writing things down

Commit To Writing Things Down, It Will Boost Your Productivity

Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think. ~ Albert Einstein

“Writing things down, what a cliche, everyone knows that, give me something more sexy.”

This is what a friend of mine told me when he heard my answer to his request to give him something that will allow him to think more clearly, be more organized and raise his productivity.

Writing things down is not sexy, not even close.


It works! It works wonders! If you turn this simple technique into a habit, it will change the way you think and the way you do things. But there is more to it then plain “writing”. There is something missing that rarely gets talked about. Something that makes this whole process a productive powerhouse. Here’s what it is:

Writing things down sounds like the most trivial productivity advice ever, true, but it is very effective and often overlooked by many people. The reality is that it can make your life easier, much more organized, and it can boost your productivity tremendously.

Why is writing things down so powerful?

The main reason has to do with how your brain works –  in a very, very funny way.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you concentrate on a problem you cannot come up with a solution to, but nothings comes up. And then, days later, in the shower, or in the middle of your Netflix binge, the solution just pops in your brain.

Or a “genius” idea just randomly pops into your brain. It can be an idea about a new business, a new marketing idea, it can be anything. It can be important or as trivial as you a reminder that you never called that person you wanted to. And usually ideas come at the most random of times. In the middle of Saturday while you are apple picking with your kids, in the middle of the apple field, BOOM… an idea comes your way. At the time, you think to yourself “oh my god, this is so important, this is so critical, there’s no way I can forget about it.”

And then what happens? Ten minutes later, the idea is completely gone. Or even worse, you don’t even remember you had an idea to begin with.

What seemed so “important” at the moment, something that you cannot forget is now gone, possibly forever. Your brain works in a very mysterious and funny way.

Enter writing things down. The solution to your funny-working brain.

Let’s dig into some of the major benefits of writing your ideas and thoughts down:

1. It Helps You Not To Forget… In More Than One Way

One of the biggest benefits of writing things down is, of course, that you don’t forget stuff.

Duh, right!

Not so quick. There is more to it than what meets the eye.

If you’re in the middle of the apple orchard and an idea comes your way, you pull out your cell phone and you write it down, two things happen simultaneously.

First of all, you now have a record of it. You have a note. Maybe it’s on your cell phone, maybe it’s on an actual, physical piece of paper, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there is a physical record of that idea, one that is not dependent on your brain to store.

Second of all, once you come up with the idea and you write it down, you engage with a different part of your brain. The actual process of writing forces your brain to process the information, to process the idea, so that you can actually write something down. You need to physically write something, a sentence, a reminder, a couple of sentences, it doesn’t matter. It engages a different part of your brain than the one that you used to create the idea and that helps you remember it better and for longer.

2. It Unloads Your Mental RAM

Second benefit of writing things down, and this to me is one of the biggest ones: it unloads your mental RAM.

On your computer, there is a limited amount of programs you can run. If you run two, it’s okay. If you run 22, your computer starts slowing down because you’ve run out of RAM. Your brain works the same way. If you have too many things on your mind, your thinking cannot be efficient.

Let’s go back to the apple picking example.

You’re apple picking with your kids, and an idea comes your way. As soon as you write it down, you process that idea, and now you can concentrate on your kids, on having fun, on whatever the action of the moment is. If you’re thinking about the idea, you’re not actually apple picking. If you’re apple picking, you’re not really thinking about the idea.

You cannot do two things equally as good at the same time (despite the common misconception of multitasking).

As soon as you write it down, your brain says, “okay, I got it, it’s processed, now concentrate on the task at hand.” You process it, you externalize it, you get it outside of your mind, you put it on a piece of paper, it’s there, you don’t have to think about it, and now you can concentrate all your focus and all your attention on the task at hand.

And it feels very good. You feel like something has been lifted off your shoulders. Or, in this case, off of your mind.

Writing things down unloads your mental RAM. It clears out all clutter that’s in your brain, so you can concentrate much better.

3. Thinking On Paper

Writing down the random ideas that come at unexpected times is just one aspect of the “writing things down” productivity-boosting technique.

There is a whole other side of it called “thinking on paper”. As the name implies, this method relates to externalizing your thoughts on a piece of paper (or on your computer). It is still writing things down, but it is done in a deliberate, scheduled way, as opposed to means of storing random ideas and reminders.

Thinking on paper allows you to think much better. It allows you to organize your thoughts. Whether you’re planning a trip with your kids, or you’re planning your life for the next ten years, always think on paper.

Grab a pen, grab a pencil, grab a piece of paper, and write it all out. This allows you to process your ideas much better. On a paper, you can take an idea from the left side and you can literally, physically, move it to the right side of the paper. In your brain, that’s not as easy. It’s very hard to visualize ideas, move them around, connect them and interconnect them in a meaningful way, all in your brain.

Many successful people have been quoted on how much writing helps them:

  • Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, has been quoted many times that one of the keys to refining his ideas is writing them down. And if you know anything about Mr. Buffett, you know his ideas are genius. If it works for him, chances are it’s going to work for me and you.
  • Richard Branson, the famous entrepreneur and CEO of the Virgin Group, says that one of his best possessions is a standard-sized school notebook.

There are plenty of successful people who just keep a notebook in their pockets so they can write things down.

Whether it’s jotting down new ideas or re-thinking old ones, thinking on paper allows you to think better. While you’re writing things down, all your attention is there. You cannot be writing things down and also be thinking about the next weekend, or the presentation you need to give tomorrow. While you’re writing things down, you’re fully engaged. It allows you to think better, to think much more clearly, to refine your ideas, and to organize them in a meaningful way.

How To (Actually) Use Your Notes

Writing things down is awesome, no doubt there. But if you stop at just writing, you are essentially wasting your time and creating more clutter in your life.

The magic trick to actually putting what you wrote down to productive use is this: processing your notes!

Schedule 10 to 15 minutes at the end of every week and process your notes.

If you have a reminder to call somebody, put it on your action list. Put it on your calendar. Or if you have an idea about a new business, or a new marketing idea, or a new blog post, or whatever it is, put it with your other ideas.

Processing your notes allows you to make sense of them and to take action and move forward, not just collect your ideas.

Your Turn Now

Get into the habit of writing things down and, at the end of the week, of processing your notes.

That’s how you make yourself much more productive and much more organized. It’s going to make you a happier person as well. It’s going to clear your mind so you can focus better.

And it’s super easy. There is nothing new to learn, there is no new technique to stress over. Just get into the habit of writing things down. It’s a simple idea, but it’s going to revolutionize how much you get done and how much more clearly you think.

Question: what are some other benefits of writing things down and thinking on paper? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think.