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Concentrate Better By Doodling 94

Kelson writes "The next time you see someone doodling during a meeting, don't criticize them for drifting off. It turns out that doodling is the mind's way of keeping itself just busy enough to avoid checking out entirely and slipping off into a daydream, and doodlers actually remember more of that boring talk. (Judging by my college notes, this probably helped me remember a lot of otherwise-boring lectures.)"
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Concentrate Better By Doodling

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  • I knew it. (Score:4, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:13PM (#27170301) Homepage Journal

    Just need to print a copy of the article and keep it with me. I've gotten into troubling quite a few times for doodling.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I got a whole notebook full of dick drawings I did!

    • I've gotten into troubling quite a few times for doodling.

      Yeah, especially with "indecency" laws what they are. One persons balloons is another persons perversion.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did anyone else read this post as "drooling" the first time through? And here I was thinking that I was justified in sleeping through all those work meetings...

    • by Xtravar ( 725372 )

      Me too. I just put a link to it on my staff page at work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Anytime I started in a class I made it a point to talk to the Professor and let them know that I would likely be doodling my entire time in their classroom. I did this to head off confrontations that may arise throughout the course. Any that expressly forbid me (how DARE you doodle! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!) I made a bargain with, they would call met out in class when they saw me doodling, I would answer their questions (likely while still doodling) and then they would correspond doodling with listening.
  • i love to draw and doodle and only really remember stuff when I make notes about it.

    The biggest problem has always been what happens to those when you turn the page.

    thankfully, that is solved for me now :)

  • by Narnie ( 1349029 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:15PM (#27170341)
    i doodled throughout school. I told my teachers that it was my way of staying awake and attentive. I'm glad somebody did the research to validate my BS.
  • by revlayle ( 964221 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:15PM (#27170349) Homepage
    Pretty much in ever class that I remember since the 3-4th grade. All through college and every meeting I bring pad/pen to.

    In fact, my meeting notes, have WAY more random scribbles and weird drawings than actual notes.
    • In fact, my meeting notes, have WAY more random scribbles and weird drawings than actual notes.

      Me too. Problem is, I'm a draftsman!
    • by lazlo ( 15906 )

      Interesting... my random scribbles and weird drawings usually are my notes. Anything I decide to capture in text form is merely to get more brain regions (beyond auditory processing) in on the game. The result is not actually legible, nor is it intended to be.

  • Silly Slashdot! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:21PM (#27170443) Journal

    We know doodling works for us. But people don't because they want to give the appearance of attention. The people who actually set doing work above the appearance of doing work have already found a way to not be in the meeting in the first place.
  • Thats all my note books contained. Doodling out numbers actual notes 2 to 1. And I am horrible at art, so these are really drab boring doodles.... :-)
  • There were a few classes where I kept myself alert by doodling. 'course, all that engineer's blood made me bust out the colored markers and make basic n/2 fractals on graph paper.
    • by Eudial ( 590661 )

      There were a few classes where I kept myself alert by doodling. 'course, all that engineer's blood made me bust out the colored markers and make basic n/2 fractals on graph paper.

      Been there, done that. I also frequently end up drawing various impossible shapes, like Penrose triangles or whatnot.

  • by Walkingshark ( 711886 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:25PM (#27170525) Homepage

    I understand things the first time I hear them in almost all cases. This has been true since childhood. As a direct result, the normal teaching style in most gradeschools (say something, then repeat it in slightly different ways many many times) was nearly unbearably boring for me. I would try and allieviate this boredom by doodling, and this often got me in trouble.

    I'd like to go back and find the fucking idiots who wouldn't just leave me alone and let me draw and show them this article.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Either you are misleading yourself, or every explanation every given to you had been clear, concise, and accurate.

      If that's the case, I envy you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don't consider something explained until it has been fully explained. Once it has, I almost always get it. Sometimes, a teacher thinks they are explaining something but they aren't, or they're only giving part of the explanation, or they're just doing it wrong in general. In those cases, I press them for more information.

        Generally though, school is designed for the lowest common denominator, and so the concepts being communicated are so simple that it would be hard NOT to get it in one go.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Bingo: "school is designed for the lowest common denominator"

          By and large, public school teachers are not particularly well trained or paid for the task. They're regular folks doing the best they can of a difficult job, and if a kid does not appear to be paying attention, then s/he must be made to pay attention. It's a responsibility.

          As rare as good teachers is bright kids like yourself, who was getting more out of the class lecture by staring vacantly at your sketching hand.

          Notable in TFA is the the test w

          • I'm harsh with them (and thus "fucking idiots") because it should have been obvious to anyone with a brain that I was grasping the material with no problem. I would frequently blow tests and quizes out of the water, and of course did very well on the standardized tests. To anyone who was paying attention, even an average person off the street, it would have been obvious that what I needed was not to sit there quietly, bored literally to tears (to the point of having what, in retrospect, was a nervous breakd

            • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

              Tell me if you've heard this one before: "You need to set a good example for the other students."

