As the business world gets more technologically advanced, fewer and fewer entrepreneurs are taking the time to write things out by hand — to-do lists, reminders, communications with team members and clients have all been digitized. However, some top CEOs still swear by writing things down. So it seems that this seemingly old school activity still offers some benefits.
Mary Anne Hansan, President of the Paper & Packaging Board said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Since small business owners often wear multiple hats within their organization, the challenge can be one of time management, and a long to-do list can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost in the instant gratification of getting emails opened and sorted, but it’s not always the best use of a leader’s time.”
Reasons for Writing Things Down
Hansan understands the importance of handwritten notes and lists on both a personal and professional level. Here are some of the reasons why business owners should keep this practice around as well.
It Makes Your Messages Stand Out
When it comes to communications with others, writing out notes can make your message more likely to get noticed.
Hansan explains, “When was the last time you received handwritten correspondence from a business associate or family member? Dozens or even hundreds of emails swarm our inbox every day, but handwritten sentiments automatically disrupt our day. We suddenly stop to read messages that otherwise might have been overlooked.”
It Shows People That You Care
Writing notes by hand and delivering them to a person also takes significantly more effort than sending a text or email. Since your recipient is likely to understand that, it can also communicate the importance of that communication to them and potentially even evoke an emotional reaction from them.
Hansan says, “Handwriting them is a simple way to go the extra mile and show you care. Handwritten thank you notes, or other types, show that the sender took the time to “do things right” – they made an effort – and that means more to the receiver.”
It Improves Morale
Specifically when it comes to your team, sending or giving them handwritten notes to show your appreciation for their hard work can communicate that sentiment more powerfully than an electronic message or performance review. And when your team members know that you truly value their contributions, they’re more likely to be happy and productive at work.
It Helps You Strengthen Relationships
Relationships — with your team, your partners, your clients — are essential when it comes to building the foundation of a business. So a form of communication that shows people how much you value them and how much time you’re willing to put into the relationship can be very valuable.
Hansan says, “According to Psychology Today, thank-you notes can elevate our relationships strengthen an already-close bond, or turn an acquaintance to a friend (or say, turn potential business into a regular customer).”
It Helps You Remember Important Items
Whether you’re writing something to someone else or to yourself, writing it out by hand can also make the data stand out more in your own mind. The act of physically writing things down forces your brain to process the words in a different way than you would by simply speaking them or quickly typing them into an app or device.
It Offers a Visible Representation
When it comes to writing down lists or appointments in a calendar, it also provides you with a tangible item that you can look at and use to process the information visually. Sometimes being able to look at the information can help you notice patterns or prioritize task in a way that would be more difficult if you were simply dealing with digital information.
It Lets You Plan Ahead
Additionally, keeping a paper planner or calendar can help you easily take notes or tasks for the days and weeks ahead, rather than focusing mainly on the immediate days and weeks ahead.
Hansan adds, “I keep a daily planner on paper, allowing me to organize my tasks into to-do’s for today, and assign tasks to other days, so I can plan ahead. It complements my online calendar, but gives me more detail and a better view of my daily responsibilities. Organizing my notes and appointments on paper gives me view of how I can make the most of my time and just makes me more productive.”
It Improves Creativity
The act of writing things down or doodling in a notebook or planner also offers you a creative outlet. You can put together your own system for taking down notes, color code information using your own custom color scheme, or even add images or other types of visuals along with the actual words. For business owners, exercising those creative muscles can have so many powerful benefits.
It Complements Digital Lists or Calendars
You don’t have to choose one or the other when it comes to paper or technology. You can create systems for both and use them in the ways that best suit your needs. In addition, having at least some of your information offline can be helpful in case there’s an issue with the software or devices that you use to manage those digital assets.
It Helps You Get More Done
Overall, the biggest potential benefit of keeping written lists is improved productivity. Richard Branson is one successful CEO that credits handwritten lists with his ability to get more done. When you write things down, it can force you to actually focus on those tasks on a specific day since you can’t easily copy and paste them over to another part of the calendar. So when something is really important, follow his lead and write things down so you’ll stick with your plan.
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