With the variety of options for note taking, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. While no one option is better than another, they all have pros and cons that depend on your personal preferences and needs. What matters while taking notes is how you best process information, how you best stay focused, and what you need to do with the information once you have it taken down. Whether you’re the designated notes-taker for the office, research is the keystone of your job, or you’re just looking for a better way to synthesize information, its important to consider what medium is best for you: Digital, or Physical?

Digital

Pros:

  • Typing is faster than writing.
  • Digital notes can be easily shared via email, the cloud, or an online drive. This also means that they will be consistently backed up.
  • Some apps allow you to tag your notes with hashtags for easy location later—this also lets you group notes with similar topics for an easier way to organize.
  • Editing is very easy—you can change your outline once you’ve already taken notes, or take notes on the fly and then put them into a more readable outline.
  • (Some great apps and tools for tote-taking: Notion, Evernote, Google Keep

Cons:

  • Taking notes on a laptop increases the chance that you’ll be distracted by notifications or other projects on your desktop.
  • Typing is proven to have lower memory retention because you’re able to get more words down at a faster pace.
  • As with anything digital, computers have a battery life which can limit their portability

Physical

Pros:

  • It’s proven that memory retention is better while taking physical notes because of the connection to your pen and paper.
  • While writing is slower than typing, this can be great for critical thinking! Because you can’t take notes as fast, you’ll be able to process your thoughts more deeply.
  • Theres more flexibility while using paper; you can make charts, diagrams, or even doodles—whatever helps you synthesize the information!
  • Less distractions makes it easier to focus on the task or meeting in front of you.
  • Writing on paper is a great way to boost your creativity and give your eyes a break from the amount of blue light you already get in a day.

Cons:

  • Writing takes longer than typing.
  • Paper notes can be easily lost or destroyed.
  • In order to share physical notes, you need to scan or type them into another platform which can double the time it takes to complete them.
  • They are difficult to edit, adjust, and rearrange—especially if you are a fan of pens and markers.

Bonus: iPad/Tablet Notes

Pros:

  • Basically all of the pros of physical and digital notes! Plus:
  • Tablets and iPads are as portable as a notepad or journal.
  • With most notepad apps (Try Notability, GoodNotes, or the Apple Notes app) you’re able to see synched updates on your computer almost immediately.

Cons:

  • Using a tablet pen on glass can be difficult and frustrating, but there are great options for paper screen protectors (ex: PaperLike) to make it feel like you’re writing on a notepad.
  • Like laptops, tablets and iPads can be very expensive.
  • There is a learning curve for writing on a tablet as well as how to use all of the app’s features to your note taking benefit.

So no matter why you take notes, what matters is what makes you feel the most productive. So maybe you prefer the click-clack of your fingers on a keyboard, the traditional feel of a pen on your notepad, the customization offered by a tablet, or maybe you’re not sure yet. Try your hand at these methods and see where your productivity takes over!