              A real knee-slapper, that one.

              • My favorite was when they demanded respect without having earned it. Naturally, those least deserving respect were the ones who insisted on this the most.

                It is really kind of pathetic, because they were more concerned with the trappings of respect then with the genuine article. Style over substance, the core of modern American culture.

      • by timster ( 32400 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:51PM (#27170963)

        Heck, as long as you're talking about the teaching in "most grade schools", I remember not only understanding the explanation the first time, but understanding what aspects of the teacher's explanation were inaccurate and often even how the explanation could be clarified so that the other students could grasp it properly.

        It goes without saying that I learned how to keep my mouth shut without even being presented with an explanation.

        • It goes without saying that I learned how to keep my mouth shut without even being presented with an explanation.

          I didn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eudial ( 590661 )

      I understand things the first time I hear them in almost all cases. This has been true since childhood. As a direct result, the normal teaching style in most gradeschools (say something, then repeat it in slightly different ways many many times) was nearly unbearably boring for me. I would try and allieviate this boredom by doodling, and this often got me in trouble.

      Boredom is the curse of people with higher than average intelligence going through school. Grade school completely fails in my experience to deal with it, and it only gets marginally better in High School.

      The sad part is that not everyone can deal with this lack of stimulation, and start causing trouble, in the worst case undermining their future.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The worst part of that is when you get to college and take difficult classes where you actually have to study, only to find out that you don't really know how.

        That killed me my first year. If it weren't for a couple really good profs my second year and a girlfriend that taught me how to study, I would never have graduated.

        • by TriezGamer ( 861238 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:41PM (#27173725)

          This is one of the major difficulties I had in college. I never learned to study properly in high school, and I also had difficulty adjusting to the concept of homework. In high school I managed to complete nearly everything in class because the teachers often gave time to do work in-class. Not so with college.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AlpineR ( 32307 )

            My high school was located in a smallish town that was also home to the state's teaching college and a major medical school. So our teachers were quite good and prepared us for college by giving college-style homework loads (two hours homework per hour lecture). Unfortunately, high school keeps you incarcerated eight hours a day whereas in college you have lecture only two or three hours a day. As a result I was up past midnight most nights and back up around 5:00 AM to finish my work for the next day.


        • I had the opposite problem of you and the poster below when I got to college. The classes, in my experience, were just as easy as they were in high school, and the boredom factor was just as prevalent. Even today as long as I show up for classes and pay a moderate amount of attention I can pull As and Bs out.

          I don't say that to brag, but to point out that for someone like me, an activity like doodling that helps occupy my brain during informational lulls is extremely helpful, and as a child having that acti

          • College is a joke. In my classes now, I have none of the texts, doodle and daydream during class, and still maintain a 3.7GPA. Have classes filled with idiots who are not qualified to be there and the instructors go over the material time and time again while these refugees from the work force fail to get it. If they actually had to pay for classes and texts, most of them would not be there. It drives me nuts because I pay my way with no aid, grants, loans or other types of financial help.
            • Well, I think the problem is that people looked at the fact that High School diplomas meant you get better jobs, and so they said "Well gosh, the answer is obviously that more people need high school diplomas." The problem, of course, is that instead of getting better at teaching, they took the easy way out and made things way easier. Now, a High School diploma is a joke, and for a while a BS or BA was the new diploma, so then they dumbed down those degrees. Now, having a BS or BA doesn't mean shit as far a

      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        Boredom is also a problem with some people of lower intelligence, who have trouble understanding basic concepts. What they don't grok becomes noise, tuned out, and they turn to small timefilling activities (like doodling) instead of trying to learn.

        As to doodling itself, listening to music while you work has much the same function -- fills up the cracks the mind would otherwise wander off to.

    • I seem to recall reading about people with ADHD focusing much better if they can keep their minds busy with something.

      Take that stimulus away, and it's like a mental wall comes up that blocks incoming knowledge.

      More recently, it's been observed that many people with Aspergers [] have the same thing. I know someone with a mild form of it, and he twiddles his fingers. We can be in a meeting for 3 hours, and he'll be twiddling his fingers the whole time.

    • I would try and allieviate this boredom by doodling, and this often got me in trouble.

      My solution was to make it look like I was paying attention when they repeated the material and faked taking notes. Just look up every few seconds trying to make eye-contact; Once you do, you're set for about two minutes of "me-time" before having to get back to making the teacher feel like they're being a useful member of society. I spent classtime reading books, writing computer programs and doing homework. Great way to maximize your playtime after school. Another method useful on smarter teachers is

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#27170563) Homepage Journal
    I was going to write a long and well thought out reply that ended with me trailing off and it turning into ascii doodles, but apparently slashdot has an ascii art filter.

