The scientific evidence is in: doodling while listening increases retention. The following paragraphs are excerpted from chapter fourteen of my new book HATCH! It is the last chapter I wrote that is in the book ...it is not the last chapter in HATCH! The reaction to Chapt. 14: The Doodle Factor has been remarkable. People who do not consider themselves artists are drawing and doodling and loving it. Even before HATCH! was completed and off to the presses I posted on the Fabcebook/Hatch-by-McNair-Wilson page that I was thinking about adding a small visual thinking chapter toward the back of the book. Readers started sending in their own doodled notes: an attorney friend who is back in school to become a nurse; a page of notes from a reader who teaches visual thinking to business groups, and a few of my own conference notes with doodles as visual cues to highlight key information.
[Below, three examples of "visual note taking." L to R: my attorney friend's notes from nursing school, My notes during a Michael Hyatt seminar, anf my notes from a phone conversation with a CEO about his company that I later spent three days with coaching their national sales staff. Click on images to enlarge.]
The Doodle Factor ...excerpts
When we take notes the old–fashioned, less effective way, we are creating page after page of lines of words. With a textbook we read, highlight, and take notes. And your notes look just like the pages of verbiage you are attempting to capture. What have you accomplished? Highlighting adds about 3% to your retention of all your scribbling.
You used to draw—everyday. We all did. What happened? When we were young—before we started school we drew everything, all the time. A big reason was we couldn’t yet read or write. Yet we never stopped to reflect, “What am I doing? I can’t draw.” That didn’t stop us because we didn’t know there were rules. We didn’t know, yet, that some people CAN draw and most of us CANNOT—or do not. But while we were drawing, scribbling, and doodling, we were learning.
If your notes really are all the same, why bother trying to record even one word? But, if something the speaker says (or the textbook editors have written) sticks out, pokes us in any way, why not make notes that stick out? What would it be like to go over your notes later and have the visuals poke back at you?
Doodling may actually help us absorb more information. In a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology (Vol. 24, Issue 1), professor Jackie Andrade (University of Plymouth in Britain) played a rambling voice-mail message to 40 people, half of whom were given shapes to fill in as they listened. The result was astonishing. The doodlers recalled 29 percent more of the message than those who just listened. Prof. Andrade says that apparently idle scribbling uses just enough cognitive bandwidth to stave off daydreaming, so doodling seems to actually help us focus. He also asserts that doodling is far more productive than merely daydreaming. And … doodling requires less brain work than daydreaming. (Professor Andrade’s full article, What Does Doodling Do?, is widely available online.)
Chapter 14, The Doodle Factor, might have been a small chapter near the back of HATCH! Then, it occurred to me I could give readers a few doodle tips and tricks. In all my brainstorming classes at Disney University I handed out blank (UNlined) paper and colored felt pens. "For the next hour," I told participants, "Any and all notes will be taken with these materials." I continue to do this in all my convention speaking and corporate consulting.
"I CAN'T EVEN DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE!" Some executive always said at Disney U.
"No one can." I told them. "That's why artist supply stores have entire rows of rulers and triangles. So just as I was wrapping up my little doddle chapter I decided to create and add:
It is fully half of the chapter (14 of 30 pages) and filled with simple, easy & fun-to-do exercises to assist anyone, at any level to recapture the playful doodling that was in everyday of our early years. In that regard NO ONE is a beginner: you began long ago. Now you are just picking up where you left off. Here are a few of the excesses from the Fearless Field Guide to Doodling to get you re-started.
The first page in the Field Guide contains simple exercises to get your hand and wrist moving. Do several pages of everything on the page. Then add arrows, "frames", banners, stars, and other shapes to the next set of notes you take in a meeting, class, church or on the big blank sheet of paper on an easel in a group meeting. These simple shapes, worked into your notes, really will increase your memory of the subject.
To tackle the echoing-in-my-head-for-decades excuse for not doodling "I can't even draw stick figures" I always say, "Drawing stick figures is a test for nothing." Here, below, is just the top line of a full page of how-to-draw stick figures and healthier cartoon people. Start with ancient, monolinear man on the left and move across the page adding details and dimension. None of this is a test and you need not show any of your doodles to another living soul. But this I can promise you: if you will spend 15 to 30 minutes daily doodling these, and the other exercises from the Field Guide you will be able to draw to you own delight and the amazement of others around you.
The doddles above are just a part of a full page of people drawing prompts and tips. Notice, in the second figure (going left to right) the addition of elbows, body mass, palms, and shoe-sized feet. Now: dress your figure. There are also pages on faces, lettering, and a "draw everything" page.
As I was drafting the Doodle Factor and the Field Guide I heard from my friend Steve Bjorkman (byerk' man.) We are life-long friends who have stayed in touch since sixth grade. We both kept doodling. Steve has become one 0f the most sought after illustrators for children's books, advertising art, and editorial illustration in the country. If you have kids it is likely you own some of Steve's remarkable work. He illustrated Jeff Foxworthy's children's books and kids books with other authors, including books he has written.
Steve reminded me that our sixth grade teacher was forever admonishing us to, "Stop doodling on everything. That won't get you anywhere." AH, if only our beloved Mrs. Fagen were around today to see where it has gotten us. In the course of my crafting the doodle Field Guide and posting about it Steve recommended I tell folks to "doodle everywhere ...all the time. That's what I do."
[If you do not yet have your own coppy of my new book HATCH! : Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer, it is now available on Amzonk. You can still get copies at $5 off the cover price through the publishers online story—BookVillages—until Nov. 1st. PLUS, there is the downloadable FREE PDF of the complete first chaprter of HATCH! in the "What's Brewing" section at the top of this blog.]
If you have HATCH! please post a review on Amazonk—it really does influence others to jump in. Thanks.
THIS JUST IN ...a great little video on doodling with a group of very talented artists. (Sent in by the ever-creative Jeff Palmberg). Click HERE.