Need Help Keeping Track of Appointments? Pen & Paper Works Better Than Your Device!

With school activities piling up, it feels like there’s a new appointment to schedule every few days: cross-country meet for my high schooler, conference with my little girl’s teacher, piano recital in a few weeks, not to mention soccer games, dance class, school field trips…who can keep up? Smartphones might seem like the best way to stay organized, but new research shows that the good ol’ pen and paper method works better for our brains!

According to new research from Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, participants who wrote scheduling information down with pen and paper had more accurate recall than those who recorded the information on a tablet or smartphone. Scientists assessed three groups of participants (those using digital tablet, phone, or pen and paper) using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), memory recall, and data retrieval efficiency to analyze which process was the most effective.

The significant superiority in both accuracy and activations for the Note group suggested that the use of a paper notebook promoted the acquisition of rich encoding information and/or spatial information of real papers and that this information could be utilized as effective retrieval clues, leading to higher activations in these specific regions.”

What does all that scientific jargon mean? It means the pen and paper (“Note”) group remembered more of the scheduling information and more efficiently retrieved the scheduling information than their counterparts who used a tablet or smartphone to record the appointments.

My head is spinning with upcoming appointments, but now I’m reassured I can keep up!
It’s time to grab my handy-dandy notebook and get myself organized!

Terissa Michele Miller, MS Psy

Check out the original research:

This article was originally published in Modern Brain Journal.

About the author:
Teri Miller is a mom of nine and child development researcher with a Masters of Science in Psychology. She is a Research Associate at Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research, co-host of the podcast Brainy Momsand the Managing Editor at Modern Brain Journal.