Original post October 2, 2010

As an art teacher and artist, I know a fair bit about doodling.  I’ve seen quite a few doodles in my day.  And while some people have traditionally perceived doodling as a rude, distracting endeavor research suggests it actually enhances attention!  Some teachers get this.  At my last job I had teachers ask me if students could bring their sketchbooks to class because it appeared to help their focus while listening to a lecture.  Twist my arm.  Really.

A recent study conducted by cognitive psychologist Jackie Andrade supports this notion.  She asked 40 volunteers to listen to a 2.5 minute recorded conversation and then write down the names of people mentioned in the recording.  Half of the participants were asked to doodle while listening, the other half were asked to just listen.  After the recorded message finished, participants were given a surprise memory test.  Doodlers could write more names down and were more accurate in the details they recalled, up to 29% more accurate!  That is a serious difference!

As we all know, focus and attention comes with practice.  It is also easy to have your mind wander off task.  Doodling may prevent full on day-dreaming since the doodlers have focused partial attention on another task.  This is why articles like the one in The Guardian speak about doodling in boring meetings or the one in The Times speak about improved attention through doodling.  So, the next time your teacher or boss tells you stop doodling, it’s rude (or insert punitive word here), pull out your copy of the The Guardian and politely argue otherwise.  In fact, you are trying to focus on their boring (whoops 🙂 ) presentation.

Doodling is not distracting, it's actually a useful tool for creativity. Read why on Artist Strong.Google’s Doodlers

Can you believe people get paid to do this?  Have you ever visited Google’s website before (ha, ha, ha)?  Well, if you have, you will observe and even look forward to the ever manipulated logo above the search bar.  The logo design is changed for holidays, special events, just for fun, etc.  Those changes don’t appear magically!  This great article (click here) offers a story about the Google Doodlers and provides a slide show on some of their process.  I think I need a career change…

How do I use doodling?

Doodling serves many purposes for me.  It is a tool of attention.  I doodle on my agendas handed out at staff meetings and I remember more for it (now research supports this, phew!). Thankfully I work in an environment that supports this; a fellow educator shared an article on the benefits of doodling several months ago.  I also doodle when I am struggling with a lesson plan or am waiting for students to complete a task.  Art students love seeing art teachers make “stuff.”

Additionally doodling is a planning tool.  It allows me to clear my mind and relax (shall I start spouting health research now too?!) so I can focus on the problem or project at hand.  I love having an activity to harness nervous energy while I brainstorm on the success of my blog or my art.  Usually by the end of my doodling time I have a solution or an idea.  It is a great way to brainstorm!  If that “AHA!” moment doesn’t happen while I am doodling, it makes room in my always thinking brain for new ideas that arrive later in the day.

Clearly, I enjoy a good doodle. 🙂

Note: All works within this posting are proudly doodled by Carrie Brummer

Do you love doodling?  Are you a doodler yourself?  Then check out Squidoo.  This site offers visual inspiration and suggests resources for interested doodlers.

“Why doodling is actually good for you.” (Click to Tweet)

Be Creatively Courageous: The next time you feel stuck, pull out your journal or sketchbook and play. Don’t judge yourself. Doodling takes no skill except your desire to play and a drawing implement!  Don’t think about what you are making, just draw.  See what happens.  At worst, you have a fun and interesting piece of art.  At best, you will be the next recipient of a MacArthur.

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