Doodling: A means of concentration in the workplace.


Now that 2017 has officially started it is time to get back to the daily work schedule, fraught with what many perceive as meaningless and trivial tasks which demand a lot from our cognitive resources. As your ability to focus in meetings may be less than ideal for those of you who prefer more active and practically orientated lifestyles, you may begin to feel inadequate in your cognitive abilities. However, the scientific field of cognitive psychology offers a new and unique solution which many of you may not object to. It is not a regiment which demands constant dedication and attention, it is merely the simple act of doodling, allowing spurts of imaginative genius to burst forth from your mind into the margins of your page.

How can doodling actually help you concentrate in a meeting or increase your listening skills? Before answering this question, it is necessary to define some concepts which relate to the scientific field of psychology. Doodling actually assists processes relating to working memory, planning and organising, and inhibitory control, which is associated with the executive functioning of the brain hidden within your prefrontal cortex. Working memory refers to a form of memory in which information is maintained in an active mental state, such as when you are trying to remember a phone number you just learnt before dialling it. Planning and organizing allows us to comprehend what is needed and what steps must be taken to complete tasks. Finally, behaviour inhibition refers to the ability to prevent ourselves from engaging in inappropriate behaviour and to shift responses. Now that the more boring and dull scientific lingo is out of the way, it is time to discuss how this relates to the context in which you work and conduct yourself.

As you sit in a meeting in which numbers and figures flash before you, your mind may tend to wonder off to someplace you would rather be. This is because your executive functioning is not focused on the task at hand but is thinking of other things, such as what you shall have for lunch, or future interactions that you may or may not have. By doodling, you are allowing your executive resources to have a single outlet, therefore allowing you to focus on the task at hand, whether it be listening to the office drones in a meeting or listening to an important phone call. Therefore, your working memory, planning and organizing skills, and behaviour inhibition improves which will allow you to behave and conduct yourself in a more socially acceptable way in your office environment.

So, let your creative mind be prevalent in many situations this year. As you make those meeting minutes, doodle in the margins.  As you listen to what others have to say, doodle in the margins. May “doodling in the margins” be your new catch-phrase and go-to for 2017 and may it be filled with a work-life that is focused and attentive to the immediate South African context in which you find yourself.