Have you ever gone to the grocery store with the intention of picking up a few things and came out with half the store in your cart? When you get home you realize you have everything except what you went there in the first place. Now think about the time you walked in with a list and came out with the exact things you walked into the store for without even thinking.
I’m the type of person who has to write everything down. I have to-do lists, grocery lists, calendar reminders on my cell phone and email, my goals and visions are written down, and I write my thoughts in a journal. While my passion for writing is one reason I do this, it’s not the only reason. I learned something a long time ago that stuck with me. A short pencil is better than a long memory. Human memory is indeed faulty, we can easily lose our way in life if we only rely on our memory to get us there. When we write things down, the thoughts are reinforced and become more “concrete.”
Here’s a bit of history on what goes on in the brain based on some simple neuropsychology. Our brain is divided into several regions that help us process information. These include the frontal lobe, which is for problem solving, emotions, behavior control, thinking, and planning. The motor cortex which is responsible for movement, the sensory cortex which is responsible for sensation, the temporal lobe which processes long-term memory, the parietal lobe which makes sense of the world and helps us with spelling, arithmetic and perception and the occiput which is responsible for vision. When we write things down, we’re using several of these parts of the brain, but more importantly, we’re helping to store this information in our long-term memory. When we engage in the act of writing things down, we are activating all parts of the brain.
A study on students, in a university setting, looked at students who were note takers and students who were not note takers. The study tested these students immediately after a lecture. All students in the study recall approximately 40% of the information presented. The difference between the two groups was that the students who took the notes remembered more details of the lesson. Students who did not take notes remembered random parts of the lesson. The mere act of writing helped the students memorize more details into their long-term memory.
Writing is basically like a dress rehearsal for the brain. When we write things down we are helping to commit these things into our long-term memory. The mind is a tricky thing when it remembers things and a concrete reference can help us stay focused and on track. Writing it down is also a good way to keep your mind focused and reduce the amount of stress in your life. It only takes a minute to write, but it can save you a lot of hassle and heartache in the long run. So when you need to remember something in life, take a second and write it down.