Spirals. 3D boxes. Complicated flower patterns. That weird looking "S" thing that everyone learned to draw in elementary school.
As long as there are tedious conference calls, boring presentations, and monotonous mid-afternoon meetings, there will be doodling. Doodling is a time-tested technique for making unexciting tasks a little more manageable.
And it is, almost universally, viewed as a distraction. If you're focusing on shading, you're probably not paying enough attention to the call, presentation, or meeting (so the popular wisdom goes). But a researcher in the United Kingdom ran a study to test this common assumption.
And her findings might surprise you.
- The setup: A group of 40 study participants each listened to a two-minute, intentionally monotonous recording of an individual talking about an upcoming party. While listening they were asked to take notes on the important information (e.g. the names of those intending to attend the party). Then, after the recording had finished, participants were given a memory test to see how much of that important information they could remember without checking their notes.
- The twist: While taking notes on the recording, half the participants were told to doodle, while the other half were instructed to focus exclusively on notetaking.
- The findings: Individuals who doodled as they took notes were 29% better at remembering important information from the recording than non-doodlers.
- The takeaway: Doodling isn't a distraction, it's a cognitive power-up. If you're trying to retain information while listening to something (or someone) boring, doodling can help you stay alert and engaged.