problems (especially programming and math related). In some way it removes mental barriers / distractions I have when using digital tools (how do i want to organise this? can i link something here?). I can just dump every thought on paper and work way more creatively. In most cases the notes are dumped in the bin afterwards (one couln't uderstand them when reading them without context).

In meetings I also really enjoy to outline some points / a little agenda for myself. This way i don't forget to address "my" topics or can wait for a better moment.

In a way pen and paper are a tool for me to organize my thoughts in a more structured way. And it seems to be more socially accepted to take hand-written notes while talking to someone rather than typing away on a notebook.

  • gorgoiler 16 days ago

    I have no scientific reasoning for this, but perhaps something is triggered inside ourselves when we look down at our hands?

    Coding on a screen is different. The code is highlighted, annotated and executed and the screen is part of the tool.

    With writing, it’s just me and the notepad. Is it different, I wonder, and also would I code better (or just differently) if I wrote on a tablet with an electronic pen?

    • Jorengarenar 16 days ago

      > I have no scientific reasoning for this, but perhaps something is triggered inside ourselves when we look down at our hands?

      Like school trauma?

  • obscurette 16 days ago

    I have the same experience. You don't have to have any diagnose (ADHD etc) to struggle with cognitive load. Every little thing you can eliminate from process, actually helps.

ianbutler 16 days ago

I wonder if we've done comparative work between paper writing and writing in something like Obsidian for not retaining the full work but effective downstream use?

What I mean:

When I write something I remember all of it, ironclad, written on my soul levels of remembrance. When I type something, I don't get that, but I get something akin to a pointer. I don't remember the content but I know it's stored in Obsidian/Docs and I can just go look it up.

What's more effective for day to day life? I don't know. I imagine people have a larger bandwidth for the latter, but is it better to keep all the details on hand, in buffer?

Who knows? But I'd like to see some work done on it to compare.

  • spidersouris 16 days ago

    Agreed. I take notes for my university classes either by using my tablet to type in a markdown file (the content of which I then transfer to Obsidian) or by writing by hand in a small notebook (and then adding the most important things to Obsidian). In both cases, what comes to my memory when thinking about my note-taking is how it's organized in Obsidian and in what part of my file.

    One of the biggest advantages of taking notes digitally (or, at least, transforming hand-written content into digital content), which the article fails to mention, is the fact that you can easily CTRL+F to find the information you are looking for. This has helped me so many times during my studies. This is impossible to do with hand-written notes.

    To add to what you said regarding a comparative work between paper writing and digital writing, I'd also like to see other ways of remembering content being taken into account. Writing by hand may "still [be] the best way to retain information", but the article seems to miss that writing is only one way of remembering things.

    Let's say person A is taking notes by hand and doing nothing else, and person B is taking notes digitally and then using spaced repetition to remember what they have written. We can easily say that person B will retain much more information than person A. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if they both used spaced repetition. I doubt there would be much difference in the end. What matters is the way information is encoded in one's long-term memory, not the way is it collected.

    • melagonster 16 days ago

      The interesting part is, should we combine notes and SBS? in my condition, I write note for fetch information in future, redo this part again to add them into my Anki become a repetitive work.

      how can you organise both side together?

      • spidersouris 15 days ago

        This is strictly specific to my workflow, but:

        - My notes contain all the knowledge I have accumulated.

        - I extract new knowledge that is worth being remembered from my notes into my SR system so as to add it to my long-term memory (there is some knowledge that is good keeping in a file but that doesn't necessarily need to be learnt by heart).

        - After a few months, I remove that knowledge from my SR system because I consider it has been imprinted into my memory.

        I must say that the last step is necessary in my case, because otherwise I would have too many recalls to deal with each day and that would ruin all the fun.

        If, after having removed the knowledge from my SR system, I still remember it, good! Otherwise, I consider that, if I wasn't able to retain it, it means it has no use in my immediate environment and/or in my daily/weekly tasks.

        So, to summarize quickly: SR is awesome, but in my workflow, not everything needs to be memorized, hence my using SR + notes.

        • melagonster 15 days ago

          wow, thank you for your so detailed reply! extracting needed knowledge sounds very useful.

  • ycombinator_acc 15 days ago

    IIRC doing just the latter messes up your brain. If you're interested in retaining your cognitive function long-term and avoiding early onset dementia, maybe do both. Write things down when you hear them, then copy the important bits over to Obsidian at the end of the day.

noNothing 16 days ago

FOr me, if I write it down I will remember it and do not need to refer to my notes. But if I don't write it down I am likely to forget. So I did some testing and found that it isn't only the act of writing that helps me, it is quickly looking at what I have written. I think, for me, writing in my own words, and then reinforcing by going over what I have written, is the secret to remembering things.

As far as handwriting versus keyboarding, I find them to be equal in my case.

  • sethammons 16 days ago

    I'm in the same boat. In university, folks would ask how much I study to get good grades (20 years ago). I would write my notes and review them once or twice. When looking at the written word, I recall where I was sitting, what was going on in the environment, and often a lot (a lot a lot) of context that I would have otherwise forgotten had I not reviewed the note once or twice.

    However, for myself, the keyboard creates some disconnect when reviewing notes. It's got to be hand written and, like mentioned, I usually only need to review it once or twice over the span of a week or two and then I'll retain the info. Lots of scaffolded and reinforced-by-association information.

    • pbhjpbhj 16 days ago

      I'd hypothesise that typing would be as useful for recall if it stayed out of the way as handwriting does (for most people)?

  • klabb3 16 days ago

    > But if I don't write it down I am likely to forget.

    Anecdotally, I have probably 4-5 full note books of scribbles and sketches as part of my project. It's not meant to look good or be finished thoughts, and I rarely look at old notes. So for me, the primary purpose is enriching the thinking process, so it's closer to the next step – prototyping. This lets me weed out flawed ideas earlier, so when I actually build something, I have higher confidence it'll work well.

  • abruzzi 16 days ago

    I'm actually the opposite, I discovered very early in my college experience that taking notes just hindered my ability to retain the information (I guess because the process of writing and structuring my writing took attention away from listening.) So my undergraduate and masters was all done without notes at all.

crazygringo 16 days ago

I just want to add a gigantic caveat: NOT FOR EVERYBODY.

I know a lot of people who insist writing by hand helps them. But I also know it's TERRIBLE for me personally.

The article claims:

> Writing by hand on paper creates a tactile, personalized experience... The complex experience of hand writing on paper contains a multitude of variable elements: the creativity of an individual’s written representation of language, the texture of the paper itself, the fine motor skills needed to translate thoughts into written language, the engagement of the physical senses... All of these complexities create a stronger memory of the information that is taken in during the note taking.

Well, no. For me, all of that is a bunch of irrelevant noise. I hate writing, it's so much slower and more awkward than typing (for me), I'm constantly concerning myself with whether I can keep up, whether I should start the next word on the same line or next line, whether it's clear enough for me to read later or if I should repeat the word, whether I need to slow down to be more legible but if that means I won't be able to keep up, whether I need to click the pencil again...

Writing requires me to use a significant amount of my brain for it, and this is taking away from my actual concentration on the content I'm trying to learn. It's not creating "stronger memories" for me, it's creating irrelevant distraction. (Whereas typing for me is effortless muscle memory that takes almost zero effort, so I can direct most of my concentration to the material itself.)

Again, I don't question that it helps some people. But presenting it as universal is just flat-out wrong.

  • emodendroket 16 days ago

    I think the slower, deliberate nature is the point here. The article does at least attempt to cite some research rather than just relying on anecdote.

    • thethirdone 16 days ago

      The research cited does not make any statements about improved recall of facts based on note taking (handwritten vs typed). I have found EEG studies [0] that do not actually measure a learning outcome, studies on letter recognition [1], and calendar apps vs physical calendar [2].

      Citing studies which do not prove the thesis is actually worse than citing nothing at all. The fact that there is not a cited study showing clear memorization outcomes of typing vs handwriting, I would actually conclude the opposite of what the article is trying to say.

      More generally I think the idea that "The article does at least attempt to cite some research" is very problematic if the cited papers don't actually show what the article is stating.

      [0]: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.0181...

      [1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S22119...

      [2]: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210319080820.h...

    • Bilal_io 16 days ago

      As a person with ADHD, that slower, deliberate nature goes against everything my brain wants. Even when learning from video, certain speakers seem too slow, and my brain prefers speedy information intake otherwise it wanders off to another universe.

      I think my brain has a pretty wide bus, but no guarantees it has the next gen processor, and definitely no ECC memory, information gets corrupted and lost all the time. That's ADHD.

      • hnbad 16 days ago

        On a related note: many autistic people suffer from forms of dyspraxia that make writing by hand physically unpleasant in addition to the ouput being hard to read.

