When is the last time you sat down with a pencil and paper and actually drew something? If you're not a professional artist or designer or an inveterate meeting doodler, then the answer is probably either high school art class or the last time your toddler demanded it.

Drawing, in other words, is something that most of us leave to professionals and children. That's a shame, argues Anne Quito in a fascinating recent Quartz article. Even if you're terrible at art, setting aside time for sketching can help you see the world more clearly and solve problems in innovative ways. And that's in addition to the science that shows drawing -- even if it's just wonky stick figures -- will reduce your stress and bring you joy.

The full article is well worth a read, but here are is Quito's basic case for busy professionals to find more space for drawing in their lives.

1. Drawing focuses your attention.

Your mind is less likely to wander if you're actively scribbling down your ideas about a problem, explains Quito. "The process of drawing something helps you somehow to stay connected. I am a slow thinker, and have to spend a lot of time before I can clean up my ideas and make progress," she quotes Fields-Medal-winning mathematician and avid drawer Maryam Mirzakhani as saying.

2. Drawing broadens your thinking.

When you look up visuals online, you tend to get a narrow and conventional selection of options. (Anyone who has ever put 'success' into a stock image website and gotten pages and pages of middle-aged men standing on mountain peaks at sunrise will understand.) Drawing, on the other hand, forces you to contemplate all the options and actively select the one best suited to the situation.

"Close observation of almost any particular [which is required for drawing] engages the senses and heightens experience, making the world seem bigger, not smaller," writes design historian D.B. Dowd in his book, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice.

3. Drawing teaches you humility.  

Drawing is undoubtedly hard, but that's not because holding a pencil and moving it across a paper is is difficult. You probably mastered that skill in kindergarten. What's hard about drawing is actually looking at the world and realizing we don't actually know what things look like. Go ahead and try to draw something everyday, like a cow, from memory and you'll see what I mean. (Mine kind of resembles a bear with a tragic belly tumor.)

That's why drawing teaches you a key skill -- intellectual humility. Or in other words, it reveals just how much you don't know, which is the first step to seeing more and choosing better in life.

So go ahead, next time your wrestling with a tough problem and set aside a few minutes to doodle your thoughts. You might be surprised at the solutions that emerge.

Published on: Sep 26, 2018