Doodling at school and at work will boost your productivity

Once in a while we write about doodling (or freestyle annotation) and its benefits.
Students drawing in their papers where mistreated by generations of teachers. They were asked to focus, to stop fooling around and to listen to the teachers. However, the human spirit is stronger than education fashions, and student persistently doodled in school into college and later into successful careers. Around year 2009 new evidences began to emerge, effectively showing that doodling significantly improves both retention and productive output. Since then doodling became a standard practice for surviving long lectures and conferences.

Why do we doodle? There is no consensus yet, so I will be happy to tell my theory.
When our logical processing in left brain hemisphere becomes to busy to listen to the creative output of right hemisphere, we get frustrated. The creative part of our brain needs to be heard. Without doodling it would generate daydreaming, strange associations, inappropriate jokes and other interrupts. However with doodling, the creative processing and logical processing can coexist in harmony, resulting in higher retention.

What do we doodle? There are some initial interpretations to various shapes. The style of the doodles is personal and similar to our automatic marker style. For example, I draw letters and geometrical patterns. One of my colleagues is drawing words in different languages. Some people draw heros and comics figures, everyday objects etc. If we have handouts/printed material the initial accurate highlights are enhanced by ornaments. Here and here are some doodles of famous people. As the doodle coverage increases we get calm and focused and more productive.

How do we doodle? Usually we doodle in our notebooks. People that spend their time on streets and not in classrooms often draw graffiti. Graffiti is as old as civilization and has been recently recognized as legitimate form of art. Annotation is another tool for doodling. Many of our students use Diigo for Chrome or Skitch for Evernote to draw their markers. We encourage this activity and ask our students to share the images with us. Trained superlearner can doodle without tools using visual associations. By now I think that I am doodling in my head all the time. For me a curious side-effect of this visualization process is my sense of humour, which became stronger as I practice creative markers.

Doodling calms us down, increases our focus and creativity, improves retention and makes us more productive. I hope one day doodling paradigm will prevail and teachers will be criticizing students for not doodling.

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