We live in a time where electronic devices deliver speed and convenience. So to consider ditching our laptops and tablets in favour of the humble pen and paper seems a little absurd.
Many prefer to use a laptop to aid note taking during business meetings, with reasons being that it is quicker, more accurate and legible than notes written in long-hand.
Personally, I am never far away from a notepad and pen.
Most days I rely on pen and paper to take notes during meetings, write down ideas for clients, outline articles or compile a list of what needs to be done that day. I consider myself old-school in that respect but it’s always helped bring order and clarity to my busy day.
However, it turns out there is something more scientific behind my note-taking method. According to research, taking notes by hand may be the key to helping you remember conceptual information over the long term.
The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard
Technology has carved out a new way of collaborating and sharing ideas.
Laptops can help you take notes quicker, engage in online activities and demonstrations, and collaborate more easily on projects. Despite their popularity, using a laptop in an education setting such as lectures is still seen as controversial due to distractions being a click away.
“Our new research suggest that even when laptops are used as intended – and not for buying things on Amazon during class – they still may be harming academic performance,” said psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University, lead author of the study “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Notetaking” published in the journal Psychological Science.
The study demonstrated that students who take notes by paper learn more. It also found that students who used laptops took a larger amount of notes that contained more words and verbatim, yet they were unable to retain that information as effectively.
Those who took notes in longhand performed significantly better on conceptual questions than those who used laptops. Each set of note takers, however, performed equally well when recalling facts.
Researchers suggest that note takers internalise learning, as they need to sift out the information they deem to be necessary, important and relevant. This later on, aids better comprehension and assists long-term memory retention.
“It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently, “ researchers wrote.
Could Tech Be Harming Meetings?
According to a LogMeIn report, 73% of workers take in a laptop, a device or a combination of the two into a meeting.
Yet the justification for tech in meetings seems to be working against what they are used for in the first place.
If an email arrives mid-meeting then you are more than likely going to read it. Even if you aren’t reading emails but taking notes on your laptop instead, it could be that you are taking too many.
And if you pride yourself on being able to multitask, science has proven that it is impossible to do so.
So really, despite what workers say, they aren’t actually getting much work done or retaining important information from the meeting.
Paul Devoy decided to take action and ban all smart phones, tablets and laptops from meetings. It may seem like a draconian rule, however, the head of Investors in People, the UK body that sets workplaces standards, found that the result was workers being more productive and focussed.
He has also banned PowerPoint presentations from meetings, which he says now helps discussion flow more freely.
Is It Time To Go Topless?
Back in 2008 ‘Topless meetings’ became one of the top buzzwords of the year. Though, it’s not quite as sexy as it sounds.
Put simply, topless meetings are where workers are banned from bringing in laptops or any other electronic device in a bid to make meetings flow, and free from distraction.
Admittedly, devices can actually help meetings through file-sharing or viewing documents without having to use a projector. You can access materials without walking back to your desk, disrupting the flow of the meeting
So without completely banning devices, how can we ensure that meetings are more productive?
Kathleen Owens, president and manager of Novell and Attachmate published an article in Fast Company saying the best way to be productive is to keep meetings short, focused and with an end goal in mind.
She also suggested that when starting a new project to hand out pens and notebooks to each person, encouraging them to write and not type.
I have come across many ideas on how to limit the use of technology and remain engaged in meetings. Perhaps a better way is think about whether your meeting will benefit from technology and being aware of how you make notes. Will you be discussing information such as to-do lists or important data? If so, then an electronic device will enable you to accurately record this information.
If it’s a presentation then maybe leave the laptop at your desk, pick up your notepad and give your memory a chance to thrive.