I like to say I’m paying $16k a year to learn to take really cool notes and a masters degree comes free with purchase.

Every artist needs a medium, and every writer needs ideas to pen. Going back to school as an adult has provided me both, plus the bonus opportunity (requirement) to sit and practice my skill for hours each week as I attend classes.

Whether high school, college, grad, or post-grad studies, time in the classroom should not be with a singular goal. If your goals for what you’ll accomplish in a classroom match the instructor’s syllabi exactly, I’d argue you are aiming too low.

Classroom lectures are an ideal time to practice lettering and doodling. Research indicates doodlers actually retain more content than note-takers. I’m lucky enough to get to study in a context where instructors understand this kind of brain science (and often are actually teaching it), but even in more rigid learning environments few instructors can take offense at a classroom doodler transforming their lecture into art.

But what if it’s not “good enough” to be called art?

Practice.

Time dedicated to a task (in this case, spent in a classroom), plus willingness to practice, and the freedom to fail repeatedly will always, always result in improvement. Case in point, I really enjoy looking at my notes from my first few weeks of graduate school alongside notes from my third term:

learning to doodle note takes time, effort, and a willingness to fail
Clockwise from upper left: First month of school, Third month of school, Fourth Month of School, Ninth Month of School

Learning to doodle note and bullet journal well takes time, effort, and willingness to fail- Lindsay

I think the willingness to fail is key. I did a research project last term that found that the effectiveness of art therapy is only very minimally correlated with effectiveness. (Meaning, people who don’t particularly enjoy art or identify as artists still benefit from the therapy) I’m convinced a similar principal is at play in bullet journaling: whether your doodles are professional or child-like or some uniquely personal place in between, they are a creative process keeping you engaged with the classroom material during sometimes very dry lectures. If you continue to use classroom time to practice, you will improve.

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