Process What I’m Up To

Why I make handwritten notes when learning or working on an idea

Joey de Villa’s handwritten notes on unified APIs in his new notebook for his new job at Unifed API (
Notes from my new work notebook.
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To me, it always felt that I learned better and retained more if I took notes by hand rather than typing them in, and there’s research that backs up my hunch!

Scientific American points to a study published in the January 25, 2024 issue of Frontiers in Psychology with one of those “the answer is in the title” titles: Handwriting but not typewriting leads to widespread brain connectivity: a high-density EEG study with implications for the classroom.

Joey de Villa’s handwritten notes on unified APIs in his new notebook for his new job at Unifed API (
More notes from my new notebook.
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The gist of the Scientific American article:

  • Taking notes by hand versus typing results in more electrical activity across many interconnecting brain regions that handle things like:
    • movement
    • vision
    • sensory processing
    • memory
  • It’s slower than typing, which means you have to pick and choose what you record, forcing you to:
    • prioritize the information you’re presented with
    • figure out what the main points are
    • relate what you’re writing notes about to what you’ve learned before
    • …and that means you’re more likely to stay engaged and grasp new concepts better
  • Writing by hand means that your motor and memory systems have to work together, which improves your memory of what you’re writing notes about
A set of various colored pens and a spiral-bound notebook with Joey de Villa’s hand-drawn version of Unified API’s ( octopus logo on the cover.
My new notebook and many colored pens.
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As Unified API’s newest member and Supreme Developer Advocate, I have a lot of work ahead of me — and a lot of note-taking. So I customized a notebook from a Scrum software vendor (I can’t even remember when I got it) with Unified’s octopus logo (see the photo above) and have been taking furious notes. As a result, I’m retaining what I’m learning, which is very, very important at this very early stage in the game.

If you’re learning something new, trying breaking away from the computer as a note-taking device, get a paper notebook, and try writing notes by hand! You may be pleasantly surprised.

Reading list

And to be thorough, here’s an article that suggests that it’s not as cut-and-dried as the articles and papers listed above say: