Why I scribe notes by hand

Take a break from the keyboard and scribe your notes by hand

Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

For years I used Evernote to scribe meeting notes, capture ideas, and itemize my to-do items. Several years ago I started keeping a bullet journal to give myself a break from the glare of a computer monitor, and I've not looked back.

Evernote, notes forever

Evernote was a great program for me for a really long time, and I still have a lot of notes from ages past stored in it. I loved having my notes on all of my devices, and I loved that you can search your notes to find some obscure thought from the kickoff meeting for building the Ark. It's an easy program to use for anyone looking for a good note taking platform.

So why did I stop using it?

Simple really, and it has nothing to do with Evernote; I needed a break from computers.

I've been working professionally with a computer in front of me 1996, and personally since 1985. That's a long time and a lot of bright light blasting me in the face; code, documents, games, videos, and entertainment. Even as dedicated as I am to the computer arts, I needed a break.

Enter the bullet journal

I had never used a journal before. I had never wanted to use a journal before. In my mind, a "journal" was a fancy word for a diary, and that wasn't something I was terribly interested in. But, one of my colleagues had been doing this bullet journal thing and talked me into watching a video or three that peaked my interest. He walked me through making an index and the legend of symbols to help keep me organized; he introduced me to the concept of collections, and I was hooked.

So I dove in. I dug up a notebook that I got at a Sitecore conference and my favorite comodity roller ball pen, a Uniball Signo 207. I created my index, numbered my pages, and created a legend so I wouldn't forget the symbols for things. I made the index for my first month and started journaling away in meetings, taking notes and capturing my to-do's. My journal was organized, I knew where everything was and just like Evernote, I had my journal everywhere I went. I enjoyed the peace of it; no clicking of keys, no bright monitor screaming into my face, no instant messages or email notifications or the 20 other sources of toast that distracted me in meetings. I was focused more than ever before, and while my penmanship was terrible and my hand would cramp due to my non-existent since high school handwriting experience, I loved it.

I'd walk into a meeting with my little notebook and my pen and everyone looked at me like I was insane. I was in a meeting without a computer; the technologist taking notes with grandpa level tech. I got a lot of snarky comments, and a good deal of ribbing, but there was a an upside that wasn't obvious to anyone but me.

After a short while something unexpected started happening; the thoughts I captured in the journal "stuck". I found that when I wrote something out, something worth writing anyway, that I'd remember it much more clearly than if I were to type things into Evernote. Coupled with my newfound ability to focus on the meeting without the distraction of a laptop, my engaged productivity went up. I attribute this to the simple fact that unlike typing, which is autonomous for me, writing requires a couple more brain cycles.

I genuinely believe that journaling has made me a better person, or at least made a portion of my life more enjoyable. And to top it off I now have a new thing to obsess over; fountain pens, nice pencils, and quality stationary.

La Résistance

Fellow nerds, put away your machines in meetings; They are heavy and distracting. Pick up something that makes marks and scratch your thoughts into something that won't get you in trouble. Better yet, get yourself a Leuchtturm 1917 or a Rhodia Webnotebook and a good quality rollerball pen. You can thank me later.

Also, please... PLEASE, brush up on your penmanship. I'm embarrassed on your behalf and we don't even know each other.

Header Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash