Why I Keep Hand Written Notes in Meetings

Source: DALL-E

In a world dominated by technology, where digital tools are often the go-to for note-taking, I’ve found immense value in maintaining the practice of keeping handwritten notes during meetings. This technique is not just about documenting discussions; it’s an integral part of my active listening strategy — a critical skill for effective leadership and coaching.

Active listening involves more than just hearing words. It’s about fully engaging with the speaker, maintaining eye contact, processing their words, and often, reflecting their sentiments or phrases back to them. This ensures not only that you’ve understood their message, but also that they feel heard and valued. In my years of experience in leadership and executive coaching, active listening has proven to be a cornerstone of successful communication.

Interestingly, handwritten notes play a pivotal role in this process. Research has shown that the act of writing notes by hand can significantly improve focus and information retention. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that taking and reviewing longhand notes can help mitigate mind-wandering, a common obstacle in maintaining attentive listening.

For years, I carried bound notebooks, using them to jot down key points and thoughts during meetings. This method was effective in helping me remember and process information, but it wasn’t without its drawbacks. Physical notebooks, while handy, aren’t always within reach, especially during unexpected or impromptu meetings.

To overcome this limitation, I transitioned to taking notes on my iPad. Using a stylus and the Notes app, I can quickly create a new file for each meeting. This approach has several advantages. First, it allows me to keep my notes organized and easily accessible. The iPad’s Focus Mode also ensures that I stay free from distractions like text messages or notifications during meetings.

The digital format has another significant benefit: my notes are synchronized across my devices through iCloud. This connectivity means that my notes are available on my main computer and iPhone, offering me the flexibility to access them whenever needed. It’s a safeguard against the all-too-familiar problem of misplacing a notebook, something I’ve experienced firsthand.

But why stick with handwriting in an age where typing is faster and more convenient? The answer lies in the connection between hand movements and memory. Writing by hand involves more complex motor skills and sensory experiences than typing. This engagement of the brain’s motor pathways aids in better encoding and recalling of the information.

In my coaching practice at PotensMentor, I emphasize the importance of being fully present and engaged in interactions. Handwritten notes are a tangible manifestation of this principle. They represent a deliberate choice to immerse oneself in the conversation, to actively listen and participate, rather than passively record.

For anyone looking to improve their leadership and communication skills, I advocate giving handwritten notes a try. Whether you choose the traditional pen and paper or a digital stylus and tablet, the act of writing by hand can transform your approach to meetings. It’s a simple yet powerful tool that fosters deeper engagement, better memory retention, and, ultimately, more meaningful connections.

Handwritten notes are more than just a method of recording information; they are a conduit to deeper understanding and connection in our interactions. As we navigate our fast-paced, technology-driven world, sometimes, going back to the basics, like taking handwritten notes, can offer the most sophisticated solutions.


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