        Personally I like using pen and paper for dumb sketching because it helps me persist mental models in case I get distracted. But I find it really tedious for anything that requires any serious amount of information density or permanence. I've always avoided taking notes in classes because writing by hand felt tedious and slow, and typing created too many distractions if it was socially acceptable (or even allowed) at all.

        I still flinch whenever someone asks me to take notes because even the process of transforming live conversations into serial form requires so much processing I can't fully pay attention to what's actually being said and risk losing track.

      • emodendroket 16 days ago

        I don’t have ADHD but I find writing is helpful to keep my mind from wandering as well.

  • upsidesinclude 16 days ago

    Perhaps an even bigger caveat is that you have prescribed this to note taking from a live discussion.

    That isn't what you've said, but you imply that repeatedly.

    And by the distinct set of circumstances (recording verbatim) in which writing is vastly inferior to typing, your position is noteworthy. I would argue that a microphone is even still vastly superior & can provide text output. However, whether or not you retain (this is about memory) all that information is another question all together.

    If you take your typed notes and then read through them while writing out key elements, you're retention and memory will likely be greatly improved.

    Aside, based on your complaints and the fact you said pencil, I'm guessing that your skill with a pen is poor. Writing in general takes practice to master, it is not simply literacy.

    Edit: >Although typing notes can be useful and even faster for some note-takers, ultimately it does not have the cognitive, tactile, memory, or visual cognitive effects that people can get when they write by hand. Typing notes can be good, but it won’t make it easier to remember what was said later on.

    Directly from the text.

    • rramadass 16 days ago

      Well said!

      The point of Writing is to engage the Intellect deliberately as an aid to understanding and memorization.

  • psychomugs 16 days ago

    Studies like this are never universal, nor do they claim to be. The only thing they can claim is statistical significance.

    • dpkirchner 16 days ago

      I wish this was more common knowledge. See also: hyperbole.

  • randomdata 16 days ago

    I was always told in school that I needed to take notes. So I did. And then I had no idea what was going on because all of my energy went into taking notes.

    Eventually I gave up. It's amazing how much you can learn when you simply listen. I wish I would have realized that sooner.

    • yAak 16 days ago

      Yeah, I guess this comes down to how your brain works best, because it's the complete opposite for me -- just listening would result in almost no understanding or retention.

      But, if I just took even crappy notes, I would remember and understand MUCH better. I rarely looked at the notes afterwards, just the act of writing it down was critical for me.


      Edit: sometimes, the topic wasn't a great fit for notes, so I would doodle instead. Same benefits. The brain is weird.

    • filchermcurr 16 days ago

      I find it odd that we were always encouraged to take notes, but never once taught how to do it. Most people tried to furiously write what was being said verbatim, which is definitely not ideal. A simple introduction to note taking would have helped so many people.

      More to your point, that's definitely a strategy that works for some people. When I had two weeks of jury duty, everybody was pretty consistently scribbling notes on the various complexities of the case except one woman, who was staring off into space and looked like she wasn't paying any attention. I figured she'd be a dud, but when it came to deliberations, she was probably the sharpest one in the room.

      You just have to find what works for you.

      • randomdata 16 days ago

        > I find it odd that we were always encouraged to take notes, but never once taught how to do it.

        Perhaps there were attempts to teach how to do it but it was lost amid all the note taking?

  • treeman79 16 days ago

    I actually lost the ability to write after a small stroke. Comes out as nonsense. Can still type at 80wpm just fine. Apparently different parts of the brain.

    • elliekelly 16 days ago

      How interesting! Have you done any experiments to try to identify the “line” between the two skills? For example, can you write individual letters in isolation? Like a single letter “T” by itself? And can you still draw shapes? (Like a circle? Which is basically an “O”.) If so can you draw a series of shapes? A circle, a square, and a triangle? Have you tried writing words with your non-dominant hand? It won’t look very nice but I wonder if the jumble impacts both sides or just the side that “knows” how to write?

      • treeman79 16 days ago

        I can write for about 10-30 seconds. Then characters turn to scribbles. If I’m insanely slow and careful I can last a minute or so. It has improved in the last few years.

        I was a minor artist before. I could still draw mostly fine even at my worst.

        Work stuff was weird. If A bug report came in I could find the root issue faster then most anyone. But I could no longer solve the problem. Even if was totally trivial.

        Got by mostly by helping other people find out what was wrong with code.

        Thankfully I’m getting close to my old ability to write code.

        Brains are weird

    • fuzzy2 16 days ago

      Wow that sounds awful. :-( How are your fine motor skills otherwise?

  • dunefox 16 days ago

    Just because you don't like does not mean the arguments don't hold. If you liked doing it it would help.

  • technovader 16 days ago

    This was my first thought as well.

    I know for me personally; I always absorb more information when I am just listening and not writing.

    When I'm writing whatever the teacher is saying, I can't understand it at the same speed. So I just write without actually comprehending the sentences.

    But my listening was always so good that I rarely took notes throughout all my school years. I would just stare at the teacher and listen without writing anything.

  • gyulai 16 days ago

    > For me, all of that is a bunch of irrelevant noise.

    I share that exact same experience you describe.

    For me, learning is all about making connections between the new material and material I already know.

    If I kept notes I would have to do three things at once: (1) Follow the material, (2) try to question the material and search my brain for material I already know to make connections with, and (3) take notes, and there's just not enough cognitive capacity to do all three.

    Taking notes means turning off the making-connections piece, and that's the most valuable piece to me, and I believe that this is not just a subjective experience, but something that would affect other people too: Focussing on note-taking instead of connections, creates a qualitatively different learning outcome, namely one that leans more towards superficial rote reproduction and less towards real understanding.

    In school, when the teacher said something that was unclear or that flat out made no sense, I'd frequently be the one to ask for clarification. Then 20 other heads would pop up from their note-taking and notice that they didn't understand it either, but somehow they didn't notice, and I did. ...they would have happily reproduced the material that made no sense given the right prompt in an exam situation, but that didn't change anything about the fact that they didn't understand it.

    What's more: I couldn't engage in that style of learning even if I wanted to. Like: If I tried to turn off the part of my brain that searches for meaning, e.g. when something simply has no meaning, like an exact date of an event in history that I need to know for an exam, then I still wouldn't remember the damned date, plus I wouldn't remember any of the broad themes either. The only thing that would happen would be that my brain would be bored and would wander off thinking about something else that's more interesting.

  • mmcdermott 16 days ago

    I can sympathize with this quite a bit. My own note-taking in college was pretty bad and at the time I would have cited speed as part of it.

    What I've learned since then is to introduce a buffer between the consumption of the material and the making of the note. Instead of trying to keep up, I'm trying to fill the buffer to the point where I can summarize and re-state the material in my own words and write that down.

    I slip into old habits sometimes, but for me the recap-then-write approach has been helpful and I suspect it's part of the value so many see to handwritten notes. You can't take a transcription (I could probably transcribe a lot of meetings or lectures on a keyboard) so you have to condense and the condensation, as much as anything, is probably what matters.

    • californical 16 days ago

      But the issue is when the explanation doesn’t stop. I was great at condensing in college, but while trying to formulate my own words, the prof was already explaining the next topic which I would then miss entirely. This was extra-apparent for formula-heavy courses.

      So I basically reverted to lossy transcription of what the professor said, which sucked. And I was bad at retaining lectures.

  • ghaff 16 days ago

    I end up changing things up a lot. It partly depends on my purpose for taking notes. If I want to capture more or less verbatim quotes for an article without going back to a recording, I generally type. It's also much easier to share notes in that form.

    But if I mostly want to capture highlights, especially if I'm also doing something like taking pics of slides, I generally prefer writing. There are also settings where having a laptop between yourself and the person you're speaking with feels off-putting whereas taking some handwritten notes seems fine.

  • cartoonfoxes 16 days ago

    I recently learned of Dysgraphia from an interview with Eric Weinstein. For some, writing notes on paper actively destroys recall. Western education pretty much forces students to take notes by hand, which is understandably a nightmare for those afflicted. I wish I could find the specific clip I'm thinking of. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysgraphia.

  • amerkhalid 16 days ago

    It maybe if you grew up writing with pencil or typing.

    For me writing is huge help in retaining information. I also know people who swear by typing but they all are younger who grew up with computers.

    Also the handwritten notes don’t need to write everything in alphabets. The biggest advantage of writing is freeform. I could draw a diagram or other doodles. My old notes of drawings of the classroom, random objects, etc. I think those doodles helped me retain some information.

  • linhns 16 days ago

    Same for me. People kept telling me to take notes when listening and when I tried it, I immediate lost track after jotting down just a few words.

  • hyperturtle 16 days ago

    I mostly agree, learning efficiency is not directly tied to the method, but how the brain processes it over time and may even require multiple methods to sufficiently learn something. I wouldn't be surprised if emotions or feeling frustrated while trying to learn hampers it as well.

  • thenerdhead 16 days ago

    Have you gave it an old college try though before giving up? Like two years before dismissing it?

  • newsclues 16 days ago

    If you need to memorize a phone number rather than learn a complex subject, do you feel the same way?

    Are your feelings backed by data?

    • phyphy 16 days ago

      This is why open book examinations are a thing. Memorization is rather redundant IMO. Being able to use the concepts to solve the problems is an important skill.

      • davisoneee 16 days ago

        You need to memorise enough of the topic to know what to look up in a book.

        You need to memorise enough of the topic that you can draw relationships between disparate elements.

        Having content in your memory means you have the ability to potentially pull it up quicker, or to pull it up in a situation (such as a team meeting) where you don't have access to the book.

        If you rely only on what's previously written, foregoing memorisation, you are limited to the relationships that other people have written down.

  • nvrspyx 16 days ago

    Agreed. IMO, the real crux is whether you have the inclination to write down what you're taking notes on verbatim. In fact, I think it comes down to one of the following:

    1. If you have an inclination to write things down verbatim, which tool/method is slow enough to force you to paraphrase?

    2. If you don't have such an inclination and already tend to paraphrase, which has the least cognitive load in using? Not which engages the most senses or motor skills.

    Once you develop a habit of putting what you're taking notes on into your own words, you can move from 1 to 2. However, I think most people have the inclination of 1 and tend to fall back to it when they move to 2.

    Because I'm one of those people, handwriting was the best method for me for a long time, until I started my master's program where all the professors have either put out a list of learning objectives at the beginning of the course or at beginning of each lecture/unit. Now, I type my notes. I form those learning objectives as questions and try to answer them as I take notes. Outside of classes, I list the objectives of the meeting/research as questions, adding new questions as they come up, and trying to answer them.

    This method has been more effective than anything else I've done and typing is really the only way to do it fast enough for me.

david422 16 days ago

I'm gonna take a guess here - writing by hand is slow enough that your brain has to summarize what is being verbally spoken in order to capture it all. In order to summarize accurately, you need to have some understanding of what is being said, being able to pick out the key points.

I write down all my notes - in fact, got a reMarkable to replace all my paper notebooks - but seems to be the best way for me to retain information. Even though I tend not to reference my notes later.

  • phyphy 16 days ago

    This might be a bit weird for me but I really hate context switching when I am trying to learn. Writing breaks the flow of what I am trying to concentrate on and I can no longer actually learn, and I would rather not do it unless I am forced to.

WalterBright 16 days ago

Yup. The way to attend a lecture is to leave your laptop behind. Take a cheap spiral notebook and a couple colored pens.

Take notes.

Once the notebook is filled (or the semester is over) scan the pages, toss the notebook, and buy a fresh one for the next semester.

It works, from much personal experience You're welcome!

1. yes, sometimes I fall behind the lecturer taking notes, which can be a bit frustrating

2. while the notes may not be complete, they trigger the context of the lecture which works

3. reading my notes from 40 years ago - they don't make much sense, as the context is forgotten

4. I wish I had made audio recordings of the lectures. But that was impractical, as I could not afford the cassette tapes required

  • chongli 16 days ago

    This only works with old-school professors who teach by writing on the blackboard. New-school professors like to bombard you with one-hour, 50-slide Powerpoint presentations where each slide has a full page of text in 12-point font, with a smattering of images and diagrams throughout. Since the prof does not need to take time to write anything down, they have no qualms about showing one of these slides for a total of 10 seconds before jumping to the next.

    Of course, the nice new-school profs will provide their slide deck as a download some time later that day. The nicer ones will provide the slide deck at least one hour before class, giving you a chance to download it so you can follow along. And the really nice ones will provide the slides in a format with plenty of space along the sides to take your own notes. This works great either for printing out and taking notes directly on the page or for making notes on an iPad or Windows tablet (with OneNote).

    • WalterBright 16 days ago

      > This only works with old-school professors who teach by writing on the blackboard.

      I was lucky to complete college before powerpoint.

  • nradov 16 days ago

    This never worked for me. The physical process of writing is just so slow and awkward that it distracts me and inhibits learning. Yes, I tried using higher quality pens and different writing techniques. Nothing really helped. So forget writing by hand, for me it's worse than useless. YMMV.

    • grenoire 16 days ago

      Practice improves this, I suppose as you age it's harder to get that commitment to becoming a speedy note-taker, but I share the sentiment among many that speed is not necessarily a deal breaker. I can barely decipher my scribbles after the fact, but doubling down on the neural pathways is a deal breaker.

      • nradov 16 days ago

        I practiced for literally decades. It didn't help much.

  • gjulianm 16 days ago

    The problem with that is working with the notes later. My method of learning included reorganizing, rewriting, extending notes because it’s very rare that you’re able to write things down properly on the go and fill in the gaps.

    That’s very unreasonable to do in written notes, it ends up a complete mess and takes a lot of time.

keiferski 16 days ago

This reminds me of the Steve Jobs comment [1] about condors and bicycles:

“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

I agree that writing by hand (the condor) is better than typing (the human), but the missing part is Spaced Repetition (the bicycle.) Typing information into a SRS system is almost certainly more effective at retaining information than handwriting alone is.

I suppose you could handwrite cards and use something like the Leitner system [2], but this is extremely inefficient compared to using Anki/a software program. At the end of the day, if you seriously want to retain information, you should just use a SRS, full stop.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c__DV-Ul9AM

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitner_system

  • SoftTalker 16 days ago

    Probably true for facts that you need to be able to recall without consulting notes.

    Most of my notes are not that. I mostly don't need unassisted recall. Spaced repetition memorization of everything I write down in my notebook would be very inappropriate and an inefficient use of my time and memory resources.

  • hkon 16 days ago

    I find that most times the goal is just to have the information, and when you write it down by hand in the first place you're more likely to remember it. Seems overkill to put more effort into it.

    • type-r 16 days ago

      It depends on how adept you are at creating cards, I think. If you have a non-manual pipeline that automates most of the work, I think the lifetime cost of reviewing a card a few times is comparable to writing out the same information out by hand. The difference with the card is that now this information is there for life, instead of for a few days/weeks with writing.

      Agree that if we're talking about manual creation of cards, it can be hard to see the ROI given how much effort it typically takes to create high-quality one-off questions and answers.

  • gofreddygo 16 days ago

    Anki, like a hammer, is good, for some things. Indeed a superior tool, to drive in nails. With nuts and bolts however....

    Always a good reminder, the man with a hammer syndrome.

dougdonohoe 16 days ago

I'm now 54 and I've had my way of doing things for quite a long time. For me, I write down, on paper, TODOs and other notes. It's my primary means of recording information. I also have my own personal Confluence cloud instance, for which I pay like $12 a month, on which I record things I've learned which I know I'll forget and which I'll want to remember in the future.

For example, on my "C and C++ page", I actually used my note regarding "nm --demangle" which I used to help figure out a linker issue in some C++ code that I have to build in my current job. I haven't done much with C/C++ in years, so this was helpful to trigger long forgotten skills.

I do find that writing on paper is important, and helpful to not lose certain tasks. It is also helpful when I'm learning, even if those notes never make it to more long term storage. I find comfort writing things down, especially TODOs, since they won't be forgotten. It also helped me when I was learning Go, or Kubernetes.

The other thing I've learned in my career is that everyone is different. I've stopped trying to convince anyone that 'my way' is better. It's only worked for me, that much is certain. Can I learn new tricks as an old dog? Sure, for example, I recently learned to use 'ripgrep' and it's my new go-to tool.

Be open to new things, but also try and optimize what is best for you. Peace and happy thanksgiving for those that celebrate!

sspaeti 16 days ago

I agree that for new content, the initial time handwriting makes sense, before adding it to your second brain. For me, Writing is therapy!

I usually write as much as possible on my laptop because I can type as fast as I think. At the same time, my handwriting can’t keep up with my thinking speed. There is no slowing down and forgetting ideas or thoughts. On the other hand, I can reformat, re-arrange, add, and delete, which will help my thinking process which wouldn’t happen in my brain. The advantage of pen and paper is that I use different muscles and brain activities when I write, which helps me think differently. I usually use them when I need to outline my blog post, if I’m stuck or distracted on something, or if I go out in nature and only bring my physical journal.

Also, when writing journals or other ideas within my second brain, I can start connecting them. Improving my thoughts over time and generally refine easily and reading them, whereas, on paper, notebooks get lost over time, and finding the right things when needed is very hard.

makeitdouble 16 days ago

I was hoping the cited studies weren’t about the same rehashed students taking notes ones…there was a most recent one [0], but guess what ? it’s about volunteer students from the University of Tokyo.

On one hand I believe some people will remember things better when using the media they’ve used for almost their entire life (to note: japanese school is more reliant on paper and writing than most western countries to my knowledge), so I totally understand the results.

On the other I’m surprised we see no actually serious, wildly targeted research that also touches on working people, like sales fleet who actually make a living following calendar appointments. With nothing coming out from outside of the “kids learning” setting, it kinda feels like the reality is way more complex than “hand writing is better”

[0] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210319080820.h...

hyperturtle 16 days ago

I find the lack of learning science and the state of teaching how to learning to be detrimental to our current society where people are required to know more and more. Knowledge that doctors, lawyers, even computer engineers keep increasing as time goes on, but the way we learn has never been scrutinized or emphasized and is mostly up to each person to deal with.

lowken 16 days ago

I skyrocketed up the ladder at my current company in about 18 months using the following technique.

I take crude sloppy notes on a topic or project. I listen for concepts it words I don’t understand. This includes the jargon in my field (FinTech).

For projects I take my sloppy notes and format them in a Google Docs that serves as a design/QA testing document. I add technical notes and other details to this document.

If I come across concepts or terms that I don’t know and I determine are important I add these to an Anki deck. Then I review this Anki deck daily and commit this information to my long term memory.

I can’t describe how having critical information at my disposal has changed my life. I’ve gone from zero to one of the top individuals at my company in a few months and I credit this success to my little system.

As a side benefit Anki has an amazing search feature for times can’t recall something.

  • gyulai 16 days ago

    Amazing, all of this "skyrocketing" and "zero to top" stuff. And all of that thanks to your "little system". Do you also have a weird old trick for losing weight that doctors don't want us to know about?

    • komali2 15 days ago

      Did you get the impression the OP was trying to sell you something?

      • gyulai 15 days ago

        Psychological studies show that people derive pleasure from policing social norms, and I'm no different. In this case: "Don't brag". So I made fun of OP's writing style.

        Of course, deriving pleasure at the expense of someone else reflects poorly on me. ...but then: I'm cool with that. The world (especially HN) is full of people worshipping and trying to become statues. In order for that world to be bearable for everyone else, every statue needs its pigeon, and, apparently, that's my place in the universe.

        • komali2 14 days ago

          Well, you're probably more willing than most to have this conversation, so I'm interesting in having it.

          I did find the writing style abnormal, but ignoring it, the information in it was at least as useful to me as any other HN comment: mostly not at all, just another little drip of an internet opinion to consider on this topic I probably spend too much time thinking about (optimizing note taking and learning strategies).

          So, I acknowledge yes, strange comment style. For your comment: you say some derive pleasure from policing social norms, I don't challenge you as finding it pleasurable, and I like your metaphor as being a pigeon on a statue. Though I could use other terms to describe your comment: "trying to knock someone down a peg," "put someone in their place," "tone policing," and I think I could make an honest argument that it's simply a form of mild bullying. The only difference to me really is if OP deserves it. If they're a jerk boss / shyster salesperson, sure, why not, but do we knock every confident person we see "down a peg" just in case they're a jerk and deserve it? I feel like erring on the side of being nice is a better outcome. Of course I can't just decide for you what you do and don't like, this is me being a pigeon on a pigeon.

          One could argue the both of us are in a virtue-signal race to the bottom but I'm just typing this all out of curiosity for your thoughts.

          • gyulai 14 days ago

            Yup, I agree fully with what you just said, also the bullying-part and erring on the side of being nice. I guess there's a few layers to unpack here.

            The lowest layer is that I was acting out a psychological impulse, not implementing a premeditated policy. Knocking everyone down a peg just in case they deserve it would be a policy, and certainly one that I wouldn't find agreeable. Why did I have this impulse in the first place? I don't know.

            The next layer is: Given the impulse, how did I decide to act it out, given that it conflicted with a very valid ethical imperative to "be nice". First note that OP established themselves as having high social status. I myself am low in status. This is both the default assumption made by most readers in relation to anonymous strangers on the internet, and the actual truth in relation to my person. So this was an instance of "punching up", rather than "punching down". If, for example, OP were a mentally retarded person writing the above and using the word "company" to refer to their occupational therapy work group, we'd have to reinterpret the transaction as "punching down", and what I did would then be absolutely horrifying. The thought (though far-fetched) didn't cross my mind at the time. It might have cancelled out my impulse at some lower level of my psyche.

            While punching down is always morally deplorable, punching up is often acceptable, and even has a useful function in society. Just think of the animal kingdom where reproductive success goes to animals of high social status, and animals of low status challenge those of high status with the outcome that reproductive potential isn't wasted.

            Even so, if I consistently took any opportunity to deal out punches, provided only that it's punching up rather than down, then I probably could still be said to have a pretty mean personality, and it would probably cause me more suffering than gain. But if, just once every tenth time or so, I just do it, then that feels to me like an amount of karma I can actually afford, plus I'd feel like I'm spending my karma on something useful.

            I'm sort of reminded here of the role of the jester in medieval courts: No one but the jester could say anything that might offend the king. But if the jester says it publicly, and it resonates with many, then that resonance is almost like a democratic institution of sorts. It makes the king less likely to do stuff that the jester will poke fun at. It serves the will of the many of low status over the will of the few of high status. So what I'm saying is: We should all take turns, playing the role of the jester. This would be a force for good. It would make it more difficult for someone to hold on to high status, if many of lower status don't want them to have that high status.

    • sambapa 15 days ago

      No need to be snarky, this shit really works.

itsmemattchung 16 days ago

I recently interviewed[0] a professional writer who transitioned away from a purely digital workflow (e.g. "getting things done", "mind mapping") to one that incorporates good old paper and pen with flashcards: a hybrid approach. I myself tried (many times) to go either fully digital, or fully analog, only to find myself in the same position over and over again of combining the best of both worlds.

[0] - https://digitalorganizationdad.substack.com/p/the-tools-of-e...

midjji 16 days ago

Mostly confusing the benefit which taking notes provides with the benefit paying the minimum attention taking notes requires. Though there is also the memory habit confounder, i.e. if you are used to needing to remember only the things you write down, you are less likely to remember it if you dont. Similarly, if you are used to not need to remember what you type, you wont. However, if you are able to pay attention regardless, and are used to needing to remember even if you aren't taking notes, you will. These confounders are obvious and the article is completely oblivious to them.

ebjaas_2022 16 days ago

I don't agree with this article. I write hundreds of lines of notes each day, as a part of my coding and work routine. I do it all digitally, in Visual Studio Code, as pure text. I think, as long as you can write fluently on a keyboard, and as long as the writing and typing itself does not steal CPU cycles from your brain while you're doing it, it works just as well as handwritten notes, and, I would wager, probably even better, as you're able to write quite a bit faster on a keyboard than you are when you're writing with a pen.

As for the "slowness" of the writing being a point in itself, I don't think that's true. I achieve the same by editing my text as I write it, pondering over my wording, to make sure that I communicate (to myself, mind you) the precise intent that I'm going for.

I think the fondness for handwriting is mostly based on romantic notions, for lack of better words, predicated by our closeness in time to a period where handwriting was much more common. We think of it as the "original" way of writing, and the most "pure" way of writing. Personally I think jotting down text notes on a keyboard is just as "pure", and I don't really think that there are any extra qualities associated with handwriting, as far as learning and retaining information goes.

  • emodendroket 16 days ago

    Your point about many lines of notes is actually highlighting another benefit of writing: handwritten notes simply force you to choose which things are truly important because you cannot possibly record as much. This process also helps retention. I don’t actually look at most notes I take very often.

  • blindhippo 16 days ago

    To be clear, haven't read the article yet.

    But I disagree that fondness for handwriting is a romantic notion. For me writing things down by hand engages a different part of my brain. It's similar to "rubber ducking" for me, meaning I have to think about the information in a different way. I don't get the same from typing, for whatever reason.

    Literally, different strokes for different folks.

ordu 16 days ago

It is a very suspicious article. It is a psychology trying to provide justification for a myth that most people believe in any case, and there are no clever experiments to find what factor is at play. Is it tactile response at play or the limits of speed of handwriting?

Such reasoning is a subject to all kinds of biases and heuristics, and they are known to support folk myths instead of establishing the truth.

I personally believe that a laptop allow me to stick in a local minima of note taking: to write down every word while my mind wanders elsewhere it likes. It is all about my attention and concentration on what I'm trying to digest. My opinion is based on a sample size of 1 and my "sample" think all these thoughts and can purposely provide data that justifies my ideas, so I'd advise you to doubt them, but the point is they work for me. While I manage to immerse myself in the information processing it doesn't matter if I'm writing, typing, picking my nose of whatever else I'm doing at the time with my hands so they do not distract me from the information processing.

renewiltord 16 days ago

I know the research says this but I did this for a whole grad school semester class and remembered the least. When I try to remember a concept, I recall the place (sometimes down to the rough seating location in class) and the whole thing comes instantly flooding back to me.

