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My Pen and Paper Addiction

I love taking notes. Not just taking notes, but physically writing things down.

And while I’m always game to try the latest note-taking app or gadget, I haven’t been able to stick with any of them.

I always end up returning to my trusty pen and paper.

I’ve never been able to explain why I prefer such an old-fashioned system. Until I read this fascinating article about the science of note-taking.

Better Notes = Better Recall

In the article, college students were given the choice of taking their lecture notes by hand or on a laptop.

When asked about the contents of the lecture a few hours later, the students who had taken their notes the old-fashioned way recalled far more about the subject matter than their digital counterparts.

The researchers had a fascinating theory to explain this.

Most people can type faster than they can write. That means when we’re taking notes on a computer, we can write down almost everything we hear during a lecture, conference or meeting.

But when we take notes by hand, we’re forced to be more selective about what we record.

We can’t write as fast, so we can’t write as much.

The researchers theorized that because we have to stop and think about what’s worth writing down when taking notes by hand, the content of our notes is better ingrained in our brain than if we were just mindlessly typing everything we hear.

Fascinating, right?

There are other benefits to writing notes by hand, the article explained. Mainly, the pen and paper can’t connect to Wi-Fi.

You can’t check your email when taking notes by hand. You can’t pop onto Facebook or see what headlines are breaking out of Washington, D.C., or Hollywood.

All you can do is write.

Sounds Great. But …

While the article justified my pen and paper addiction, I still had questions. Namely, what do we do with all that paper after the lecture or conference is over?

As much as I love my notepads, they’re not exactly sustainable or practical.

Every day, those headlines we aren’t supposed to read when we’re taking notes are full of dire climate news. I’m a big believer that small acts equal big change in any situation. If I can find a way to reduce my landfill contribution by a few notebooks a year, I’m down.

Then there are the notes we want to keep to reference later.

I have drawers full of old notebooks. But if you asked me to find the one I used at the 2015 Clio Legal Technology Conference, it would take me hours to flip through each notebook and find the pages I was looking for.

So what’s a proud pen and paper devotee to do?

Buy a Rocketbook.

The World’s Best Notebook?

I discovered these handy reusable notebooks last year and am in love. They come in two flavors. The Rocketbook Everlast is essentially a wet erase board in notebook form. You use special pens to take your notes, and when you’re done with them, wipe the page down with a damp cloth and start all over again.

The Rocketbook Wave also uses special pens, but instead of erasing the page with a damp cloth, you pop the notebook into the microwave, nuke it for a few seconds, and, when it’s done, all the pages of the book are magically clear.

The erasability is great, but the functionality of saving your notes for future use is even better.

The Rocketbook includes an app that empowers you to upload each page to the cloud. You simply take a photo of the notes you want to save and the image is instantly saved to whatever application you choose.

There are seven icons at the bottom of each page of the Rocketbook. Depending on which one you bubble in, the app knows whether to add the notes to your “vacation ideas” file in Dropbox or your “marketing to-do” list in Google Drive.

Once you get familiar with the app, you can adjust the settings to instantly give the saved photo a title, format its content and even turn it into an email.  

What I love the most though is that all the scans are searchable. That’s right, you can search for and find text in the saved photo.

Appeasing my pen and paper addiction without hurting the earth or having to dig through piles of notebooks to find those 2015 conference notes?

Sign me up.

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