Visual Notetaking for Added Value

Visual NotesWhen you try and remember something, like a favorite summer day, does the memory come back as text? If you're telling someone how you want a new house to be built, would you open a word processor up and start typing instructions? Our brains are wired for a mix of systematic thinking on the left side, and visual thinking on the right. So why, then, do we take notes primarily in textual form?

Draw a Little

Sometimes, a word is easier than an image, but more often, putting something in visual terms is a great way to demonstrate a point more effectively. I recently read a book called IMPROV FOR ACTORS, by Dan Diggles(side note: I'm neither an actor nor am I intending to start up an improv act). There were circumstances where I found drawing two people facing each other and voicing some of the dialogue concepts in little comic talk bubbles was much more useful to me for comprehension than just writing out both sides of the conversation with "Actor 1" and "Actor 2" tags.

Actor bubbles

See Differently

In an earlier piece on mind mapping, I talked about the way visual depictions of data were helpful in uncovering information that wasn't immediately apparent. Drawing mixed into your notes sometimes uncovers information or thoughts that aren't there in text format. I once drew out the people physically involved in a process to manage international shipping. When I saw the people icons on paper along with their names, I realized that in one case, I had two people doing the same thing, and in another, I was missing someone to handle another job.

The Ultimate Software

Sometimes, it's a matter of wanting your information to appear in a specific way and not having the software or the skills with a certain software to accomplish that goal. One coworker of mine didn't have a copy of Microsoft's Visio drawing software, and in its absence, she used a pen, a ruler, and a penny (for bubbles) to map out the file structure on a new linux platform. People smirked the first time they saw her drawing. Then, they'd ask for copies, because it became a great record of how to lay out the system for future engineers.

Right brain powerRight Brain Power

Attending meeting after meeting can take a toll on us, as can the daily grind of our jobs. Our creative muscles atrophy when faced with so much analytical and logistical thinking. But good news: adding drawing your note taking can sometimes help shake that. Take a look at sketch journalling by innowen for some more thoughts on one way to think about this. What if you journalled some of your thoughts of the day with images?

Drawing can help you focus your attention when you'd rather be elsewhere. Sometimes it's a way of connecting with what someone is saying when you aren't exactly interested. Draw little talking heads of the members of the meeting. Draw visual puns based on what they've said, or make pictures around the key points.

Consider using your visual note taking skills to build upon a practice of visual thinking. Use your eyes and your right brain to fill in some of the gaps for how you're getting things done in a day. It may enrich the techniques you currently employ to capture the information you're presented with in a given day.

-- Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [].

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very cool! thanks for the

very cool! thanks for the inspiration.

Dude, where's my pencil?

My drawing skills are minimal to say the least even though I enjoy doing it. My preference, in public at least, is for clever word play. Which, oddly, is also a 'cross-lateral brain' activity... ;)

BTW Nice piece Chris. :)