Why drawing your plans will boost your productivity and enhance your creative thinking

So what do I mean by drawing?

It’s great to get off the computer sometimes and put pen to paper. When you need to be able to review and understand the results of your work quickly and easily, drawing your plan is a fabulous way to boost your productivity and enhance your creative thinking. This approach is designed for non- artists and those who don’t consider themselves ‘gifted’ at drawing.

I don’t mean drawing something polished or beautiful, at least not in the first couple of drafts.

The process involves using the small steps method. You can find out more about the small steps method here.

In fact, all of these are important:

  • Imperfections
  • allowing the thing to be messy
  • crossings out
  • re-doing it (possibly several times) to make it slightly closer to what you want each time

Try it now:

On a piece of blank A4 paper, or in a notebook, sketch out a plan of the space you are in right now. Focus on how you could improve it. Remember to make it imperfect and messy. Aim to include crossings out, and redo it at least once.

Types of visual representation:

‘Create a simple visual representation’ would be more accurate than ‘draw’ in this context. Here are some types of visual representations you can use. In the next blog post in this series I give you an example of each.

  • Simply dividing your paper into four or six squares
  • Working in a hand-drawn chart or a table
  • Drawing a timeline
  • Sketching a circle or wheel
  • Mind mapping
  • Creating a flowchart
  • Drawing a rough plan of a space
  • Drawing cartoons of the type of task

If you’re naturally neat: (ignore if you’re not!)

  • If you like to keep things neat, then the above exercise may have brought you out in a cold sweat, for which I apologise. There is nothing wrong with doing it neatly, as long as you don’t tip over into perfectionism.
  • All yourself a messy first draft, and then create a neat version, using a ruler and colours.

Six reasons to draw your plan or to do list:

  1. It gets you offline, and off the computer, which automatically makes use of a different part of your brain. You can, of course, do all of the above kinds of drawing on a computer, which will suit some people down to the ground. Personally, I also do digital versions of all of the above, but there’s something very different about actually putting pen to paper, especially if you are always on the computer. It’s like walking a different way to college / work or sleeping in a different bed. The novelty wakes you up!
  2. The process of drawing allows you to ponder whatever problem or task you’ve got in front of you. This works like doodling (which has been proven to help people to think) – while your hand is moving, your brain is mulling things over. If you end up staring into space, you can keep coming back to whatever you’re drawing, making a virtue out of daydreaming.
  3. A drawing provides a way of seeing the whole project at once, rather than in small parts.
  4. It can be quicker than writing it all out, and easier to communicate the finished project.
  5. A box or a chart or the skeleton of a mind map gives your mind something to fill in, or a constraint on which to focus. This kind of structure helps you to work through the task – you keep having to return to the chart or timetable (or whatever it is) to fill in the next stage. It also stops you getting distracted by social media.
  6. It feels light-hearted (as long as you can let go of the need for it to ‘look good’) – which helps you to think creatively, rather than getting bogged down by detail. It can also stop you feeling dejected or overwhelmed by ‘dull’ tasks.


These are affiliate links.

18 Minutes by Peter Bregman – Bregman gives you a very useful way to plan your day using a chart, in chapter 22.

Use Your Head by Tony Buzan – this book will help you learn all about mind mapping, and the thinking behind it.

Up next: Drawing your plans and to do lists – what to draw and how to do it.


Top Ten Tips for Increasing Your Productivity

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Top Ten Tips for Increasing Your Productivity

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