The Benefits of Taking Handwritten Notes

by Katherine Shell, CPA, Senior Associate

Posted on May 29, 2019

Do you remember that presentation from last week?

In today’s technological world, we are constantly communicating. According to research performed by the University of Missouri, the average person spends at least 70 to 80% of their day communicating. There are numerous forms of communication available today – face-to-face conversations, presentations, phone calls, video chats, instant messages, emails, text messages, social media posts, and so many more. In the study performed by the University of Michigan, about 45% of daily communication time is spent listening.

The average person spends several hours a day listening, but how much of these communications does a person remember over time? Jack Malcom, President of the Performance Falcon Group, performed a study where individuals listened to a 10-minute presentation. Shortly after the presentation, a person remembered about 50% of the presentation topic and discussions. By the next day, that 50% of content remembered decreased by half to only 25%, and a week later, the listener only remembered 10% of the initial presentation. While these statistics can be a little jarring, there are ways to improve our memories and receive a higher return on our daily communications.

The best way to remember communicated information is to actively listen to a speaker, reflect on the conversation, ask clarifying questions, and most importantly, take handwritten notes. Taking notes helps improve your memory, because you are focusing more on the topic being discussed. It also requires you to pay more attention, so you are gaining a greater understanding of the topic and increasing your critical thinking and summarization skills. This allows you to ask clarifying questions as you are learning it, rather than solely when you are applying the topic in your routine work environment.

Even though we live in a world with technology at our fingertips, research shows that handwritten notes are still more beneficial than typed notes. Typed notes tend to be more of a verbatim of the presentation and the typist is less likely to actively listen to the presentation while taking notes as necessary.

Regardless of the type of notes, the act of taking notes also allows you to have documentation for future reference. This is helpful in all aspects of accounting — when you’re trying to remember how to properly make a journal entry, when you’re trying to determine what to do in a specific scenario, or when your auditor is asking questions about something that happened a few months prior. Because accounting is such a technical field, it is helpful to have a reference and a strong understanding of various topics.