Since my memory is nothing close to eidetic - I forget my keys, my car's parked location, all that stuff - I decided that note-taking would help supercharge me, but it debilitated me. I think it's because note-taking is its own skill and without being skilled at it, it took too much of my conscious thought pattern to:

- do the mechanical task of pen to paper

- edit to salient parts to select what goes down

So, I think a lot of the "writing is the best way" stuff comes from people who are akin to my "vim bindings are the best way". People who didn't grow up with vim bindings will find them unreasonable to learn - but I am much faster when I use them everywhere.

So I lean into my method: what I repeat I remember. I had a period where I needed to get a duplicate car title and insurance and everything. I can now write down my VIN by heart.

UlisesAC4 16 days ago

Something that also helped me was reading aloud. The level of concentration required to do it is similar to hand writing.

cratermoon 16 days ago

Not sure how the article can state it so conclusively. See e.g How Much Mightier Is the Pen than the Keyboard for Note-Taking? A Replication and Extension of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) [1] and Don’t Ditch the Laptop Just Yet: a Direct Replication of Mueller and Oppenheimer’s (2014) Study 1 Plus Mini Meta-Analyses Across Similar Studies [2]

1 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10648-019-09468-2

2 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620965541

There's quite a bit of variance, and the early results may have been biased by the fact that have a laptop and typing while taking notes were relatively new things.

Dowwie 16 days ago

I know absolutely nothing about neuroscience. When I read a claim about handwriting notes having more brain activity than typing notes, it seems like additional.. overhead (pun).. to accomplish the same task: memorization. Less brain activity to accomplish the same task of memorization would imply efficiency, wouldn't it?

  • amp108 16 days ago

    I think you're mixing efficiency with effectiveness. It may be more efficient to store your valuables in a breadbasket, but more effective to store them in a safety deposit box, if you measure effectiveness by "keeping everything in one place, free from the view of strangers". In this case, the extra effort aids (so it is claimed, I believe it but am no expert) on later retrieval, not in efficient intake.

ramraj07 16 days ago

One thing I can agree with OP, Weinberg and what’s-his-name’s Hallmarks of Cancer series of papers are emblematic of everything that’s wrong with biology research and why we haven’t made much actionable progress in recent decades in biology: these reviews invented out of thin air dogmatic rules about cancer as if what they know about it is what’s important (in their first review, the immune system is not even mentioned) and the entire field embraces it as the Bible or something. Then when they update it, they pat themselves in the back acting as if it’s all progress now that they have a better model! By the time the second review came out it became damn clear that the role of the immune system in cancer is probably one of the most important aspects we should focus on, but they didn’t want to look like idiots so they still underplayed it’s importance.

PartiallyTyped 16 days ago

I found that I retain the most information when I write in LaTeX over md, txt, word, hand.

While the arguments of the article sound convincing enough, I found that the effort one spends on the notes is far more important than the medium.

In LaTeX my mode of operation shifts from informal and short to very academic as I transform the notes into documents.

justinram11 16 days ago

I've always found that it's the act of actually "processing" the information that helps with my retention and understanding.

Most of my notes (especially in college) are short sentences / random words with arrow to other rows (with most of my notes being incomprehensible to even myself after some time).

  • jonny_eh 16 days ago

    I had one course in engineering school (ethics I think), that had us take shorthand notes in class, then re-write into long-form in a separate notebook to be submitted at the end of the semester. It was super effective at driving home the lessons since the act of translating short-form to long-form required (re)comprehension of the material.

Pmop 16 days ago

The best way to retain information is by burning it into your brain with spaced repetition and Anki to help.

kenjackson 16 days ago

I personally find taking notes at all distracts me from retaining information during a meeting or lecture. The notes are useful for reviewing afterwards, but my best strategy is to just be fully focused in the meeting/lecture, and have someone else take notes that I can review later.

tenebrisalietum 16 days ago

> 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.

I've been done with handwriting ever since laptops became common. I can type much faster than I can write and also much more legibly for a given speed.

Of course, this is on a laptop with something resembling a real keyboard. I can see how handwritten notes are better than typing on a smartphone. Of course this is fixed with a Bluetooth keyboard, a good full-size one like an Apple one or Logitech.

Is it ridiculous to be typing on a big keyboard to smartphone that's probably about half the size of the keyboard? Sure, but no one has ever not wanted me to do this in a meeting.

mensetmanusman 16 days ago

My experience is that mind mapping on an iPad is the best way to retain information, because there is a spatial component that doesn’t exist in any other documentation format (and it is searchable; you can also use handwriting in the mind map).

My brain takes advantage of the spatial component for sure.

gjulianm 16 days ago

The problem with this view is that it only looks at "writing" when processing information. What about search, classification, reorganization, sharing? I have a OneNote notebook with some notes for important meetings: I don't know how would I search for certain things if I only had a paper notebook. In university I took notes in LaTeX and spend significant time rewriting as I studied and understood things better: again, it'd be a giant mess doing that in writing.

Also, you need to have good handwriting. Some people don't. In my case, my handwriting goes from bad to worse the more time I spend writing, to the point it becomes unintelligible. Seems more productive to invest the time it'd take me to improve that in other aspects of note-taking.

yamrzou 16 days ago

Does it apply equally to E Ink writing tablets, or is there something special about writing on paper?

  • rchaud 16 days ago

    Probably. It's not just the tactile impact of pen on paper, there is likely to also be a memory effect triggered by paging through a notebook to get to the latest blank page.

    E-ink tablets, like a word processor, always starts with a blank page.

    • wlesieutre 16 days ago

      I've always suspected the metal editing down to important points is a major factor.

      If I'm taking typed notes I can regurgitate almost exactly what was said at 100 wpm and feel like I'm taking "good" notes because I've included everything.

      If I'm taking written notes I have to think about the material as I write it and distill it down to something I can write quickly enough.

      Didn't have good tablet devices until after I was out of college, but from years of using them in other contexts I think they provide a similar effect to writing on paper, except the eraser works better and I can rearrange things after I've written them if I need more space in the middle of a page.

      • ilyt 16 days ago

        In high school we had a professor of history that allowed us to come with notes to the exams as long as notes were hand-written.

        He also liked to put questions about minute details, sometimes even the footnotes.

        End result: I still did not remember the stuff, but I got good at making summarizing notes quickly...

  • thathndude 16 days ago

    Would love to know the answer (if there is one) to this

  • hyperturtle 16 days ago

    I would assume so, but I think the fact that its using more of your brain is the reason it works.

adameasterling 16 days ago

I 100% agree with this. If I want to fully commit to learning something, physically writing it down with my hand makes it stick better, for reasons that I don't really understand.

I actually started to think about it as a kind of cheat code. Like, how, in a video game you can type in a cheat code and you get special powers. That's how big of a difference it made for me.

My strategy looks like this:

* If there's a good book, buy the book. Like when I wanted to learn C, I picked up K&R's C. A physical copy isn't required and can even get in the way, but can be useful if the Kindle version looks bad. If there isn't a good book, open up the official documentation on a web browser. Third-party tutorials tend to suck, IMO; official documentation is much better.

* Sit down at a desk with my laptop, book, and my notebook. Start at the beginning of the book/documentation. Read every line. If there's a word that doesn't make sense, look up the word. Talk to myself, out loud: Summarize and re-phrase what I'm reading.

* Write down a summary of the large important details of what I'm reading, in snippets of prose, on paper with a pen. It's important to not use the same words that the author(s) used. And of course, be much pithier than the author. As Kevin from the office taught us, why use lot word when small word do trick?

* The act of summarizing and re-phrasing, first verbally and then manually, seems to really do the trick in terms of making my brain remember things.

* If there's anything that can be tested with code, test it. If you're learning C or Lua or whatever, you obviously want to set up a little environment and test everything you're reading. This is harder for something like system design, though.

* Repeat every day until the book or documentation is consumed, or I feel I've had enough to accomplish whatever goals I had. Repetition every day seems to be important.

* Talk to other people about what I'm learning. One time I even reached out to the author of the book: I thought I found a mistake in his book; I was wrong! But talking with co-workers, or even salespeople if learning something like Snowflake can be helpful, or my partner. Anyone who will listen.

I will admit to not using the notebook strategy in recent years. I'll use a Google doc or sheet instead. But I think the notebook strategy is better! Especially when I was starting out, and the concepts of programming were new and strange.

  • cronix 16 days ago

    > for reasons that I don't really understand.

