Taking Notes

taking-notesAdmittedly I am a product of the Luddite era, when taking notes meant pen and paper, unless you had a working knowledge of shorthand. In class we all developed our own versions of transcribing the words of the lecturer into some legible form to be reviewed later. Unfortunately, “later” often meant well beyond the time when those scribbles made sense and the well intended abbreviations morphed into indecipherable gibberish. Fast forward to the present and, with few exceptions, students are keyboarding. Most people can type faster than write longhand, so why would you choose the latter? In short, digital note-taking is easier.

New information suggests that longhand may be a better tool for locking in learning and help us remember what we heard. UCLA researchers had students take notes at a lecture and quizzed them later. Even with the Internet disabled, long-hand note-takers performed better on tests. Mueller/Oppenheimer referred to the “desirable difficulty” —when an obstacle that can frustrate us, actually helps us learn. Students who were transcribing the lectures were acting as stenographers and not grappling with the task of taking in the information, processing it and creating a way for them to recall it. Note-taking is a two part process; encoding or creating the notes and storage – reviewing the notes later. Printing information in hard to read fonts was another example of “desirable difficulty”.

As an aside, in a class I recently took, I was the only one still writing notes by hand. What I also noticed was that many screens were not capturing the speaker’s words, but playing solitaire, scanning Facebook or checking messages. So, has attention become so fragmented that even in the middle of a lecture, the focus is elsewhere, accounting for the information retention gap? Or, can we make the best use of these tools selectively knowing that once you store a phone number in your mobile device, for example, you will not have to recall it from your memory, having sent it to the cloud and safely stored elsewhere.


Take the Stairs to Achieve Success

stairway to successIs it willpower or discipline, and does it really matter? How decisive am I on a daily basis only to have to modify my plan before I even get started? According to Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, choosing to take the escalator over a flight of stairs is a deeper indicator of how you operate overall and may be quite telling. When you select the easier shortcut of stepping on those moving stairs, is it really about getting to another floor more quickly or is it a statement about how you function in other parts of your life? He calls this the “escalator mentality” and it may be emblematic of avoiding the more challenging effort of full engagement in a given activity.

Sometimes shortcuts are smart and sensible, but they can also be deceptive. When we get in the habit of automatically looking for the quicker solution, we may also be setting ourselves up for traps. It is particularly tempting to seek the easy way out when it comes to making difficult changes like reaching a goal weight or reducing debt. But these shortcuts can also take a toll on self-discipline and don’t always take you where you want to go.

Evaluate your decisions– is this taking you where you want to go?
• Be flexible- find success in making small changes first; bigger ones later
• Manage your time – when is the best time to focus on this activity?
• Prioritize and Succeed!

Keep in mind that we are not all Luddites, attached to doing things the long, hard way and not make use of the technology that is readily available. It makes sense to view each situation independently, with a heightened awareness that the easy/faster way may not always be the best way. However, after an exhausting day, that escalator may also be just what the doctor ordered!

©2013 Maureen Weisner