Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Doodling exercise

I was at the EuroSTAR conference 4th November in James Bach’s tutorial. I had not attended a full day training, talk or tutorial for a long time and my mind was still a bit rigid. I had a blast listening to James, but I noticed that from time to time my mind began to wonder. I started doodling on my note book. I didn’t pay attention. I was sitting between Laurent Bossavit ( and Kristoffer Nordström ( I know those guys are brilliant minds and I was actually a bit ashamed for doodling and losing my focus. So I doodled “in secret”.

At the coffee break I talked to Kristoffer about doodling and he explained it to me something like this: When listening to the talk and engaging one side of your brain, the other side starts to get bored. It begins shouting “Booooooring! I wanna do something creative!” and it makes you lose focus. Kristoffer told me to keep on doodling as part of keeping your focus. I did after that and I was able to keep my focus and come up with some more or less important ideas about testability and rapid test management – which was James’ topic on that day.

Kristoffer challenged me to write a blog post about doodling within one week, but I wasn’t able to tackle it before. Now I am, so I conducted an exercise. I tried to take notes on something that I have little or no interest in and tried to keep my focus on the job by trying to take notes and occasionally doodling. I did this by watching the most tedious video I can find from Youtube and I tried to summarize it using my doodles and notes. I chose “Intelligent Design and Creationism in the Classroom” ( It’s a 40 minute talk about something I try to stay away – religion and the teaching thereof. Here’s what I managed to do:

I started watching the video and thought there would be some fundamentalist talking about religion with such a zeal I couldn’t finish watching the video. Actually I couldn’t, because the video broke for some reason at 10:36. I did however rethought my previous attitude towards the video.

The beginning of the video was actually quite concise and gave things out in a quite unpassionate, to-the-point kind of analysis. I got a better understanding on why legislations on religion and marriage are the way they are. The context, I believe, requires some understanding of the government process and immigration policies. Also as a Finn, some of the things felt odd, like narrowing the gap between church and government.

More on the exercise. I tried to use doodling to keep me focused, but actually I had no trouble focusing. Taking notes was time consuming so I veered towards pictures to remind the topic that was talked about. It gave me something of an emotional attachment thus making the notes more understandable and clearer. The problem with this exercise was that it wasn’t authentic. I tried to make notes for the sake of note taking. I could formulate questions about the topics I doodled about, and in that sense I might have already felt that I must doodle about topics that I have some interest in already. I am keen to find out more about the “10 Commandments monument vs. non-Christian monument”.

As a conclusion, doodling is a good way to focus AND de-focus. I was able to shift my focus from the talk to the topics I got interested in. Also the doodles highlight the important stuff. Underscoring, circling, etc. make the text more dynamic and one can more easily find the areas of interest from the notes.

Thanks for challenging me, Kristoffer. It was a good thought exercise in addition to making me want to learn more about doodling. I still have a long way to go in note taking, but at least I know where to turn to get better exercises on note taking.

- Peksi

Note to self: read the following before going to the next meeting, session, conference or tutorial:


Unknown said...

Good work Pekka - nice one on taking up the challenge & doing a great job on it.

Definitely something I am going to try.


Srinivas Kadiyala said...

Thanks Pekka. It would be very useful for me, I keep loosing my focus during sessions.

I will read those links.