Thinking with Pen and Paper

Thinking With Pen and Paper

When ideas are elusive, complex or varied 

Desk top overWe may not always clearly understand the thoughts going through our minds, especially where we cannot quite bring the ideas together, where they are floating in the deeper recesses of our mind.
Often during those times if we try to ‘encourage’ this process to happen faster or we try to take short cuts through the thinking, then we risk the ideas becoming incomplete with key pieces of information missing.

Whenever the time comes to think deeply then try reaching for the pen and paper before using any electrical tool, this may sound a little weird in an age where there are so many ways of electronically making notes, but it does have its advantages.

This page provides a number of tips and suggestions on how to use Pen and Paper to assist in your thinking

Why and when to use it

Deep Thinking, Quality Thinking
Unlike electronic tools, when using pen (or pencil) and paper there is no ‘easy’ way of rapidly changing things, swapping things over, and so on …
Over time you learn to reflect a little bit more on your thoughts first, useful for resolving confusion and forming a more completed idea within your head.

Using Pen and Paper offers flexibility in a number of ways. You can: 

  • Scribble or doodle wherever you want. Even upside down or on the reverse
  • Shuffle the paper around to any order that you want (…and make paper aeroplanes)
  • Spread them around so that more than one ‘page’ is visible at a time.
  • Seperate them into piles that are easy to flick through.

And… You can do it without a power supply – the batteries won’t run out on the paper

Preparation Tips before you start

1) Ensure that you will not be disturbed for the duration of the thinking. 
Not as easy as it sounds! Things you can do to help include:

  • Turning off any electrical distraction, for example the mobile phone/smart phone
  • Finding a quite room where you will not be disturbed
  • Having someone else act as a contact for you, and only they can choose to disturb you
  • Dealing with any expected duties before you start, such as feeding a pet

2) Have a clear surface that can, preferably, contain at least two blank sheets of paper
Being able to put two sheets of paper side by side should be the minimum amount for a clear surface. This will reduce the distraction of shuffling sheets of paper 

3) Have more than one colour Pen to work with 
This will allow you to make two sets of notes on the same page, possibly the key ones in one colour with annotations or comments in the other colour. Three or four colours may be useful at times, but can easily be more confusing if you are not careful; in this instances it would be worth writing down the list of colours and their meanings – essential if you plan to take a break at some point.

4) Keep some scrap paper and a note book close to hand. 
Placing the scrap paper into that ‘second page’ space on the desk will make it immediately accessible for rough ideas and scribbles. (see later for using the note book)

5) Have a glass of water to hand
Sipping a little from time to time. It is easy to become a little dehydrated if you do spend a lot of time in thought

Deep thinking time

1) Allow yourself enough time for the thinking
Often when in deep thought you can move into a mental space that disconnects from the normal world around you – which is essential for truly deep or reflective thinking

2) If you find your thinking starts to go in another direction then use the note book.
Sometimes you will find that your current thinking is taking your mind away from your objective. When this happens then use the notebook to make any notes associated with the new line of thinking and then return to the original objective. You can use the notes in the note book afterwards to follow up on those ideas.

3) If you do need to keep in touch with others then control the interactions.
Identify a way of checking for messages – but only on your terms. One method is to leave the mobile on but in silent non-vibrating mode, this will allow you to check it from time to time on your terms and make your own mind up on whether any messages should be dealt with at the present moment

4) Doodling can have it benefits
Abstract doodling (wavy lines, spirals, squiggles,…) can be a very useful way of releasing the tension of deep thinking for a while. Abstraction is good for it does not give you any new thoughts to think about – it is a pointless mind emptying activity – which is exactly what you want!

Returning from your thoughts

1) Tidy up your notes so that you will be able to understand them later 
This is not quite the same as having them completely in their final state of presentation. Just make the notes detailed enough so that you will understand them when you return to them later.

Key point: These notes do not have to be understandable to anyone else, so just leave them ‘encrypted’. When you are refreshed then you can write them up for others to understand

2) Tidy away the rough paper at the end
Either throw it away completely or store it in a place safely out of sight where it cannot be confused with the final version you are gong to work with

Techniques of thinking with Pen and Paper

Other useful thinking methods/techniques that you can employ are listed below.
Links to external sites are provided for you to learn more 

  • Bullet points     – Good for listing thoughts that fall into distinct categories
  • Concept mapping – helps to bring thoughts and relationships together. See Concept maps
  • Mind mapping – A way of bringing a lot of different thoughts together. See Mind maps

 Jenny Maryl ~  Inspiring the Imagination ~ Contact Me


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