Why you should handwrite (not type) your goals, dreams and aspirations

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believeWhen was the last time you wrote something down by hand?

Perhaps it was on Monday when you wrote out your to-do list in your work notebook. Or maybe it was Wednesday when you wrote on a Post-It note to remind yourself to pick up eggs. Or perhaps in was on Friday when you wrote a few pleasantries in a birthday card that you were planning to give your friend on the weekend.

Or maybe you just typed your to-do list in your lap top at work, set a reminder on your phone to get eggs and wished your friend a Happy Birthday on their Facebook wall.

Although my handwriting is barely legible and I misspell almost every word I write, I love writing things down. Pen to paper is my jam. I’m a visual learner, so there’s something about physically writing things out that helps me to remember it better than if I typed it out on a computer screen.

When I studied for exams in university, I would rewrite all my class notes then go through the text book and write down key points to study instead of just highlighting them in the book to read. During exams, I was able to “see” the notes in my head and could write my responses almost word for word. Needless to say I did quite well on long-form or essay questions (and thankfully there were a lot of those on my writing class exams), but not so much on multiple choice questions. I always wondered if there was something to this method for recalling information, and apparently there is: according to a study published in the Physiological Science journal, “students who took longhand notes were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop.” The scientists of the study found that “those working on paper rephrased information as they took notes, which required them to carry out a preliminary process of summarizing and comprehension; in contrast, those working on a keyboard tended to take a lot of notes, sometimes even making a literal transcript, but avoided what is known as ‘desirable difficulty’.”

While that’s all well and great for university learning, how can that help us reach our goals?

Why you should handwrite your health and fitness goals
I’d argue that handwriting goals, dreams and aspirations works in the same way: it helps us remember them better and keeps them in our focus. I find I’m much more likely to stick to a workout plan when I have it written down in front of me (even though I’ll draft it in an excel spreadsheet and print it off, I write all over it, cross days/workouts off when they’re complete and add in other notes). I keep a to-do list in a notebook at work, and also a journal where I write down ideas and things I’m grateful for each day. Not only does physical note taking help keep those important things top-of-mind, but also acts a visual reminder — this is especially helpful if you’re working towards any kind of health or fitness-related goal, where seeing all those workout days crossed of can be really motivating.

Although I just use a small lined notebook right now, I’m looking into buying some kind of life planner to help organize my thoughts, ideas, journal entries, clients, events, and other side gigs, as I’m finding one undated notebook just isn’t enough to keep everything organized. If you’re in the market for something similar, here are a few I’m researching at the moment. If you have any other suggestions or recommend one of planners below, please let me know!

  • The Five Minute Journal – A daily journal that asks you to jot down your answers to a few questions/prompts per day, such as what you are grateful for, what could have made today better, an affirmation and three amazing ideas.
  • Me & My Big Ideas – An 18-month life planner with a calendar, places to take notes and write journal entries, and fun additions like insert pockets and stickers.
  • Erin Condren – A customizable 12-month life planner with a weekly or hourly calendar, places to take notes and write journal entries, and creative additions like a budget workbook, a health planner, to-do stickers, pens and pockets.

Do you write down your goals, to-do lists and other notes on paper? What do you usually write on paper and what do you type on your computer or phone? If you use a life planner, which brand do you recommend?