Doodling Is Great For Memory & Problem Solving!

Jul 15, 2017 | Creativity

sketchpad feng shui dana

As a kid I’d find the junk drawer full of my mom’s mini notepads full of pen-doodled cubes, flowers, scrolling lines and squiggles.  Hours she spent on the phone talking were mapped out in deeply indented paper full of this pen iconography.  It was almost like she couldn’t talk without drawing.  These pages were an extension of her, something I realized I somehow related to who she was and how her mind- which often I couldn’t completely understand in reason- worked and related and processed things.

I revolted with clean lines, minimalism and a sense of order so strict that I would often find myself disappointed if my papers didn’t look pristine.

Flash forward to now, and I do the same thing.  I doodle with colored pencils and paint. I make my own patterns.  And I find myself sketching into my notes with my pen from time to time, too.   It helps me to think, it helps me solve space-related problems for clients and it’s totally unconscious. But, consciously I knew there was a reason I did it.

Doodling is actually a form of thinking, like an open-eyed art meditaton.  According to the latest research, doodling is actually amazing for your memory, for problem-solving and for your creative nature! 

the artists way

Doodling has many benefits. 

If you look up the word doodling on the website you will find the following definition: v. to draw or scribble idly, to waste (time) in aimless or foolish activity. Other definitions in standard dictionaries include: to dilly dally and to make meaningless marks.

In defense of the benefits of doodling, Sunni Brown of the Doodle Revolution states,

“A more appropriate definition is long overdue. Doodling may be better described as ‘markings to help a person think.’ Most people believe that doodling requires a shutdown of the intellectual mind, but this is one of the misrepresentations that needs correcting. There is no such thing as a mindless doodle. The act of doodling is the mind’s attempt to engage before succumbing to mindlessness.”

You can watch her TED talk on doodling HERE:

A study published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, entitled, “What does doodling do?”, discovered that doodling can bolster memory retention and recall of information. Jackie Andrade, psychology professor at Plymouth University presented 40 subjects with a 2 ½ minute dull voice message, which listed names of people who were going to attend a party. Half of the group doodled as they listened, while the other half did not. All of the subjects were unaware that they would be asked to recall information from the voice message. When both groups were asked to recall information, the group that doodled recalled 29% more information.

This is a huge leap in recall.  It’s a profound way to let information sink into your mind without repetition and force.

Researchers Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of Los Angeles California found that in a classroom setting, handwriting notes rather than typing them, helped students retain the information longer. These findings infer that, “Capturing important ideas by hand, whether writing words or creating images, stimulates neural pathways between motor, visual, and cognitive skills.” (you can learn more HERE)

Surveys taken of science teachers and their students desire to learn found that when encouraged to draw the understanding and exploration of science related material, students were more motivated to learn. Students asked to draw out the notion of sound waves, understood the concept better.

LiveScience reports:

“The most striking thing was the effort that students would apply to learning about science when they read and then drew what they could understand from the text, and how much enjoyment they derived from doing this,” researcher Sharon Ainsworth, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham in England.”

rainbow pencils

If you are ready for more creativity in business, start making art…!

Sunny Brown shared this incredible creative business approach using doodles: A strategy development team at Turner Broadcasting System Inc in Atlanta drew branches of trees and used sticky notes as leaves clad with ideas as a way to explore how to expand the Turner Classic movies brand. Jennifer Dorian, a senior Vice President explained that the exercise generated over 200 ideas and some of these ideas are currently being developed. Amy Zehfuss, vice president of network strategy for the Time Warner stated, “Seeing all the stickies on the tree is a really powerful visual.”

So, it seems there are more benefits to doodling than foolish wasting of time or idle scribbling!

I carry a sketchpad or notebook around with me and the margins are often full of pen-made flowers, leaves and random scrolling patterns borne of my thoughts… and I love it.  It’s one of those accidental habits that I cherish from home, the reason I still love flipping through my mom’s phone book to see the cubes and spirals.



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