Bullish: Can Drawing Your Problem Help You Solve It?

Bullish draw your problem

Image by Jessie Dawn

Jennifer Dziura writes career and life advice on TheGloss and headquartered on GetBullish.com.

I am a big advocate of strategic planning — and daydreaming, and brainstorming — on paper.

I am reminded of the advice for insomniacs that, if you want to get to sleep more easily, don’t work or read in bed. Train yourself that beds are only for sleeping.

If you use your computers and devices for work (and squirreling away time on social media), it’s hard to convince yourself to sit in front of the same technology but ignore all the normal cues and instead see the BIG PICTURE RIGHT NOW.

I like a good sketchpad and a purple marker. I’m fine with someone thinking I have the aesthetic preferences of a twelve-year-old girl. I don’t have a problem with twelve-year-old girls.

A recent thread on Reddit asked, “What girly thing do you really want to do or try but it is socially unacceptable?” (See, patriarchy hurts us all!)

The number one answer was girly cocktails. Wearing yoga pants also came up a lot. But one poster answered that he’d like to be able to write in multiple colors of pen. (Several gay men posted that they do all these things regularly.) I like writing in multiple colors of pen. It helps me think.

I wrote in Bullish: Pre-Internet Productivity Tips for the Young and Sprightly that:

“The main problem with so many productivity applications is the most obvious one, the one so obvious no one really notices or talks about it: on a computer screen, you can only see one screen full of stuff at a time. Your brain can really handle more of a visual field than that — close to 180 degrees, in fact — but one thing your brain does not like is the one-second switch between apps (“task switching” is disorienting — the one second on your computer causes a greater-than-one-second lag time in your brain).

So one day last May I was browsing my Twitter feed when whimsical male Bullish reader @Truett posted:


I thought this was a great idea. I have no special artistic talents, but I believe in breaking out of screens and lined paper and lists and sometimes just thinking spatially and visually. When teaching math, I teach really specifically what to write or draw on your paper for specific types of problems. So if it works for one of those situations where two trains are barreling towards each other at different speeds (I know you all love those!), maybe it would work for a life problem.

It took me many months to follow through, but I finally decided to DRAW MY PROBLEM.

Share This Post:
    • Lindsey Conklin

      drawing is therapeutic!!! this is awesome advice!

    • http://truettogden.wordpress.com/ Truett

      I’m thrilled that you tried this!! And you totally got where I was coming from: the drawing helps you step out of the sometimes endless loops of mental chatter & into the real-world space of what the problem really looks like, what the solution might look like, who all is involved & how they are each feeling, & it can serve as a starting point for constructive/clarifying discussions.

    • Anne Marie Hawkins

      Oh, man, this is advice I totally needed. Awesome!

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I am awful at drawing, so I feel like I could only make problems worse and messier-seeming. Then again, when I saw the image of moving with the boyfriend, it hit home with me because my person and I are in a similarly confusing position, and seeing the facial expressions and actual situation illustrated that way made it more easy to imagine the consequences and reality of moving. Perhaps I need to brush up on my nonexistent skills…

    • Eileen

      Totally not the point, but I didn’t know you were pregnant – congratulations!

      And this is a really cool problem-solving technique that I would never have thought to apply to anything but math. (Also, Jessie, for what it’s worth, Ottawa and Montreal are a totally doable weekend distance for a couple – relatives of mine did it for quite some time a few years back, and the Ottawa half didn’t even have academic schedule breaks)

    • matbo

      This reminds me of sketchnoting which is becoming a big movement. At first when I started I was so frustrated by taking notes by drawing rather than writing – I have a tendency to write everything down trying not to “miss out”. But after I started drawing/sketching notes it really forced me to focus on the really important things as well as the ways I understand things, and I have become a much better student that when I was frantically scribbling every word without really listening.