Paper vs mobile for note taking

A paper notebook is one of the key tools in my professional work 📓🖊️. Although I couldn’t measure it, I somehow knew it made me more effective.

Now I found the evidence. Pen&paper notes activate long-term memory areas in your brain 🧠, compared to working memory (your brain’s RAM) used when writing on your mobile device 📱.

My favourite note taking set - Nuuna notebook and Caran d'Ache pen

Check the scientific paper: “Paper Notebooks vs. Mobile Devices: Brain Activation Differences During Memory Retrieval”. 👇

The study divided participants into two groups. Participants who used paper notebooks showed increased activation in regions linked to long-term memory retrieval, such as the hippocampus. On the other hand, individuals who used mobile devices exhibited higher activation in areas associated with working memory, like the prefrontal cortex.

What does this mean for note-takers?

Choosing the right medium can impact memory performance. Paper-based note-taking enhances engagement with long-term memory systems, potentially improving retention. On the other hand, mobile devices promote the utilization of working memory processes for immediate information processing.

Whether you prefer paper or screens for note-taking, understanding these cognitive differences can help optimize your learning strategies.

How does this work for me?

I mostly use digital solutions, like TODO lists, notes (Obsidian!), or virtual whiteboards for speedy brain dumps. Quick notes, lists, journals, and information I need to access quickly in the future.

And I use paper notebooks for 1:1s, brainstorming sessions, or discussions on long-term projects. It’s perfect for tracking things over an extended time. Somehow, writing things on paper also writes them into my brain (the opposite of dumping information into TODO lists).

Hand-written concepts literally live in my head and stay with me for longer.

Read more

If you are a leader, your work starts with a great notebook 📒🖊️. I really mean it. Make sure you have good quality paper and pen, so you can write without any distractions whenever you need to do that. Let’s take 1:1s as an example. Whenever your boss writes something
Paper Notebooks vs. Mobile Devices: Brain Activation Differences During Memory Retrieval
It remains to be determined how different inputs for memory-encoding, such as the use of paper notebooks or mobile devices, affect retrieval processes. We compared three groups of participants who read dialogues on personal schedules and wrote down the scheduled appointments on a calendar using a pa…