How drawing helps you remember

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Have you ever been told you’ve got a memory like a sieve? You’ve written, ‘buy milk!’ on your phone, your hand, multiple post-its, yet there’s still no guarantee you’ll remember to pick up a pint on your way home from work.

Suffering from memory malfunction is frustrating, and forgetting your new colleague’s name or the main point from that important presentation won’t earn you any brownie points in the office. So, perhaps it’s time we tried a new method for successfully committing facts and thoughts to memory. 

If writing down your shopping list isn’t enough to imprint it in your memory, we bet that drawing it is. Drawing is a great way to help you retain important information and our multi-talented scribes are living proof of this. They've visualised for everyone from Barclays to BAFTA, and their memories are full to the brim with random facts about random topics (they're the ultimate pub quiz companions).

So, we reckon you're far more likely to remember that long-overdue pint of milk if you draw a quick sketch of it first, and this has recently been proven by a new research project from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Neuroscientists there have discovered that when we draw, our brains call on past experiences from our memory banks as part of the visualising process. This cognitive act creates strong memory traces in the brain, enabling drawings to find their home in our long-term memories. Text, conversely, enters our short-term memory, which has far more limited storage capacity and expels information quickly.

While it might be a shock to learn you’ve been incorrectly note-taking for all these years, it’s not too late to change tack. Whether you’re an amateur doodler or professional illustrator, everyone’s brain responds to drawing in the same way, and you can start benefitting from visual thinking at any stage in your life. (And if you're not sure where to start, you might want to check out some of our inspirational workshops). 

What's more, with a little practice, drawing your notes will help you digest the facts that really matter. It's impossible to draw everything you hear in every meeting - not even our scribes are quite that efficient! - but by building up your visual thinking skills, you'll learn how to capture the information that is really worth capturing, and how to keep it in mind.

So, next time you find yourself in a mundane meeting or lifeless lecture, why not try doodling your notes instead? We promise it’ll liven up your hour, and you (and your boss) will be amazed at the amount of information that finally sinks in.