    "Filter error: Your comment looks too much like ascii art."

    Damnit /., I'm just trying to concentrate!
  • by Aphoxema ( 1088507 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:28PM (#27170585) Homepage Journal

    I find the conclusion they came up with after the study interesting, but I'm not convinced that it is the only practical explanation.

    I'd like the dissuade anyone from taking this article as proof enough to start arguing to start making artists out of us all.

    • I think there's something behind it. Both my father and I doodle when we're talking on the phone, and I find that I do it more when I'm thinking about the problem at hand on the phone. Interestingly, our doodles are different: he'll draw 3D objects with a lot of isometric angles, and I just wander across the paper or fill in the "holes" of the lettering at the top of the notepad.

      I wonder if it has more to do with one half of the brain being used heavily for analytical purposes, and the other "artistic"
      • Right-brain is the creative bit and left-brain is the analytical bit IIRC, though I don't think that the theory is as accepted by neurologists today as it was in the 70's and 80's...
  • I found in University that I retained more information in classes where I was half-napping (not falling asleep). I haven't heard of any studies but my thought is that the brain may find it easier to organize information when you are drifting. Then again, maybe it's just me... (grin)


  • by Anonymous Coward

    By Drooling.

    Gets me through the most boring meetings. Got me promoted as well.

  • I thought it said "drooling" - I'd never seen someone drool during a meeting.

    Obviously, I am not being invited to the right meetings; I must be doing something right.

    • by D Ninja ( 825055 )

      Obviously, I am not being invited to the right meetings; I must be doing something right.

      Depends on what everybody is drooling over...

    • by fprintf ( 82740 )

      I have a former employee that fell asleep in my manager's office. She was overweight and had sleep apnea. The next day she had a Dr's appointment, and followup with the sleep lab, where they figured out she was getting something like 30 minutes of sleep per night because her neck fat was cutting off her air supply.

      Anyway I have seen people sleeping at their desks, and a quick shake you can see the ones that were drooling by the quick, instinctive mouth wipe. Yuck - if they only knew how dirty their desks we

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:47PM (#27170887)

    A few weeks ago I met my High School Philosophy teacher from around 20 years ago. I greeted him and he didn't remember me at first, then asked for a few more names from my promotion. He said "that was a good year, and then: "You are the doodling guy!".

    Yeah, I spent all his classes producing convoluted tesselations and stuff while I listened, then just read anything he proposed. He told me he was expecting a complete disaster at first but in fact I was one of the best students he'd ever had, neck to neck with another doodler a few years later.

  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:51PM (#27170949) Homepage
    I work at home (telecommuter for 2 years now), and whenever I get stuck doing menial work, I turn on the TV. I have to watch sitcom drivel to keep it from being too engaging, but it keeps me on task, and keeps me from drifting off onto I'm doing now. CRAP!
    • Likewise, I listen to long trance/techno music mixes to work. I _must_ keep a certain part of my brain occupied lest I get too distracted/bored quickly (having a factory across the hall, plus lots of impromptu stand-up meetings happening nearby, doesn't help). Trance/techno is designed not to engage high cognition (unlike most music with attention-grabbing lyrics and melodies), but still gives something for non-programming mental activites to focus on.

      Earplugs don't solve the problem of blocking distraction

      • Huh, so that explains why I get more work done listening to the Japanese tracks... Now I don't know whether I want to learn the language or still be able to concentrate at work
      • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *

        I used to have a set of CDs to listen to when doing homework, coding, or writing. I made a point to listen to music with lyrics when I was doing something that was mostly math, and instrumental music when I was working with words.

        • So what do you use for coding?
          • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *

            So what do you use for coding?

            Ambient stuff, mainly. Singing with words in a foreign language I don't know, or sung in such a way that they're mostly unintelligible.

    • I find TV to work a lot less effectively than some alternatives. Ultimately, it's just too distracting--I've timed myself performing a task with and without the TV on in the background, and it takes much longer than if I'm sitting in a quiet setting.

      Actually, I think they did a study about this with playing music in the background. All that classical music floating around your cubicle may not be a good thing...

  • Meetings are BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El Torico ( 732160 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:01PM (#27171109)

    Most meetings are merely excuses to avoid working, so doodle away!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:11PM (#27171275)

      Reminds me of the poster that says:

      Are you lonely???

      Don't like working on your own?
      Hate making decisions?

      Then call a MEETING !!

      You can ...
      SEE people
      DRAW flowcharts
      FEEL important
      FORM subcommittees
      IMPRESS your colleagues
      MAKE meaningless recommendations

      ALL on COMPANY TIME!!!!

      The practical alternative to work.

