The Case for Thoughtful Notes in a Digital World

In the top drawer of my desk at home, I have a pile of handwritten notes. There’s one from Thayne, a longtime client. There’s one from Gwil, who has patiently worked with my writing for years. There’s another from a grandchild that reminds me to keep playing games with him. There is one from my daughter, Amy, from when she was about eight. And if I dig deep enough, there will be some that I’ve completely forgotten about but are wonderful to rediscover. Sometimes I don’t even need to read any to brighten my mood—I just have to remember they are there.
Do you have a drawer like this too?
Words have the capacity to renew our spirits and repair the damage from whatever tough moments life throws our way. Notes of acknowledgment and appreciation never lose their capacity to remind us that others care about us and that we matter.
Of course, the message is the same when it’s given verbally, in a text message, or in an e-mail. Yet there is something more enduring, more tangible, about that handwritten note. Seeing someone’s handwriting is more personal than the perfect edition produced by the computer.
The Reason for Writing Notes:

Verbal conversations disappear quickly; with notes people can read and reread your words, letting them truly sink in.
People are people and therefore they take things personally. And because of that, they will always be touched by a thoughtful note.
Do not worry about your penmanship or use of language. As long as you mean what you write, it will be taken in the right way. Sincerity always carries the moment.
People want to be noticed, liked, and valued. Most people are concerned about what we think of them. It is a gift you let them know that you appreciate not only what they do, but who they are.
Handwritten notes are scarce these days, and subsequently those messages carry even more weight—more caring and meaning.
There is also the benefit of the reflective mindset in which you place yourself—being present to what you write and to the person to whom you are writing…it’s a special place. Expressing gratitude also does wonder for your soul.

For sure, a thoughtful e-mail note is powerful, and if that is easier for you to do more frequently, go for it.
With that in mind, here are three notes to consider:
Thank you notes—expressing your appreciation for something someone did. Whether it’s thanking someone for repairing your divot mark on the green or for making coffee in the office or for getting back to you so quickly, there are literally dozens of things you might thank someone for each day. Most of these are done verbally—to write a note would seem like overkill. But once in a while, taking the time to express your thanks in writing would be appropriate and appreciated.
Acknowledgment notes—sharing your thoughts about what you like about the person, their characteristics or qualities—acknowledging his or her spirit or kindness or work ethic. Think about five things you appreciate about each of the people who work for you. Think of about ten things you like about each of your kids. Acknowledgement notes remind people of their impact on you. These will certainly occur less often than thank you notes, but as you begin to think of people in this way, you’ll find opportunities to express your appreciation for what you like about them.
Value notes—expressing the value you took away from being in conversation or from spending time with someone. This is a powerful way to honor the person by sharing what you gained from being with him or her. This is one practice that managers need to master. When you comment on the value in the experience, you are indirectly commenting on the value in the relationship. You probably haven’t received any of these notes or sent any—it’s not traditional, but do think about it.
What’s Next? Try it.
This week, write one to three thank you or acknowledgement notes and see what happens.
{I have a close friend, Don Gallagher, who has long been an advocate for thank you notes. You’ll find a nice piece here by Don.}
I know we are all rushed in life and there never seems to be enough time, but try slowing down this once and take your time in this exercise. Write a thoughtful thank you this week—a note that makes the person feel great about himself. Who knows? Maybe the note will end up in the top drawer of his desk, tucked a