In praise of hard copies and writing things down …

Ran across an article by Eric McNulty —  the CEO of LinkedIn:  Journaling Can Boost Your Leadership Skills .

As the title suggests, he was advising busy managers to to take some time each day  to record their deep thoughts in a journal.

Seems like a reasonable idea … but that’s not what caught my attention.



As a teacher, I’ve had to adapt approaches to leverage the ways that students process information … especially as the world goes all-digital.

One of my conclusions: digital provides many benefits, but also seems to restrict our capability “go deep”, to “connect the dots” and to draw insights.

Why might that be true?



While praising journals, McNulty provides a rationale for going analog – at least some of the time.

Our lives are awash in digital. Each electronic pulse pushes us to respond instantly.

But the beauty of the human brain isn’t its ability to render snap judgment and instantly weigh in on a topic electronically.

Quite the opposite.

Our brain’s greatest capacity is a higher level of thought: to process disparate bits of information, find patterns, and create meaningful dialog and action over time.

This ability flows from our natural hardwiring. To benefit from it, you only need to slow down and let your inner genius emerge.

While digital is dizzying and often encourages us to speed up, analog helps us slow down, calm down, and reflect.

It is reassuringly grounding and provides space for reflection and contemplation.

Analog beats digital because writing something down by hand triggers a part of the brain, known as the reticular activation system, to pay close attention, and may improve retention.

Tapping keys doesn’t have the same effect.

Writing engages the analytical, rational functions of the brain, which gives the more creative parts of your cranium space and time to work their magic.

Neuroscientists have shown that this type of “mindful concentration” stimulates the parts of the brain that are active when not engaged in directed activity.

You don’t need to trash your smartphone.

You just need to keep a pen and some paper handy … and use them when you’re dealing with a complex problem.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

>> Latest Posts


2 Responses to “In praise of hard copies and writing things down …”

  1. Chris Hairel Says:

    100%, I often move to pen-and-paper or at least a stylus on my iPad when working on a new storyboard or trying to frame a complex issue. Almost always ends up with a more elegant outcome.

  2. Alyssa Tryon Says:

    I agree completely with your observation that digital restricts the ability to connect the dots. I’ve not (yet) been able to figure out exactly why that is, but it’s absolutely a fact that writing out on paper naturally leads to more and deeper insights.

    …it’s also a great excuse to buy a fountain pen and use it with aplomb!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s