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5 reasons why sketchnotes should become part your your business routines

For World Sketchnote Day, which is celebrated annually on January 11, I created a sketchnote with a 5-step guide to sketchnoting. I received a lot of responses to it on LinkedIn, which of course made me happy - and also got me thinking. Why do visual notes attract so much interest? What is it about images that people instinctively respond to? And how do visual notes help in everyday business life?

Fun Fact: 11.1. as World Sketchnote Day was supposedly chosen because the "1" looks like a pen - and then three of them! More experienced sketchnoters will probably go: "sure, three pens: black outliner, one color, gray pen". Obvious, isn’it?

Sketchnotes - what is it exactly?

Sketchnotes are a combination of drawings (sketches, shapes, visual elements) and text (handwritten notes). The term sketchnotes was coined back in 2007 by Mike Rohde, who was highly dissatisfied with his previously very text-heavy notes. Experimenting with a new approach, he started to create his notes using a small notebook and a pen. Thus, space was limited and erasing was not possible which led to less writing and more drawing: sketchnoting was born.

Since visual notes, or sketchnotes, appeal to many people, they are a great way to engage with content. Sketchnotes are practical, easy, fast and effective. If you want to hear more arguments, here come 5 reasons why sketchnotes should become a part of your business routines.


1. Visual notes facilitate access to content

Images win against text: people can recognize concepts much better in visual representations than in written form. The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. At the same time, our brain is constantly busy identifying concepts hidden in all the information surrounding us (see also "This is why our brain loves pictures"). Finding patterns is hard work. Visual notes make it easier and thus, content more accessible because we take a much more direct route. Sketchnotes help us process more quickly what we hear.


2. Visual notes encourage understanding

When content is presented visually, it is easier to identify patterns in it, such as connections between two facts. And connecting things is creative, if you believe Steve Jobs. Visuals stimulate imagination and influence cognitive abilities. This helps grasp concepts more easily. Visual elements can be seen as an additional language that enhances and supports absorbing, understanding and analysing of new information.

Because sketchnoting is limited by available space and time, it helps to sharpen your focus. You simply can't write everything down - and once you accept that, it reduces stress while you are taking notes. You no longer have the constant uncomfortable feeling that you miss a piece of information or forget to write something down. I also think a huge advantage is that all the content is available on a single page, so you can grasp the whole idea of a workshop or meeting at a glance.


3. Visualization builds emotional connections

Thanks to the wiring in our brains, images trigger emotional responses. These emotions are responsible for the decisions we make and how well we remember information. When something is important, we want to connect it with emotions in order to remember it better - and visuals do that well. In addition, sketching, scribbling and doodling is fun and gives room for creativity - note-taking turns from a boring activity into an enjoyable one.


4. Visual notes help memorizing

Words are abstract: our brain sees words as individual images that we must first recognise. Visuals, in contrast to that, are concrete and are memorized better. In one study, students were asked to remember many groups of three words each, such as dog, bicycle, and road. Students who tried to remember the words by repeating them over and over again did poorly. In comparison, students who made visual associations with the three words, such as imagining a dog riding a bicycle down the street, remembered them significantly better. Why don't you ask a memory artist how she memorizes long lists of terms?

Our brain creates countless connections of information: associations. It happens to me, for example, that I recall many details of a workshop even months later when I look at the corresponding sketchnote. And I remember details that are not visible in the sketchnote. Since my brain was completely focused on the content during the creation of the sketchnote, it created numerous associations that now resurface, triggered by an element in the sketchnote. Go and take some time to look at old photos of past vacations and you will know what I mean.


5. It doesn't take drawing talent to make visual notes

The basic requirement for sketchnoting is to be able to hold a pen and draw a line on paper (analogue or digital). If you have just thought "yes, I can" you are perfectly qualified for sketchnoting. It is important to understand and accept that sketchnotes do not require artistic skills. Drawing is primarily a vehicle for the crucial cognitive work: turning ideas into communication. In this process, thoughts are structured, connections are made, and patterns are made visible. Sketchnotes do not require special drawing skills, but attentive listening so that ideas are visually synthesized and summarized through writing, drawing, and symbols.


Sketchnotes are efficient in business life

Visual notes speak directly to our brain and thus promote better understanding and memory. This is becaude emotions are tightly connected with pictures. Emotions consolidate content and stimulate associations. That's why sketchnotes are efficient in everyday business: they allow you to crystallize the most relevant points from a lot of information and quickly put them into a form that allows you to remember details even much later. Plus: sketchnotes don't require any drawing talent, just a pen and paper - and doing it.

This definitely speaks in favour of using sketchnotes yourself in everyday business life - or at least giving it a try. The "founder" of modern sketchnotes, Mike Rohde, formulates his two most important pieces of advice for someone new to sketchnoting as follows:

1. Give yourself lots of grace as you learn.
2. Practice, practice, practice!

Here's some extra advice from me, from my own experience: be gracious to yourself - "done is better than perfect".


Dare to take the first step

After all, it's not about winning an art prize but about the process. And with every sketchnote, there is an improvement. Or, to use Mike Rohde's words again: practice, practice, practice – you have to do it, there is no other way. But there may be a small shortcut: knowing the basic techniques and some practical tips will make sketchnoting easier, especially in the beginning. Here is more information about speakture workshops that teach such shortcuts.

By the way, do you remember the three sample words from the study with students mentioned earlier?