It might seem counterintuitive, but studies have shown that doodling while receiving information can help you retain the information better than those that are “focused” on the information. Although it is unclear why, doodling while receiving particularly boring information can enhance memory and recall of that information. In addition to enhancing memory and recall, doodling can also help to relieve stress and create connections in the material.
What Should I Doodle?
Anything will work, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Using pencil helps to relieve stress because corrections (if you want to make any) are easy to make;
- Using smooth, long strokes tends to reduce stress (there is something comforting about the fluid movements with the pencil and your hand);
- You are not trying to focus on the subject of your doodle – this is a mindless activity designed to help you remember information and reduce stress – just draw whatever comes to mind; and
- Sticking to simple, basic shapes helps to stimulate memory and recall – so keep it simple!
Another option is to doodle words or phrases associated with the information you are receiving. Believe it or not, these can be integrated into your outlines and notes as triggers for memory recall. I have known law students who keep a separate, dedicated notebook that they use for doodling in class.
Don’t Stop With Doodles
Another option for those perfectionists among us who can’t handle drawing unrecognizable pizza slices or cartoon characters, is coloring. There has been a boom in the adult coloring books. Many law students find this to be a good alternative to doodling. The benefits of coloring as an adult are also well documented and include:
- Reduction in stress and anxiety;
- Improved focus and clarity;
- Improvements in motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and vision;
- It can help with sleep by moving your mind into a meditative state; and
- As with doodling, it is an opportunity to unplug from technology which helps with creativity instead of consumption.
With both activities, the brain is able to focus on the simple task of coloring or doodling, which results in relaxation of the mind. The result? Your mind becomes a sponge ready to absorb all of the information presented in class.
Doodling In All Of My Classes?
Not necessarily. You have to figure out what works best for you. Maybe doodling during a technical class, like federal tax won’t work, because you really need to focus on the material and the tax code. On the other hand, a bar-tested (in some states), but less than invigorating subject, like Administrative Law, might be the perfect opportunity to flex your creative drawing and coloring skills.
Remember, the key is that these skills are designed to enhance memory retention and recall of the information you are receiving in class; the purpose is not to distract. If you are carrying an easel or briefcase full of art supplies into your law school classes, you have gone too far. A notepad and a pencil box are really all you need to leverage this amazing tool.
But I’m A Serious Law Student – We Don’t Doodle!
Some do, but law school is all about finding the tools that will help each student be more efficient, effective, and successful. The studies about the benefits of doodling and coloring while receiving boring information or information that you just aren’t that interested in are compelling. In law school, it doesn’t matter whether the subject interests you. The professor, and more importantly the bar examiners, will still test you on the material. If doodling or coloring will help you retain some greater percentage of that information, it’s worth trying.
Furthermore, it is easy to slip into a dark place in law school. The realities surrounding drinking and drug use to cope with high levels of stress within the legal community, much of which begins in law school, are well documented. Studies have shown that coloring and doodling can help you replace negative thoughts with positive ones. There is not a single law student that hasn’t been in need of a little pick-me-up during a particularly difficult class or semester (or law school generally). Doodling or coloring could be one option to help.
Why Not Try It Once?
With the beginning of a new semester, why not give doodling or coloring a chance? Maybe choose that class that just doesn’t interest you as much. Arm yourself with a pad of paper, some pencils or colored pencils, and/or an adult coloring book. One of the great things about this tool is that it’s wireless. In the age of professors banning technology from their classrooms, doodling and coloring represent a habit that should help you avoid the ire of your professors and excel on exams. Another amazing thing about doodling and coloring is that you don’t have to be good at it to derive the benefits described herein. Furthermore, this habit or hobby is portable and can be transported anywhere. Give it try. You have nothing to lose.
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