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Elizabeth Fairon

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Following my own advice: time to get journaling

This weekend we travelled to Canberra for our goddaughter’s birthday.  On Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves catching up and discussing, with excitement, the opportunity to go and see the Book of Mormon (again) when it opens next year in Sydney.  I had seen it in August in Melbourne and loved it!  I turned to my best friend, Rachel and said “have you seen it?”  Rachel looked at me, paused and said “Yes. With you. In Melbourne. In August.” Right…

Wow, where has the year gone and when did I become so busy that I had forgotten that Rachel and I had a girls weekend in Melbourne, in August and saw this show. This comment really had me contemplating, what else has the year held that has passed by too quickly?!

Of course, I remember the weekend now and the great time we had; lovely food out on the Friday night, great shopping – the show, which was fantastic.

Saturday night at dinner, I was speaking with my cousin who asked if I kept a journal. I don’t, but it is always something I recommend to my clients.

Much is said these days of the benefits of journaling.  I recall the compulsory requirement to keep a journal in my first year of high school.  I wrote in it regularly.  I still have the journals somewhere in a box under our house.  These days my “journals” are more like notebooks – a notebook for my book planning, for my work planning, for a particular committee, for our life planning.  Lots of different note books for lots of different purposes – however they aren’t journals, they are notebooks to keep track of meetings, thoughts, ideas…

I have found there are many benefits to writing things down as a method of studying, learning and retaining – but I haven’t tried journaling as an adult.  I recall a recent discussion with a millennial about why those older course members amongst us write things down (as opposed to typing away on their laptops).  In today’s digital world, that physical practice of putting pen to paper is rare.

While I’m yet to give journaling a go, I have found these benefits to writing by hand:

  1. You have a greater capacity to retain what you learn.

In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers wanted to see if the increasing trend in students typing their lecture notes positively or negatively affected cognitive processing, when compared to handwriting notes.  The results of the experiments suggested that taking notes with a pen and paper, rather than on a lap top, lead to higher quality learning, with writing a better strategy to store and internalise ideas in the long haul.[1]

A similar study found that writing by hand allows the brain to receive feedback from a person’s motor actions and this specific feedback is different to those received when touching and typing on a keyboard.  The movements involved when handwriting “leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain,” which helps the person recognise letters and establish a connection between reading and writing.[2]

I can actually recall a specific event when this second example played out for me.  In my law studies, I sat a rare closed book exam (most law exams are open book) on a topic of intellectual property law.  I reduced my entire study load down to a few pieces of paper which I wrote out by hand a few times, continually reducing the notes each time.  I found that in the exam, I could recall where the notes were on the page and what they said when I needed to recall the specific information in order to answer the question.

  1. It provides you with an ability to think more broadly.

Thinking and planning using various mind mapping tools on your computer has benefits, but the physical act of writing down your dreams, goals and business ideas on paper allows you to think more broadly.

I find watching your ideas grow and expand from a single thought in the middle of a blank page to be inspiring.

  1. Your thinking and planning is more focused.

In today’s technological world, your computer is alive with notifications and distractions.  At any given time, you have email notifications, messages popping up, the urge to check Facebook or other social media. Taking the time to open a notebook provides you with the opportunity to think and plan free from distraction.  It allows you to focus on what you are trying to plan and think more clearly.

So, with that in mind and following my own advice, this week I’m commencing my journaling in an effort to recall and retain significant achievements, little wins, the low points and the high points.  I am going to start by recapping the year that has been!  Stay tuned for any insights…

Happy (hand) writing.