From The Encourager Newsletter Issue#002 June 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Don H. Morris.
As a personal coach who assists people in defining their vision and purpose in life, I am often asked whether it is better to write down your goals by hand or to use a word processor on the computer
The most important thing is to formulate your goals as fully and specifically as possible. The media you use is less important, and depends primarily on what works best for you. The same is true for vision statements, mission statements, passion statements, personal creeds, action plans, and even journaling and brainstorming.
I personally employ a combination approach. When first formulating an idea, for example a goal statement or a new newsletter article, I like to reflect as freely as possible first. I am able to be much more expressive writing by hand than on the computer. When writing my ideas in longhand, I can underline key phrases, put stars by key ideas, and draw arrows between related points. This seems to help get the creative juices flowing. I use a notebook purchased specifically for each important project.
For some people such a notebook is the finished product. They find it much more convenient to pick up a notebook than to turn on their computer and find the file that contains their goals or other information. Notebooks are much more portable, too.
Other people, such as someone who is blind or severely dyslexic, cannot write their ideas down in longhand. They can and do find other approaches that work for them.
In my case, as a partially sighted person, my handwriting is very messy. Sometimes I cannot read all the words in my notes a few days later. Also, I write really large. It may take several pages of handwritten notes for a statement that is only half a page in print.
I also find myself misplacing the notebook, or using it for other things. Pages get all out of order, and I can’t find important information. Sometimes I write related ideas in several notebooks or on loose scraps of paper and backs of envelopes.
So I prefer to type the final product on my computer. I gather up all the information on a topic I can find, and organize it into a single word processor file. I emphasize key points with italics, bold face, and underlining. I find the spell checking utility essential, too. As a special bonus, I can have the computer read my text aloud or print the file in extra-large fonts, features I really enjoy. The computer offers a better way for me to organize my work. When I need to communicate with others, I can print my ideas out much more legibly than I can write them.
I have learned from experience to make a separate folder on my hard drive for my motivational projects, and to name each file as clearly as possible. It is extremely difficult to find that file you whipped out on the spur of the moment if you don’t have a folder allocated for such items.
I sometimes start my writing project on the computer. When doing so, I type my ideas in plain text first, without bothering about spelling or punctuation. I find it distracting to stop and put in bold or italic faces in this initial process. I later “clean up” the file, and run the spell checker and add emphases as desired.
I have also found it very helpful at times to record myself talking about my dreams and plans. Sometimes I have a “writing block,” and this is a way to access my ideas without writing. A recording of their goals may be the finished product for some blind people.
At other times I have talked over my ideas with a trusted friend, and either asked the other person to take notes or written a summary of the conversation afterwards. There are many creative ways to approach formulating an important motivational statement or other written product.
So experiment. Try several ways to get your goals and plans down on paper, on disk, or on cassette. After formulating your goals, review them regularly. Remember, writing it down can make it happen!