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Most of the time, I don't even think about it. But the evidence is there after a meeting: scribbled out blue or black blotches on the papers in front of me that started out as doodles. My desk calendar has them. Notes scattered around me desk have doodles in the margins. They're everywhere.
During a staff meeting this week, I noticed I certainly wasn't alone.
Mary Richards, for example, covered the entire corner of her meeting agenda with an impressive array of blue squiggles that somehow ended up looking neat and organized.
Another co-worker, who didn't want to be named, added little quips to his agenda. One read "I'm Hungry". Another said, "I don't want to take up all your time" usually means, "I'm going long, deal with it." On the back, he'd drawn something that kind of looked like an apple, or maybe an acorn.
Some of the others in the room weren't doodling, but they were certainly fidgeting. One kept checking his cell phone. Another had told me before the meeting that he was purposely taking his phone, just so he could have something to "play with."
That made me wonder why doodling was even still around in our era of personal electronic gadgets. They don't seem to have replaced the doodle just yet. My guess as to why is that it's still much more acceptable to scribble on a piece of paper during a meeting, than it is to break out the PDA and play Tetris. I also think electronics are limiting. A pen and paper are complete freedom. The pen will go wherever your mind and your fingers take it. A PDA, for the most part, requires key-strokes of some kind.
At the end of our staff meeting, I got some funny reactions when I asked some co-workers if I could photograph their work for a blog. Adam Thomas quickly handed me a piece of paper that included a scribble and the words "stupid topic Marc". (I think he's just bitter that I haven't re-filled my candy jar in months.) Mary told me that doodling helps her think more clearly. I'd have to agree with that one. I don't think a doodler is necessarily being inattentive, nor do I think doodling is a sign of a dry meeting. Even notes from meetings in which I felt very engaged, are accompanied with doodles.