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Archive for August, 2015

Why the Pen is Mightier Than the Laptop

I know it has become more and more common to do everything on our digital devices these days, whether that be our laptop, tablet or smartphone. And that can be great. In many ways, these devices have made us more productive and offer some great tools.

There is one area however, where I will encourage you to go “old school” with a pen (or pencil) and paper. That is when you are TAKING NOTES, particularly for retention and recall.

In my classes I see more and more people taking notes on their laptops or tablets. Don’t get me wrong, I take notes on my devices from time to time as well, usually with Evernote, but when possible I prefer a good ole pen and pad of paper.

I have always felt that I retained more information when I wrote things down on paper. That has always been my preference, but I never knew if it was actually anymore effective than using my computer.

Well it seems that Pam A. Mueller from Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer from UCLA did the work for me and researched this very topic! They wanted to know if laptop note taking was detrimental to someone’s overall understanding and retention of new information.

The findings?

Stick with the pen and paper!

Their research showed that when you use a laptop to take notes, you are much more likely to become more like a transcriptionist, mindlessly transcribing and typing what you hear.

In three separate variations of their study, the findings were consistent. While those using laptops were found to take MORE NOTES, those using the long lost art of handwriting scored significantly higher on conceptually based questions.

Now you may be thinking what I was at first. Maybe the use of pen and paper helps your brain in the moment to recall more information than typing on a keyboard. But if we are able to compile more notes on a laptop, maybe there would be an advantage later down the line as a result of having more notes?

Say for instance, that the test was a week later and the students were able to study their notes before the test. In that situation perhaps the advantage would sway to Johnny Laptop? After all, he would have more notes to study.

Not so fast….

Mueller and Oppenheimer used that vary scenario in their third study. In this study, participants were given either a pen or laptop and told to take notes on a lecture. They were then instructed to return the following week to be tested on the material. Once again, even though the laptop participants recorded more notes, those using pens performed better on conceptual and this time factual questions.

What can we learn from this?

The pen is not obsolete – Even with all of our technology, sometimes the best solutions are low-tech. I love technology as much as the next guy, but if you are looking for optimal performance, it is more important to choose the right tool for the job.

Don’t just mindlessly take notes – If your note taking is for a grocery list and your list is of no value to you once those groceries are in your cart, then your smartphone may work just fine. When you are taking notes for the purpose of retention and learning, it is critical not to just mindlessly transcribe what you are hearing. Take notes in your own words and translate what you are hearing into examples that you understand. Summarize concepts into core components instead of just transcribing information as it is presented in front of you.

Next time, if your ultimate goal is mastery, understanding, retention or skill acquisition, grab a pen and paper!

Do you still use a pen and paper for most of your note taking, or have you switched over to digital devices?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen


Thank you to the Harvard Business Review and Maggy McGloin who’s article was the inspiration for this post.

The Reason You Are Sabotaging Yourself

I used to often wonder why I continued to not follow through with things I said I wanted. Why I would start something and then find an excuse to stop. Why I would think about something over and over but never get off my behind and do anything about it. Sure I would find some convenient excuses, some were actually pretty good.

“I don’t have enough time.” “I don’t know where to start.” Or even something as simple as “I don’t feel like it,” or “I will do it later.” But those excuses I kept telling myself were just that, excuses. It was me giving myself permission to not do anything about it. To justify me not taking action.

Tony Robbins

The real reason behind me not following through, or not even getting started hit me like a ton of bricks when I attended Tony Robbin’s UPW event.

In an instant it all made sense. It all came down to my values.

Now I was familiar with values before I attended the event. I had even taken spent the time to determine what I valued most and to create a Top Ten list of my top values.

  • Family
  • Stability / Peace
  • Health
  • Freedom (of time)
  • Purpose
  • Learning and Growth
  • Compassion
  • Accomplishment
  • Simplicity and order
  • Contribution

But I wasn’t seeing the total picture.

The list above are the things most important to me and things I would like to experience more of. Tony Robbins defined these as TOWARD VALUES. I was however missing a crucial element that is even more important.

I never took a moment to understand and appreciate the emotions and values  that I want to avoid at all costs. Everybody has them. Robbins calls these your AWAY VALUES.

These are things like….

  • Failure
  • Rejection
  • Loss
  • Pain
  • Loneliness
  • Pressure
  • Stress
  • Overwhelm

Our values as individuals can be very different. One person may be driven above all to seek security, while their friend’s primary motivator is adventure. Those primary motivators will lead to completely different behaviors and actions. The first will play it safe and be calculating risk at every turn. The adventure seeker will only feel truly alive when they are taking chances and embarking upon new experiences.

These values set up two targets for you on opposite sides of the spectrum. One target has you seeking pleasure and the attainment of your toward values.

The second target, the one I was missing, is steering you in the opposite direction of your away values and those emotions that you are trying to avoid at all costs.

Most of us, myself included, will do much more to avoid pain than they will to seek gain or pleasure. You can read more about that in this post.

Let’s say you want to start your own business, become wealthy, write a book, change jobs, or enter into a new relationship. You desire those things, but at the same time if you associate strong negative potential consequences as part of the process, you will be stuck in quicksand.

For example, you want a relationship, but your number one emotion or away value to steer clear of is rejection. Will you walk up to a stranger and ask them out? Will you put yourself out there and open yourself up to potential rejection? In most cases no, not if your fear is stronger than the potential positive outcome. Or perhaps you end up in a relationship, but sabotage it because of your fear of getting hurt.

Let’s look at another one. If your number one towards value is success, but your number one away from value is failure, you have a problem. Rarely does success or achievement come without failure along the way.

In fact, most successful people have a different view of failure. They realize that it is part of the process and is not something to be avoided. Failure is feedback. They learn to seek out failure, learn from it and move on. Failure is simply an event that is necessary on their path to success.

I truly wish I had a simple magic pill for you, a quick solution that could be explained in this blog post that would solve this problem once and for all. But many things in life aren’t quite that easy.

When I looked at my first two away values it all started to make sense. Above all, I had been avoiding rejection and failure. No wonder I would find excuse after excuse to keep me from getting out there and setting me up for any type of potential rejection and failure. It wasn’t worth it to me subconsciously.

I might be able to override it in the short term with will power, but eventually that would wear out and I would self-regulate where I started.

So what did I do?

First, I hired a coach. I knew I would need some help along the way. I would need someone to help me work on the rewiring and hold me accountable to each step in the process. I knew that even if I understood this concept logically, emotions are much stronger. That it would take time and repetition to get to where I wanted to be.

I still struggle with this from time to time. I am sure most of us do to some degree. A lifetime of habits and thinking patterns won’t disappear overnight.

But now when I catch myself procrastinating or avoiding something, I know why. I can then decide to go to work on overriding my exaggerated fears and re-frame what is holding me back.

The good news is that you usually only have to do this long enough to get out there and get started. Once you are in the process it becomes much easier and the more you get into the process the more your comfort zone grows with each attempt. That is the key to life anyway, PROGRESS.

So what are your top five toward values and what are the three away values that you seek to avoid above all else?

If you have a certain area of your life where you keep taking one step forward and two steps back, reach out to me and see if working with me is right for you. This is what I help people with every day.

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen