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Most of us don’t write down our goals on paper. In fact, only about 3% of adults claim to do this when asked, and the reasons are fairly obvious: It takes time, most of us keep records digitally instead of on paper, and most of us think our brains can be trusted to remember things that matter (spoiler: they can’t).

But if you keep a pen beside you and make the two-second effort to write down the ideas, ambitions, and goals that pass through your mind during an average day or year, you’ll reap big benefits. As it turns out, the people in that rare 3% are operating a few steps ahead of the rest of us. Their habits are bringing them closer to success day by day. Here’s how.

Writing cements things in our memories.

Studies show that a person who takes notes on paper, by hand, will remember those notes and facts more accurately and completely than those who don’t do this. Even if you take the notes away and the note-taker can’t consult them before a test, the note-taker will perform better on that test than others in the room. Researchers aren’t sure why, but it happens. An extra bonus: When you write things down, nobody will take your notes away. So, you’ll both remember things better AND you’ll have access to a concrete record.

Writing things down helps us process and solve.

Say your goal involves something abstract and hovering in the distant future, something like “become senior account manager,” or “write a bestselling novel.” You probably won’t forget that you want to achieve this goal. But as you write down your major goal, your brain will already be getting to work, chewing away at the minor goals that will start you moving down that complex path. In order to write a bestselling novel, you’ll need an outline. Then you’ll need plot points. Then you’ll need characters. Then you’ll need to draft chapter one. Then chapter two, and so on. As you write down your major goals, these sub-goals and stepping-stones will begin to appear in front of you.

Written goals keep you focused.

No matter how much you want to write a best-selling novel, you’re less likely to commit yourself, do the work and accomplish your vision if you don’t write it down. Why? Because life gets in the way. Before you sit down to work, you’ll be pulled away by a hundred other tasks and responsibilities that all seem more important, and before you know it, your goal will blow away with the winds. But if you write your goal on paper and set it next to your desk or bed, your thoughts will constantly return to it.

Need more guidance clarifying your goals and starting down the path to success? Turn to the career experts at Extension!

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