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Drawing your to do list in the morning can skyrocket productivity

Science says that if you draw, rather than write, items on your to do list, you are much more likely to remember them later.

Your doodles actually impact your day

I make epic lists filled with doodles and drawings. I add things like “watch the sunset” and “call your mom to say hi.” I write down things I’ve already accomplished and cross them off. “Drink coffee”? Done. Look how good I’m doing at my day already.

Somedays I make long lists and some days I make an “enough list” of three things I can feel good about getting done no matter what.

Now I have not only the satisfaction of making aesthetically pleasing lists, but validation from science. And so can you.

Drawing enhances memories of content

In the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology a study was published showing results that indicate that if you draw, rather than write, items on your list you are much more likely to remember them later. Anyone who knows the pain of making and subsequently losing a to do list can see the advantages of this technique.

The experiment had several stages, which you can read more about in here, which asked individuals and groups to either draw or write words and then recall them later.

In every stage, which varied in setting and content, the participants who drew were able to recall their prompts better than the ones who wrote.

So, why does it work so well?

Why is drawing a more effective memory tool than writing? The researchers think the key might be in the combination of skills involved. To draw even a simple figure you have to visualize the item, think about it’s attributes, and use motor skills to render it. It might be the interconnectedness of using all these skills that makes the list items easier to recall. Which is handy if, you know, you’re making a list because you have a lot of things you need to remember to do.

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You don’t have to be great artist to use this method, stick figures and blobby depictions of meetings work just as well. The benefit is all in the process.

Still, if you want beautiful list inspiration, you might start with the Instagram accounts prettyprintsandpaper and bujoinspire.

You can also use drawing in tandem with another great time management tool: the bullet journal method, which streamlines productivity with good old-fashioned pen and paper.

Happy drawing!


Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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  1. Pingback: Time Management Skills: the positive benefits on our professional evolution | somidaX

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