Skip to main content

Exercise Your Brain

Using pen and paper helps you flex your memory muscle.

If you want to stand out at your next meeting, bring a notebook and a couple of pens. Odds are you’ll be the only one picking up a pen to take longhand notes on paper.

Advances in technology—and the ubiquitous laptop—have made old-fashioned notetaking an increasingly rare pastime in today’s fast-paced world, but science tells us we shouldn’t be so quick to exchange our pens, pencils, and paper for keyboards and computer screens.

It may be worth the risk of seeming a little “old fashioned” in order to increase your understanding and enhance your memory. Studies show that reading physical books and taking notes by hand improve your memory and lead to a deeper understanding of the topic covered.

Research by scientists Pamela Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper learn more than those who take notes with a laptop. In three different experiments, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material.*

Two ways to boost your brain

  • Pick up a physical book. As you read, your mind is mapping the contents using markers such as the left and right page, corners, and the location of specific text on the page. This mind mapping makes it easier for you to remember the words you just read.
  • Use a pen and paper. Taking longhand notes forces you to organize, synthesize, and summarize information in your own words, making it easier to understand and remember.

So, if you’re looking for a way to accelerate your learning, consider ink and paper. Your brain—and your boss—will love you for it.


By Amy Soper