Making notes and handwriting – a philosophy for modern life
Oooooh! I love a good notebook, do you?
A toolkit for my life
I have several notebooks on the go at any one time, each designated to a different activity, interest or project. It means I collect lots of related things in the same place and this helps me see threads in my thought process and spot things that complement or stick out. Note making and handwriting is a tactical coping mechanism, and it helps me sift and simplify things.
What feels and looks right eventually bubbles to the surface, so it also helps me make decisions, constructively, with consideration. It sounds like a mood board. I suppose it is in a way, well sort of, but I think of it more as a toolkit for life.
Remember this (circled), look this up (with asterix) ... consider what's different (question mark), see what works (question mark and later a tick) ... ideas to pinch (spell check), inspiration to soak up (dodgy doodle).
If I see a new shop, artist, architect, colour, poster or painting I like, I scribble it in my notebook, so I can come back to it later. I do also take pictures on my phone but using only my phone to store and capture things on doesn’t work for me. The pictures I want seem to get lost in a series of admin images, 30 different shots of the same thing, or the cat sleeping! If I had more patience I’d scroll through them, but I don’t.
Another part of my toolkit is my diary, which I write in every day to look back, look forward and track my wellbeing. This year I'm tracking my water intake and self-care activities in particular. Plus I log my wellbeing walks religiously.
I see my notes and notebooks as tools that help me remember things, slot and prioritise things so I can be in the moment. I avoid missing out on things, now and in the future, by later referring to my scribbles. When it's written in my notebook, it can always come back to it later, reject it, explore it and action it. Bizarrely by writing things down, it helps me to remember things better anyway. Yes, you can have it all!
Life for me often resembles organised chaos, bits of time here and there, so my notebooks and handwritten scribbles, with snippets and lists, are my toolkit to cope with life. Better in a notebook than scrambling up my brain is what I say.
I try and stick to the rule of one notebook per activity, interest or project and I prefer not to rip pages out. I don’t like other people writing in them either, but that’s just me.
Currently I have a notebook dedicated to our recent house move, which also contains inspiration for our home improvement plans, interior design ideas and home decorating tips. It's got wallpaper samples slotted into it, along with paint charts and fabric samples from various gorgeous brands.
Then I have a notebook in my handbag in case I need to … capture an amazing idea, inspiration for something, words, lyrics or quotes, and best of all, in case I see a new talented crafter or creative that I’d like to work with.
Plus I have a notebook dedicated to my to-do lists, where I'm also careful to write my 'completed' actions as well. I find it motivating to see what I've 'done', not just what is 'to-do'. It gives me the context I need to know if I've had a productive day and how to plan tomorrow and next week. Seeing lots of crossed out tasks is very satisfying, plus I can also see which tasks I'm avoiding!
The image below is of a notebook I have for planning trips, sightseeing and holidays.
I'm a notebook fan and have my own notebook etiquette! Some might think this ‘quirky’ (more kind than honest), but I did some research recently and I found that there are real, scientifically proven benefits to doing what I do. In a world dominated by ecommerce, smartphones, desktops, laptops and digital transformation, it’s easy to let handwriting skills fall away. But scientific research suggests handwriting benefits our brain and wellbeing in many ways.
Now do you still think it’s weird?
5 benefits of making notes and handwriting
- It boosts learning.
- Sparks creativity.
- Sharpens your brain.
- Improves your problem-solving skills.
- Relaxes your mind.
Handwriting boots learning
When writing by hand or typing into a computer, people use different parts of the brain, and this has an impact on our learning abilities. The process and movements we make when writing activates larger areas of the brain than when we type, including the areas that take care of language, healing, thinking and memory.
We understand information conveyed to us better when we handwrite because it requires the brain to process the information and change the way something is expressed or considered into our own words. By reframing things, it helps the learning and memory process.
Handwriting sparks creativity
Many favourite authors and celebrated thinkers purposely wrote their creations by hand, instead of using a typewriter, voice recorder or tablet - J.K Rowling, Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway to name but a few.
It’s the speed that makes the difference. Writing is slower and this provides more time to process thoughts, which also gives creative ideas the chance to spring to life and develop.
Putting pen to paper can sharpen your brain
Retaining the brain’s ability to process, retrieve and store information, is also helped through writing by hand. This is called cognitive ability. So, write to train your brain and keep it sharp, especially as you grow older.
FYI sleep is also an important factor for mental health and cognitive strength. Getting an appropriate amount of quality sleep allows your brain the time it needs to repair and regenerate by processing the information you have learned throughout the day.
Handwriting can improve problem-solving skills
Try it next time you have a problem. Handwriting can help clear the mind of confusion, making it easier to reach a solution. Try ‘brain dumping’ issues and ideas down in to a notebook. It should help you see and conceptualise what the next steps should be by helping you organise thoughts, knowledge, facts and observations and to spot patterns and connections.
Handwriting relaxes your mind
Yes, the world is fast-paced, but finding the time to sit down and write will help focus the mind and provide a way to relax and be mindful. It’ll force you to slow down, be patient and think about what you want to communicate. Similarly, doodling, painting and colouring are ways to find moments of peace and absentmindedness in an otherwise chaotic world.
Oh and finally, the secret last point, so that actually makes 6 benefits.
Handwriting things helps improve your spelling and word memory because there’s auto correct function and no correction options to rely on!
There you have it. Note making, writing things by hand and running an effective notebook obsession, whatever etiquette you decide, will provide untold benefits for your brain and wellbeing.
Happy scribbling x