The Link Between Handwritten Notes & Successful People

Nowadays, almost everything is digitalized—from taking photos to watching videos. Perhaps the greatest change, however, is the transition from handwritten to printed text. Let’s face it—we just don’t write as much anymore. Why? It’s much easier to type. Not only is it faster, but it allows whatever you type to be digitalized. For example, you can easily email and share a word file with others.

Does that mean the art of writing should be forgotten? The answer is no. While it has become somewhat redundant, it still has its advantages. For one thing, your handwriting is part of who you are. Given that, it’s not something that you should forego easily.

Benefits of Writing by Hand

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of handwriting:

Better Memory Recall 

Remember those days of taking notes at school? Well, guess what? It’s still relevant. Assuming that you’re a student, you will have to write by hand—whether it’s for notes or a written examination. As it turns out, that’s actually a good thing. As opposed to typed notes, longhand notes allow for better recall. In other words, you’ll be able to remember what you’ve written. How does that work? When you write things out, the part of your brain involved in thinking and memory activates, which allows you to store the information.

Stronger Understanding 

Writing notes by hand allow you to develop a better understanding of the content. After all, the process is much more tedious. In other words, it’s harder to write everything verbatim. Because of this, you actually have to process the information before writing it down—in a way that makes sense for you. Put it simply, it forces your brain to engage with the information.

Why Write Thank You Notes

What other situation would you need to write things by hand? How about thank you notes? What better way to express your gratitude than by writing out a message by hand, right? For one thing, they’re much more personalized. No text would be able to carry the same amount of gratitude and appreciation. It’s heartfelt; it tells the recipient that you’re thinking of them (with handwritten proof).

Why You Should Write Them by Hand:

  • It serves as a keepsake—it’s not disposable like texts and emails
  • It allows you to reflect on your gratitude
  • It shows the other party that you’re a thoughtful person

The Effect of Writing/Receiving Handwritten Notes

In one study, Amit Kumar, an assistant professor and Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science, asked participants write to thank you letters and predict the response of the recipient—whether they’d feel happy, surprised, or awkward, to have received such a note.

Their results? People greatly underestimate how happy recipients are to receive handwritten “thank you” notes. Not only that, but those who write them also overestimates the awkwardness that people feel when they receive such a note. In other words, people like receiving handwritten notes and it’s not nearly as awkward as you think. If anything, it’s the opposite—it allows the recipient to feel a positive expression of gratitude.

Additionally, they found that the gesture of writing handwritten notes benefits both the well-being of the letter writer and the recipient. To be more specific, it boosts positive emotions.

Why do people undervalue the impact of handwritten notes? Egocentric bias probably has something to do with it. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the tendency of relying too much on your own perspective—that is, what you think is not reality. According to Kumar and Epley, “underestimating these actions may prevent people from engaging in certain behaviors that would maximize their own wellbeing.”

The bottom line is—handwritten notes are more powerful than you think. They might take a little time to write, but they are definitely more sincere and thoughtful.

Benefits of Sending Handwritten “Thank You” Notes

Here are a few reasons why you might want to handwrite your own thank you notes:

It Sets You Apart From Others 

The average person receives more than 100 emails a day—that’s not including what they receive from Facebook, WhatsApp, and other platforms. Similarly, the average household receives over 800 pieces of junk mail every year. Want to set yourself apart so that people will actually pay attention to you? Then consider writing your thank you notes by hand. Think of it this way—it helps you break through the clutter. After all, people are much more likely to read something that’s written and personalized to them.

It Makes Both Parties Happier

As mentioned earlier, expressing gratitude through handwritten notes makes both parties, the writer and the recipient, to be happier. As a result, you will also sleep better and perform better, the former of which can actually benefit your long-term health. What’s more, is that it’s a virtuous loop. By expressing gratitude, others will be inspired to do the same. The end result? More people will feel happier about themselves.

It Helps Customers Remember You 

Do you have a business? If so, you might want to include a handwritten note with each order. Consider personalizing it whenever possible. For instance, mention their hobby if you know it; congratulate them if you know that it’s their birthday. Writing it up will only take a couple of minutes but it will help your customer remember you. With a little bit of luck, they might even come back for another purchase in the near future.

Writing a Thank You Note that Stands Out

As you can see, there are several benefits to writing thank you notes by hand. But wait—how do you actually go about writing one? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Think about what you want to write before you start—remember, there’s no “delete” button when it comes to handwritten notes!
  • Consider the recipient when you’re writing your greeting. For a casual vibe, you might want to start with their first name
  • Add some personality to the note—the last thing that you want to do is to make it seem like a copy and paste message!
  • Don’t hesitate to use slang or humor, especially if that’s part of your personality. Being too formal can have the opposite effect sometimes
  • Thank the recipient for whatever reason you’re grateful for them—explain it clearly so that they’re able to understand the meaning behind the note
  • Make an effort of using your best penmanship—it adds personality to the message
  • Consider the type of stationery that you want to use (eco-friendly materials might be a good idea if you want to stand out)

Famous Successful People Who Write Handwritten Notes

A number of famous individuals are known for writing handwritten notes. If anything, it’s one of the reasons why they’re so successful. For those who are curious, here are a few examples:

Jimmy Fallon 

Have you ever watched The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon? If so, you must be familiar with his weekly segment where he sits down to write thank-you notes. Sure, the routine might be a joke, but it breathes life into a tradition that’s slowly disappearing. If anything, it opens your eyes to what you should be doing. Remember, those who show gratitude are happier. In fact, they might even live longer!

Douglas Conant

Douglas Conant is the former CEO of Campbell Soup. Allegedly, he wrote more than 30,000 thank-you notes to his employees over the course of his decade-long career. Despite being the head of a Fortune 500 company, he set aside an hour each day for this practice (usually during his communities).

George Bush Sr.

George Bush Sr. had a habit of writing handwritten notes. In fact, some consider him to be one of the greatest letter writers of the modern era. An endearing practice, it allowed him to foster warm connections with others. More often than not, he would send congratulatory notes to foreign world leaders. Perhaps the most heartfelt of all, however, are his letters to his wife, Barbara.

In 2014, his letters and writings were compiled into a book titled, All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.

Frank Blake

Frank Blake is the former CEO of Home Depot. Interestingly enough, he had learned the art of writing notes from George Bush Sr. from when he served as Deputy Counsel. Allegedly, he would sit down for half a day each weekend, writing notes, for those who deserved recognition. It’s worth mentioning that he also kept every meaningful note that he’s received.

Dan Cathy

Dan Cathy is the CEO and President of Chick-fil-A. Like his father, he often sends handwritten notes to express his gratitude. More specifically, he sends them to team members who’ve done something noteworthy in the community. For him, saying “thank you” is the right thing to do and it makes everyone “feel good”.

Donna Hyland

Donna Hyland is the CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Despite her busy schedule, she writes thank you notes whenever she can. For instance, she often sends them to doctors and nurses who’ve done an exceptional job.

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