      • by Mr Z ( 6791 )
        You might like this [] then.
      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        Simple solution: Next time you're at a long dull meeting, draw flowcharts. Encapsulate the meeting in a flowchart doodle, and you'll be perceived as the most attentive bootlicker there, given a promotion and a raise, and will be able to kick the asses of anyone you catch doodling during long dull meetings, which you now get to hold for others!

  • La la la (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:03PM (#27171141)
                      (\_/)/  _ \
                      (o.o) _(   |____
                     .- ".-`----'`"""")

    Hmm hmm hmm. I'm sorry, what?

  • Concentration....

    I heard this around 0900 this AM, and from what i gather (as in what i take from this) it is **not** so much about "concentrating better". The *real matter* is that the brain simply is wired to not want to shut down. It wants to process information virtually ALL THE TIME. (That might explain (i think) why we daydream and night dream.) Doodling is just so the body/person do(es) consciously or unconsciously/mindlessly so brain *has something to do* while we are concentrate or try to concentra

    • 1) you forgot to close your parentheses 2) where did the "murderous intent" come from
      • No, actually, i had that paren, but hastily tried to find the open paren and when my eye failed (or my mind failed to register its presence) i deleted the close paren. Later, after looking over my comment, I instantly saw the open paren. []

        Near the end of the audio report i heard something along the lines of "vicar", "closeted vicar" and murderous or bloodthirsty or the like...

        On second thought, i might even have to be corrected about my assertions

    • by Mr Z ( 6791 )
      Basically, doodling is the human equivalent of wiggling the mouse to keep the screen saver from kicking in when you're not actually typing, just so you can see if something interesting pops up in the inbox.
    • Thanks to whomever is the bastard who pummeled me down to "1, offtopic" from "2, informative"... I was ON topic, bitch, and you had to just fly off and shove my exposure down a notch to ingratiate yourself or satiate your pains.

      There SURELY are some vindictive, sick, panged people here...

      Go ahead, mark this one too. I dare you.

  • I agree, I have often doodled countless times little nothing drawings that made it easier to listen to the droned out voices, and still pay attention, however it was when I got into picasso mode, that things didn't quite make it useful. Keeping them small and umimportant drawings makes it trigger your awareness without triggering the perfectionist in you.

  • I used to play various NES pinball games on my laptop to help keep myself mildly focused during terminally boring lectures.
  • I do something very similiar online by swapping in and out of a Slashdot or Gizmodo page every 15 minutes or so. It gives my brain a rest from one task and keeps it stimulated with another. I'm much less attentive and productive when I don't have a terminal in front of me to provide context switching every so often.
  • Not only is this a dupe, like so many others on /., but it's a dupe of an article on idle: []

  • Seriously. You give me a writing pad and a pen or pencil and tell me to doodle, I think I'd probably just end up staring at a blank pad. Even if you stuck me in a lecture hall with them. Yet another sign that I need to stop taking my laptop out in class?
    • I think class use of laptops is really the same principle at work, just on a more-technological scale.

      I must admit, I have a gnome-games app and/or Firefox consistently running concurrently with Writer or AbiWord.

      So, tabbing over to "Five or More" or somesuch for a bit is my way of doodling.

      And yes, the word-processing document contains actual notes, not just decoy gobbledygook.

  • Forces me to think (Score:2, Interesting)

    by skeftomai ( 1057866 )

    I do this....I write a lot of notes or play witrh my phone to an extend during meetings.

    I find that catching bits and pieces forces me to try harder to put things together and understand them, and so I end up understanding things better.

    Also, if I try too hard to pay attention, I worry about paying attention more than what I am supposed to be paying attention to. When I do other things, it puts my mind at ease, and I can relaxedly listen.

  • I try this at meetings sometimes... I draw a 3D object like a cube or a car or a face or whatever next to an exact copy about two inches to the right, having a slightly more forward-facing appearance. Then I look at them slightly cross-eyed, so that the left eye sees the right image and the right eye sees the left image. If I draw them carefully enough (and since my vision is good in both eyes) I can get them to acquire a 3D-perspective. I doodled a stereoscopic pair of dice a few days ago that practically

  • Interesting how ironic/counterintuitive this is.

    I've found the principle working for me, that I've been paying better attention in lectures since I consistently started packing a laptop

    I get a bit aggravated when I can't get proper WiFi signal, but I of course don't advertise that to the professor.

    It's especially funny when I've getting *paid* to take down notes [which I still manage to pull off quite well, thankyouverymuch]

    Even if I'm not a paid scribe, actually taking notes probably helps keep me out of c

  • During my university classes I would knit, pausing to take only the most skeletal notes -- more like headings of broad topics covered during the course of the lecture. I always asked permission first (and always got it). I did better, marks-wise, in classes where I knit than where I didn't.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal