Over the past decade or so, vinyl has gone from antiquated relic to bourgeois status symbol.
To be fair, this is in part because many audiophiles prefer the “warm” sound that analog produces. But overall, the listening experience doesn’t affect your brain any differently.
Reading and writing in print, however, does have verifiable cognitive effects. A recent article in Fast Company suggests that when you write by hand, you activate a part of your brain called RAS (reticular activating system), which apparently brings clarity to the issue at hand (no pun intended).
The argument points out a pair of studies that seem to substantiate this theory:
- Metacognitive regulation of text learning, on screen versus on paper: Participants scored higher on comprehension when they read in print versus on a digital device.
- The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: This one reaches similar conclusions, noting that people who write notes in longhand have a better understanding of a topic than those who type it out.
These findings may come as no surprise to anyone who has ever waited tables — you always remember the orders that you wrote down. Still, folks depend more on smartphones for data collection, and studies now prove that this may be handicapping our cognition.
Anecdotally: I read a lot of stuff online and in print, and my understanding is greater when read in print. I also find it to be more satisfying and relaxing; reading online feels like work, and it's nigh impossible to ignore all the distractions begging to be clicked.
So we decided to put together a selection of everyday items to help you get back to the older — and perhaps better — way of doing things. Edify thyself.
The Bag: MRKT Frank Studio Briefcase
MRKT makes a handsome, eco-friendly alternative to leather that’s lightweight and helps you stay organized. It’s easy to keep clean, too.
The Pen: Montblanc Meisterstück Platinum-Coated Classique Ballpoint Pen
I recently received a Montblanc as a gift, and as crazy as it sounds, I love it dearly. It’s the weight and reliability of the ink that make this exceptional. Plus, it looks great.
If dropping serious coin on a pen is not your thing, there are many alternatives. Triple Aught Design makes a field pen that’s robust and great for those who work on the go. The Fisher Space Pen is the one made famous by astronauts and Jerry Seinfeld for its ability to write upside down. It’s sleek, modern and very reasonably priced.
The Pad: AllSwell Notebooks
AllSwell makes travel notebooks that are a hipper version of those old dappled high-school composition notebooks. The front is ruled for writing and the back is blank, for doodling and whiteboarding. The binding is stronger than what you’ll find in a drugstore notebook.
The Pocket Pad: Word
I buy these in 10-packs and swear by them. They’re thin and easily stuff into a back pocket. I’ve noticed that when conducting an interview, people respond more favorably when I’m taking notes by hand versus typing what they’ve said into my phone.
Book Recommendation: Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo Di Vinci
Famed biographer Walter Isaacson's newest work celebrates the life of Leonardo Di Vinci, who in addition to being an important scientist and artist, was also a prolific calligrapher.
Another Book Recommendation: Patagonia’s Business Library
Patagonia is a leader in the outdoor apparel industry partly because they make incredible gear. But it's also because they walk the line like Johnny Cash, treating their workforce, partners and the planet with respect. Mensches that they are, they’ve detailed how they maintain a triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) in a series of books. If you’re looking to start a business or want to improve your own, this is a great resource.
Magazines: The Economist and Adventure Journal
Want to not only know what’s going on, but also have a better understanding of it? Read The Economist. It’s a better way to consume the news, especially if you’re a person who resists ideological labels. The old British rag comes out weekly and is a well-researched and fairly unbiased review of the week’s news. For fun, turn to Adventure Journal, a quarterly magazine featuring stories from great adventurers around the world.