The Beauty of a Handwritten List

by Ron Haynes

When I was in college, I stumbled upon a study method that always resulted in an “A” when I used it. It centered around taking notes in class, then rewriting those notes. I found that the more I wrote, the better I could remember. Writing things down by hand allowed me to dictate my future.

picnic Some believe that writing a list trivializes and oversimplifies but in my case, a list made things come alive (it still does). Can you imagine going to the grocery store to purchase items for a new, complicated recipe without having a list? You’ll probably have to make at least one more trip, maybe two, to pick up items you forgot.

Lists are powerful self motivators. They outline what needs to be done and allow your mind to focus on implementation rather than on remembering what needs to be done. They allow you to focus on connecting with people rather than worrying about remembering your bullet points. It’s one thing to go to a business meeting with an idea of what you want to say, do, or accomplish, but it’s quite another to have an organized list.

But why do we resist such a simple idea? Why do we fail to apply this principle to our lives? Why do we spend less time planning our lives than we do planning a picnic? Probably because we know that if we forget the ketchup, we will be ridiculed by the kids! But isn’t your life as important as a picnic?

Make a list or two, and read it daily

  • List your goals and what you need to do to accomplish them
  • List your debts and how you’re going to beat them
  • List what you’d like to do before you die (your bucket list)
  • List your current friends to remind yourself of those close to you
  • List old friends you’d like to reconnect with and then reconnect with them
  • List books you’ve read and those you’d like to read

When you write a list you are writing history before it happens. You’re planning your future. Goals gain power when they’re written, and they get more powerful every time we write them down.

For me, nothing motivates like my own handwriting. People often look to what others have written for motivation, but I believe that living life by a list allows me to motivate myself by what I’ve written.

How about you? Do you use lists?

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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I use lists all the time! It absolutely helps in keeping track of everything and what you need to do.

And I totally agree with writing notes in school. Forget where I heard it but if you want to remember something you attack it three ways – hear it, say it, and write it.


It reminds me of those old sitcoms where someone would take the time to write everything down on the underside of their shoe in order to cheat on a test, then didn’t need to cheat after all. Yes, writing it down is a great way to imprint information on your brain!

Money Beagle

Yes, I find writing things down definitely helps and I used to do the same thing in college. I would often take notes during class and then re-write them later. It helped me ‘clean them up’ but I also found that I was digesting the material a lot more deeply while I was writing them out.


I did much the same thing. I would also copy graphs or charts from my textbook as well as re-copy examples (in the case of math classes). It was amazing how well I was able to recall information when test time rolled around.


Reminds me of something I recently read about Abe Lincoln. He used to read aloud, as he felt he was both hearing and seeing the material Somehow writing is much the same thing as it imprints it both on a piece of paper and into our subconscious memory.

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