    I believe it's just the amount of time it takes to physically write a sentence with pen and paper, compared to spoken word or even typing which can be pretty fast in comparison. Your brain is mulling the words over several times over as you write it. That leaves more of an imprint as you are literally thinking about it more as your hand slowly writes each word out. I can type pretty fast, but I don't remember what I type nearly as well as what I physically write out. I just think it's the speed difference and how much time you toil with the specific thought.

    • adameasterling 16 days ago

      I don't know! I think you might be right, but my intuition tells me it's a little more than that. Other ideas:

      * Is it a mind-body connection thing? Writing seems to involve a lot more fine motor control and muscle engagement than typing.

      * Like other people my age, I didn't grow up typing; I started learning when I was around 10 years old. I learned to write much earlier than that. Could it be that neural connections tied to writing are somehow more effectively hooked up to learning new things?

      * Is it a hand dominance thing? I write with one hand, but type with both.

      * Is it that writing engages a different kind of language processing than typing? To me, the "voice" I use typing feels very similar to how I speak. Whereas when I'm physically writing, the "voice" I use feels very different. It's as if there's a different language center being worked.

      • rramadass 16 days ago

        You might find the book The Body has a Mind of its Own by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee quite informative in this regard.

g9yuayon 16 days ago

I also find that writing by hand led to better retention and understanding when I learned a new language, compared to writing with a keyboard. My guess is that it's because handwriting is slower, which somehow creates a better focus window.

komali2 15 days ago

I would like to take better notes when reading books. Considering getting a kobo with stylus system, but most my books epubs, not sure compatibility, would appreciate advice. I also have a samsung z fold 3, and I find the pdf markup in samsung notes app to actually be really good, but I'm not sure I wanna convert my books to PDF just for markup reasons. Yet to find good android app for marking up epub, after briefly looking into epub and based on my basic understanding of ebook formats, I believe it's kinda simply a too hard technical problem to build an app around.

prpl 16 days ago

I can type fast but, because I majored in Physics in college (with lots of Math) - everything was by hand. It was highly impractical to take notes with a laptop (I don’t know anybody who did it).

With ADHD as well, I’d rewrite what I was reading sometimes to make sure I was absorbing it (Did this for much of my Math Analysis classes especially)

I lost it at some point. I’ve been wanting to get back to writing more, maybe with the Remarkable or something. My writing was always terrible but it’s been especially terrible not exercising regularly.

I have one giant markdown file I use for my notes today, which is more convenient than a notebook overall.

xrd 16 days ago

Does it need to be stated that moving all interactions to Zoom means that writing by hand gets much more difficult?

Why? Maintaining eye contact and connection is so much harder when there isn't a shared physical space. If you take notes by hand, you are disconnecting from what little shared connection you have in a small video box on screen.

You could take notes using the keyboard but the keyboard is right next to the microphone. Though we have technology to reduce the noise it's going to impact your concentration and focus in the meeting at the very least and everyone else's concentration at the very worst.

ericmcer 16 days ago

I heard someone describe the process of writing notes as conditioning his mind for the problem space. The first thing he does with any new subject is write down pages of messy notes with no intention of consulting them again. They are just an expendable resource to help get the info into his mind.

I found it really refreshing to approach notes as totally expendable one time things to help memory. In school we were taught to treat them as a well organized, legible reference log and I was terrible at taking them. I wish I had just slammed down everything of relevance with no concern for organizing the info.

jrib 16 days ago

Writing by hand also lets me /think/ better.

I don't have to change tools to draw a shape or change the layout. I have a thought, and my hand creates some visual representation of that thought. There's no middle step.

annyeonghada 16 days ago

I wish it were for me. I love handwriting and I've spent lots of effort to make it look neat and I really like how it looks, but I convince myself that I understand and comprehend everything while I write but if I try to solve a problem or explain to myself what was going on it's a blank. I've found repetition, spaced or not, much more useful both for understanding and retaining information, nowadays I handwrite only if a passage is written in a confusing way or if I need to add more information to the textbook.

ouid 16 days ago

The proportion of the population that is actually good at retaining information is too small to sample, but I'd bet that they don't take notes on average.

Retaining information shouldnt have anything to do with how you ingest it. You need to have a place to put it. This means working with that information. Relating it to other pieces of information, imagining examples in real time, or, more formally, writing the shortest program you can that outputs the thing (modulo the constraint that you write it out of other programs stored in your head).

  • dlkf 13 days ago

    > Retaining information shouldnt have anything to do with how you ingest it.

    It must. The ingestion method, and particularly how long the info sits in our consciousness, will govern the depth of indexing operations possible.

    Something you’ve seen many times is typically easier to remember than something you’ve only seen once. This is obvious, but under your model it makes no sense.

wkjagt 15 days ago

For me writing by hand helps for remembering a very specific type of knowledge. If I need to remember random facts with not much cohesion between them, it helps to write them down. I feel I create a visual memory of these facts. Almost like "oh yes, I remember writing that down near the left bottom of the page". But for any type of knowledge that's more about understanding than pure remembering, I learn better without writing by hand.

Overtonwindow 16 days ago

I used to be overflowing in paper, but last year I started using an iPad with a pencil exclusively, and it’s been quite amazing for both my retention of records, and my ability to organize information. I would write things down on paper, rather than just opening a word document, and typing it out, because I would lose the word documents in the mess of word documents. Same thing with the paper. With the iPad, and Note Shelf, I can keep this stuff much more organized and retain it better.

qntmfred 16 days ago

I wonder if when writing started to become the preferred method of transmitting information between humans, some people suggested that the methods of oral tradition were superior.

  • dijit 16 days ago

    Well, that's definitely true.

    Having someone tell you something is vastly better than reading it.

    Aside from the intonation and stresses in tone there's also a plethora of body language and cues to pick up on.

    • mypetocean 16 days ago

      This might be a function of how passively many people read, though – particularly as compared with the highly interactive posture of speech.

      There are reading strategies which we can employ to engage the brain quite effectively.

      Plus, writing is immediately replayable. Some would rather abuse this than rely on a more holistic reading strategy, but that doesn't discount the value of having a concrete, immediately-accessible, and yet persistent record of the communication.

munk-a 16 days ago

For some people - people learn and remember in different ways and writing by hand (if physically difficult, say you have an essential tremor (points at self)) can require enough focus that it actually makes it difficult to retain information instead being overly focused. Different folks have different learning and retention habits and while these sorts of articles are helpful in learning methods that are commonly useful they shouldn't be taken as gospel.

damontal 16 days ago

I tried learning shorthand after reading Samuel Pepys’ diary.

If you’re good at it you can write as fast as someone speaks but I never got good enough at it for it to be useful.

kcindric 16 days ago

I'm looking into buying a iPad with a pencil for better organizing my work and personal notes with added searchability. The only thing I'm afraid off, as I have ADHD and as a result trouble learning/retaining information, is that the iPad + pencil won't have the same effect as pen and paper. Anyone made the switch from paper to iPad and can't share their experience?

  • filchermcurr 16 days ago

    I tried to switch but I never use it anymore. There's a weird... I don't know, almost burden to it.

    Pen and paper is always on, always available. The interface is completely blank and unassuming. You have a page, you have a writing utensil. Text is always visible, nothing needs charged, there's a pleasant tactile sensation, minimal noise.

    On the iPad, you have to turn it on. Launch the application. Navigate to the right notebook or page or whatever. (Unless you use Notes, maybe, and there's a double tap to launch option) There are ambiguous icons everywhere. Sometimes palm rejection doesn't work and you zoom, move the page, or mark on the page. There's a bright backlight, distracting notifications, the sound of the pencil tapping on the glass. It doesn't lie flat without a case. It all just feels very unnatural to me. I never got used to it.

    Of course there are benefits. Optical character recognition for instant search, backups, unlimited 'paper', multiple notebooks in one thin place.

    • criddell 16 days ago

      If you tap the Pencil to the screen of the iPad when it’s off, it turns on and launches the notes app.

  • PetitSasquatch 16 days ago

    For ADHD, externalizing thought / basically everything can really help.

    Notepads and pens are always on, cheap and disposable.

    I try to use writing not for cataloging information but rather thinking aloud.

    This particularly applies to reading. I print, then read with a pen in my hand, marking up and jotting down thoughts.

    Once I've ordered my thoughts, a markdown wiki is where all the long form writing happens.

    This system works great for me.

    Once I've organized and stored my thoughts, the paper can be thrown away / recycled to reduce clutter etc..

    I wish I had adopted this strategy decades ago, I use to laugh at old timers who printed everything ... now I know why.

  • m_eiman 16 days ago

    If you're going to be writing a lot, I'd recommend something like the Paperlike screen protector - the increased friction makes writing noticeably easier.

  • komali2 15 days ago

    I've gone through a bajillion iterations of this: notebook + pen, tiny carry everywhere notebook + pen, surface pro + pen (this was really good for sitting down studying and class, not good for quick notes obvoiusly), and right now am on samsung zfold 3 and pen as a replacement for all classes of notetaking.

    I have three note taking times:

    1. Meetings, online or in person 2. Instant. Examples: vet suddenly telling me medicine mgs for my lizard. At hackathon and someone telling me some new software I wanna try. Unexpected philosophical insight from podcast while at gym. 3. Reading book (anywhere: cafe, train, desk, couch) 4. Studying time (at desk)

    For said methods, the crosssection of effective note taking strategies I've found to be:

    Spiral notebook and pen: meetings, reading book, studying time. Too big to have on me at all times for instant.

    Smaller notebook (like, traditional moleskin sized) with pen: effective at all, including instant IF I had my backpack on me, so not truly great for instant.

    Surface pro + pen: good for meetings and study time, somewhat ok at reading notes, phenomenal at reading notes if reading on the device itself (splitscreen reading app with onenote). EXCELLENT for classes and meetings because of quick multi-color pen functionality.

    Upgrade to notebook resulted from surface pro: use multi-color pen instead of simple black pen. Now same study benefits as smaller notebook, with increased effectiveness in meeting and classes. Missing: cut + paste from surface pro, uploading to onenote to read on phone, etc.

    Teensy tiny notebook + pen: best at instant notes, kinda shit at all other notes because so tiny, like think detective notebook. Possibly improved by better strategies, just had conversation with actual detective who made me realize I was probably using the notebook wrong.

    Foldy phone with samsung pen thing: Similar to surface pro in effectiveness, better in terms of portability and always having on me (making its instant effectiveness better), worse in terms of its simply kinda small. Would love to use this for reading notes as well, right now can "kinda" split screen but it's really too small for that, would prefer in-same-reading-app note taking feature, yet to find good app for that (considering my books are epubs, this is probably impossible. PDF markup not bad though! in samsung notes app. Surpsrisingly good app). Thing about instant notes is, it's hard to hold, and still slower to get going than a tiny notebook + pen. I'm going to attach a little ring to the back and see if that makes me feel more confident holding this absurdly expensive device in one hand while writing on it while standing up.

    TLDR: Technological investment cost of ipad + pen could be worth if you really like the digital features of cloud, multi-device, organization etc. Otherwise, recommend much cheaper option of smaller ipad-sized notebooks + multi-color-in-one pens (check jetpens). Also, this is more fun imo than using digital device, and retains better tactile experience (good for me with ADHD: can click pen as fidget activity).

nonima 15 days ago

I could never take notes in school or in college. I tried many times but I just forget about them and never check them anyway, and if I do they are pretty useless because my understanding of whatever I'm learning changes pretty quickly so if I look at my notes 2 days later they won't make any sense to me.

eterevsky 16 days ago

From my understanding, the main advantage of writing by hand in terms of memorization/understanding comes from the fact that writing just takes more time. I am not aware of any research that would show that writing is more effective than engaging with text for the same amount of time in a different way, like typing it and then re-reading.

bayesian_horse 16 days ago

There seems to be zero proof to that.

Too long ago that I can up with actual citations I read about studies that said a better way to "retain" information, in the context of college reading material, is recitation. With recitation they meant verbally explaining the content from memory.

One of the problems with most such studies is that they don't compare techniques with each other.

  • mgreg 16 days ago

    There are some good studies on this topic such as this one from UCLA. https://linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/Teaching/papers/Mu...


    Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning

    • gjulianm 16 days ago

      As someone who's taken notes with my laptop for my bachelor and master degree, these studies seem to miss a lot of the learning process.

      For starters, it's not just "take notes" and leave it at that. Those notes are reviewed, modified, reorganized, corrected, and studied. It's so much easier to just carry a laptop with several files instead of a variety of notebooks. So much easier to search in files, to rewrite/reorganize... And, for a lot of people like me who have bad handwriting (that gets worse with fatigue), they're also so much easier to read. It's also far easier to take collaborative notes.

      In other words, the relation effort-results can be far higher with laptops than with writing.

      • criddell 16 days ago

        I’ve always wondered the same thing. Does the handwriting benefit apply only for the first pass at taking the note, or does it hold up after all the other steps that you mentioned?

    • elil17 16 days ago

      Seems like intentionally processing and reframing, regardless of the medium used to write, would be the way to go.

  • tjr 16 days ago

    The remark from Alan Perlis feels pretty accurate to me: You think you know when you can learn, are more sure when you can write, even more when you can teach, but certain when you can program.

    I can read a book on a subject, and understand it to a degree. If I write down what I learned in my own words, then I must come to grips with the fact that I didn't understand everything; writing it down forces me to come to a better, more organized understanding. Teaching it to someone else means I must be able to explain for someone who does not necessarily have my own background, and who may stop me to ask questions. Programming the knowledge to a computer means that I must account for all questions; the knowledge must be completely and precisely defined.

    I reckon very little knowledge has yet been adequately programmed into a computer, but many people stop at the first step, and never write or teach.

rmbyrro 16 days ago

> on paper showed more brain activity than subjects who recorded the same information onto a smartphone

This just shows that smartphones require less effort, not that paper is better, necessarily.

Then they say people were 25% faster to recall information later when they used paper, instead of smartphone. But is it like a 4 to 5 seconds increase? I bet so and it's irrelevant.

jononomo 15 days ago

I have tried at times to take notes by hand during lectures, but I write too slowly to keep up with everything I want to write down. So this leads to bad hand-writing and unfinished statements, etc. If I could press "pause" on a live lecture then I would be more inclined to take notes by hand.

PetitSasquatch 16 days ago

There is a big difference between note-taking and critical analysis by hand.

I use pen and paper for organising thought and critically engaging with text I'm reading.

Unequivocally, it is a far superior method for me than typing, in the early phase of digesting new / difficult information.

Once the initial cognitive hurdle has passed, typing in long form is also helpful for recall.

uptownfunk 16 days ago

There’s something about writing that makes it very personal. I’ve noticed when I make information personal I retain it better.

  • jonnybgood 16 days ago

    Absolutely. I love to write since I got in to fountain pens. It forced me to change my grip for the better, motivated me to practice spencerian, and appreciate quality paper. Writing is now very personal and delightful. I take what I write more seriously and thoughtfully, which causes me to retain it far better.

    • emadabdulrahim 16 days ago

      I've recently got into fountain pens and I'm totally in love with the whole experience. Use them for writing, sketching and drawing.

      TWSBI is my favorite so far.

picardo 16 days ago

I think it's more helpful for certain tasks, such as learning a new language, than others, such as creating a complex document. I've been using handwritten notes to improve my Korean recently, and I've noticed that I can recall the words and characters much more accurately and for much longer after writing them by hand.

aizyuval 16 days ago

It lacks to mention the simpleness of rewriting using digital means.

When I’m able to rewrite a paragraph a 1000 times compared to much less while writing, the repetition leads to retaining information, among other things like text sharpness etc.

The article does show that for simple, day to day and short notes, it’s beneficial to use a journal.

silveira 16 days ago

Starting a daily journal/planner for my work/personal stuff was one of the best things I've done. I always sketched in lose notebooks, papers, postits but moving to a dedicated and specialized book was a game changer. I started with a Hobonichi Techo Planner and it is just amazing. It's a piece of technology.

sky_fan 16 days ago

I like to take notes with Pen and Paper during meetings, this gives me high recall. I keep scribbling even during zoom video meetings, it helps me to stay focused and not lose my train of thought if I have to refer back to it later. I have tried Apple Pencil with Ipad, but personally prefer pen and paper.

maCDzP 16 days ago

I prefer writing by hand. Right now I am studying STAT110 - a free Harvard course - and I am copying the the course book by hand.

I have noticed that by the time I get to exercises I have written so many examples that I am better position to solve them.

I know it’s nuts. It takes an awful lot of time, but hey, it works.

jackphilson 16 days ago

I don't think the purpose of notes is to retain information. It is to more quickly re-obtain information that has already been obtained. Handwriting is considerably slower than typing for this purpose. To retain information, use spaced repetition and active recall instead.

markus_zhang 16 days ago

Writing by hand is still the best way to take notes. I think Apple pencil is coming close but still not there.

Just think, you probably want: - Switch between drawing amd writing in a split of second;

- Have a large enough space amd can write in very small font;

- Can move it around not caring whether part of elbow blocks something

oxff 16 days ago

I have an atomic note like ``Paxos`` and when I re-read or add to it, I usually refactor it to resemble my improved understanding.

This is a colossal waste of time if you do it by hand, but it is something that really helps me, and is enabled by taking notes on a keyboard + Obsidian.

lolive 16 days ago

As a Obsidian user, the shortcomings of « analogic » notes is now clear: very difficult to refactor, very difficult to link, very difficult to search, very difficult to share, slow to author (simply deleting « analogic » some text takes forever).

xbmcuser 16 days ago

Writing by hand is how you have been taught to retain information when young so that what your brain is trained for it. This has nothing to do with writing rather something to do with how your brain had been trained to retain information.

anotheryou 16 days ago

Why optimize for retention if that's the exact burden notes can take off you?

Optimize for things like understanding, structuring, throughput, tool assisted recall, efficiency...

I embrace "prosthetic knowledge" and think it does me a lot of good.

  • anotheryou 16 days ago

    I only prefer paper for math and layout.

    Layout and sketching is obvious why. For math it's the bit of extra "ram" you gain from effortlessly jotting something down and building visual helpers.

  • annyeonghada 16 days ago

    >understanding, structuring, throughput, tool assisted recall, efficiency

    All this is aided by memorization not hindered. In my experience studying Physics not memorizing has slowed down my thinking while having the main concept in my brain has made certain problem go from "impossibile" to "trivial".

    • anotheryou 16 days ago

      Yes, I think it aids each other.

      For me the possible boost in memorization on paper however does not outweigh my ability to re-structure (nested lists in an outliner) and edit text on the PC.

      This is especially true if I need the information later again, because full-text search helps and a well structured document also let's me dive back in more easily. Here I also have the added benefit of not needing to digitize it before sharing it.

zingar 16 days ago

I used to be unable to focus in meetings, and I was dissatisfied with my notes being write only. Now I have the best of both worlds with iPad+pencil, and the diagrams I can sketch and modify or share later are excellent.

alexk307 16 days ago

Worked for me. Once I realized I could learn anything by just reading the assigned textbook and taking long form handwritten notes, studying became an efficient exercise that I didn’t mind doing.

erdaniels 16 days ago

I also believe that writing is better than typing for information. What's more though is that I think AI coding solutions could worsen our retention of information when it comes to coding.

deafpolygon 16 days ago

I am deaf and grew up with sign language. I find that typing on the keyboard is better for me. I remember better when I type. Writing takes too long and takes me out of the flow of thinking.

madiator 16 days ago

The other reason I have heard is that since it's slower to write by hand you are forced to summarize it, which means you need to understand. You can't mindlessly type anymore.

iLoveOncall 16 days ago

The real question is why would you want to retain information in your brain when you're already writing down that information?

I take notes so that I DON'T have to remember.

chitowneats 16 days ago

Even if this is true (which for some reason I doubt, probably bias), my handwriting is so atrocious and inefficient I doubt I would ever act on this knowledge.

quickthrower2 16 days ago

Typing scales to the speed of the conversation. While my wpm is say only about 60 perhaps, I can get enough down in meetings for that to be useful.

blindseer 16 days ago

I just want an eink tablet that lets me search my handwriting using grep. It's almost 2023, why doesn't something like this exist!?!

  • sickmate 16 days ago

    Onyx Boox tablets can convert your handwritten notes to text, and export them as TXT files. I'm not certain but the export can probably be automated.

    At work I use the handwriting keyboard input to write directly into Confluence notes.

  • djmips 16 days ago

    Actually I suspect they want a tablet that does all this automatically and in the background and integrated. So searching would literally find theb hand written text not some pipe line of exporting to a text file.

    • blindseer 16 days ago

      Yes exactly! I don't want my handwriting to be converted to text and displayed to me, just converted to text and stored in the background for searching.

  • ilija139 16 days ago

    Not an eink tablet, but Samsung Notes app on Samsung tablets do exactly this. It lets you search your handwriting without converting the handwriting into text first.

  • mt_ 16 days ago

    If your writing is decent you can pipe images into a OCR.

HeavyStorm 12 days ago

fuck that, I always hated to write by hand... Humans didn't write a mere 5 thousand years ago. Most humans didn't less than what, two hundred? Why would writing by and be the best way to retain information? Is it magical?

999900000999 16 days ago


I had a horrible manager who just wrote a list of vague complaints in his crap hand writing.

Later on he just took a picture of his notes, I swear the worst hand writing I've ever seen, and emailed it to me.

As a bonus this company expected employees to work multiple nights, and even though some of the directors did, my manager never did so.

Now change the title to personal information, like for example when you need to get your tire changed, and maybe I'll understand. But as far as at work, when you may need to share that information later, I have to disagree.

  • amp108 16 days ago

    If you're wondering why your comment is so lowly rated, I suggest you actually read the linked article before commenting on it. Or rather, before commenting on a scenario that has nothing to do with it.

langsoul-com 16 days ago

I believe the reason why handwriting is better is due to utilising more senses. Ie touch, etc, etc.

I wonder if you could make typing the same?

  • unicornmama 16 days ago

    I am experimenting with using an iPad + pencil + Goodnotes for note taking. Too soon to tell, but seems to provide best of both worlds.

BulgarianIdiot 16 days ago

I do draw and write things by hand, but typing is absolutely faster, and ESPECIALLY because you can seamlessly edit.

And you know, printers exist.

  • judge2020 16 days ago

    Not to mention full-text search, which feels more natural than manually organizing and upkeeping folders.

pasttense01 16 days ago

Some of us can't read our own handwriting.

graphenus 16 days ago

It looks like folks haven't studied in a modern environment or haven't used all the tools available to them.

During classes you take notes using a keyboard. The you and your colleagues merge everything into a single set of notes. E.g., in a private wiki. That makes you review your notes at least once, and in the end you will end up with mega notes written in the language common to students of the year that you wouldn't be able to creat on your own. Beat that.

jdthedisciple 16 days ago

Is it just me or do dribble and enjin seem to yield positive results for (almost) any name, however returning broken links?

chaostheory 16 days ago

You can have both hand written notes and something digital that’s saved in the cloud. Just get a rocket book

badrabbit 16 days ago

No joke, I took my passion in computing seriously because of my hatred towards writing by hand!

meltyness 15 days ago

I seem to get more benefit from constructing and populating directory hierarchies.

swayvil 16 days ago

for notes I use a spiral-bound 9x12 artist's sketch pad. And Google keep.

One is good for drawing. The other for text (and searchableness etc).

I think one of those reMarkable pads with voice-text might be the optimal blend. Never drew on one tho.

Ikatza 16 days ago

I wonder if handwriting on a tablet has the same effect as doing it on paper.

Waterluvian 16 days ago

I envy all the people who don’t find writing by hand intolerably excruciating.

dboreham 16 days ago

Until you lose track of the paper...

makach 16 days ago


Best way to retain information is spaced repetition. How you do it is up to you. Lots of love.

seydor 16 days ago

maybe typing _slowly_ works the same way ?

elevation 16 days ago

Handwriting may be a good way to reinforce what you've already learned. But it can also act as a crutch which disengages your brain before you've processed new information more deeply.

I have a coworker who hand writes nearly all technical information spoken in meetings and 1 on 1 conversations, and yet remains incredibly ineffective at recall.

The problem is she lacks a mental model of the topic, so she has no structure around which to organize incoming facts. Being unable to assess the relative importance of a new fact, she dutifully transcribes everything she hears -- but never becomes able to summarize or reason about it. This also means that she's unable to correct herself when she's mistranscribed something, such as substituting Gigabytes with Gigahertz. Little of what she writes is worth retaining.

If you're unclear about what's being discussed, it can be so much more effective to put the pencil down and ask a few questions.

  • jonny_eh 16 days ago

    Sounds to me like the note taking isn't her issue.

  • shakow 16 days ago

    I don't want to disparage your colleague; but the way you describe it, it looks more like an her issue than a handwriting issue.

  • DoughnutHole 16 days ago

    Sounds to me like her note-taking is pretty critical for her.

    It's very difficult to piece together cause and affect here. Is her memory & mental model bad because she's using notes as a "crutch", or is that crutch the only reason she's functional in any way. To expand on the crutch analogy, if someone has a game leg taking away their crutch isn't going to improve their walking.

    Speaking as someone who has problems with working memory, I take a lot of notes because I can't trust my brain to effectively parse what requires long term storage. I might understand everything perfectly clearly, and then days/hours/minutes later it's gone.

    Note-taking prevents information being lost to the aether, and revision helps commit stuff to long term memory.

    • bostonsre 16 days ago

      I would guess her handwriting words per minute is not fast enough to keep up with conversations. I would find it difficult to pay attention and understand stuff if I'm constantly trying to drain the buffer of words coming in and I would have to start throwing some 409s and would miss some stuff. At least with typing, I can keep up with conversations when I need to take notes for a given discussion.

  • lzooz 16 days ago

    I think your coworker is simply daft.