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Get Your Visual Thinking Juices Flowing

3 simple steps with resources

What do you do most of your day? Answer emails? Write reports? Take notes in meetings?

Today more than ever, we are tied to our computers for the better part of the work day, which involves a lot of sitting, typing and thinking in a linear linguistic manner (see multiple intelligence theory). This is good if linguistic is your primary way of processing, but for so many people it is not.

No matter your intelligence type, mixing it up will help open some new perspectives.

Step 1. Go Bigger

This adds a visual spatial element, breaks the chains of linear thinking and helps keep all ideas on one page. Create maps with drawings and color, show connections and don't worry about being messy! For this I like big note pads and rolls of paper.

Step 2. Go Vertical

Research shows that active people are smarter people. Once you start moving, flow of oxygen to the brain increases and it becomes easier to make connections that weren't obvious before. If you are a kinesthetic learner this is perfect for you! This also makes ideas more visible for others, so great for working in groups. There are many ways of doing this, here are some that I use at home and with my favorite teams:

  • whiteboards (I have a whiteboard painted on one of my home office walls, have also heard of some startups using shower board)
  • graphic walls (made a video on setting one up a while back, see links in description)
  • paper on walls (if you have very smooth walls, just cut paper rolls into more manageable pieces and hang with some painter's tape)

Step 3. Go Mobile

While it is good for our human brains and bodies to play with pens and paper away from the desk, we still live in the 21st century where work is emailed and posted online. It is good practice to take pictures of everything you do, especially when collaborating across long distances. I don't like, I love CamScanner as it corrects angles and whitens paper automatically! Sometimes it makes sense to go digital from the start (illustrations for this post were done on my iPad in SketchbookPro).

There must be a million more ways to increase your thinking surface, what is your favorite?

Related articles: Why Hire a Graphic Recorder

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Anna Ulanova, M.A. Graphic Recorder
Anna Ulanova, M.A.
Educator, Organizational Consultant and Visual Thinker
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