“I doodle or take notes on all kinds of stuff that inspires me.” -Maria Sharapova

The tennis great is not alone in her penchant for doodling; 26 of the 44 U.S. presidents doodled when they were in meetings or on phone calls.

In fact, doodling increases our memory. In one study, participants listened to a detailed phone message and were then asked to recall information. The ones who were told to doodle while listening remembered 29% more than the ones who took notes.

Doodling may require just enough mental effort to stop you from daydreaming, helping you pay better attention.

Also, doodlers generate more creative ideas. This may be due to something we have discussed before: diffuse mode thinking. Doodling may take your mind off the problem just enough to allow your subconscious brain to have creative insights.

The obvious implication is that you shouldn’t feel ashamed to let your pencil wander during class, meetings, and phone calls. However, another implication is that we may be wrong to label students or employees who doodle as “attention deficit” or “not engaged”. Maybe they are future presidents or tennis stars.

NOTE: The benefits of doodling do not extend to visual tasks like remembering what you see, likely because it splits your visual attention. So limit your doodling to listening-related tasks for the best results.


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