How To Achieve Flow While Sketchnoting


You know that feeling of being in the zone, when you’re fully immersed in a mental or physical task and time seems to fly by?

That state is called flow, and I’d like to explore how to achieve it while sketchnoting.

A Range Of Emotions

Flow is just one of many emotional states you might enter during an experience, depending on how challenging the experience is and the level of skill that you bring to it.

If the challenge level is high but your skill level low, you’ll experience anxiety.

If the task is easy and you’re got a high level of skill, then you’ll be relaxed, but that likely won’t lead to your best work.

The sweet spot is where the challenge level is high and so too are your skills. It’s that combination that allows you to enter a state of flow.

The Conditions For Flow

Three conditions must be met in order to enter a state of flow:

#1) You have to be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.

As a visual note-taker, what that means for you is that you need to decide up front why you’re taking notes on – you have to define your purpose so that you know what your goal is and when you’re making progress toward it.

#2) The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.

Since you’re literally able to see your progress as you fill the page with visual notes, this one earns an easy check mark.

#3) There must be a good balance between the perceived challenge of the task and one’s perceived skills.

This brings us back to the graph above, and I’d like to dig a bit deeper into those two variables – your skill level and the challenge level.

Your Skill Level

Your skill level is what you have the most control over. No matter how you’d rate your current sketchnoting skills, you can improve them with intentional practice (and that’s what I hope my videos and courses help you to do).

Don’t stress out about making leaps and bounds of progress day after day. Just set aside a bit of time each day to improve one skill. Those small daily steps will add up quicker than you might think.

The Challenge Level

What’s not so obvious about the challenge level of a sketchnoting experience is that you do have some control over it.

Yes, there are external circumstances that you can’t always control like how much information is coming at you, at what speed, and with what additional distractions.

But what you always control is your internal process of sketchnoting.

You get to decide what filter you’ll use to determine what ideas make it on to the page, how many fonts you’ll use, how complicated your layout is, how much in-the-moment drawing you do, and how many colors you use.

So if the challenge level is high because of external circumstances, then try simplifying your process so that your approach to sketchnoting doesn’t add any more unnecessary challenges to the situation.

Flow For Sketchnoters

How To Achieve Flow While Sketchnoting - Verbal To Visual - Doug Neill, sketchnotes, visual note-taking, graphic recording, conditions

Above all, focus on those variables that you do control, and just keep tweaking them until you find a combination that works for you.

Because as I see it, the best way to feel flow as a sketchnoter is to choose the right constraints for your context at your skill level.

I wish you luck in your search for flow.

-Doug

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Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’re new to the idea of sketchnoting and excited to develop more visual thinking tools, I think you’d enjoy our foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

If you’d like to make sketchnoted videos like the one you saw here, we’ve got a course for that too! Check out How To Make Sketchnote Videos.

And if you’re an educator interested in bringing visual note-taking into your classroom, check out Sketchnoting In The Classroom.