Rock Climbing Graphic Record
Sep 11, 2019 Geoff Nelson Uncategorized No Comments

Graphic Recording: What to Do When You’re Lost and In the Weeds

What do you when you miss content, lose focus, or fall behind in a graphic recording or sketchnoting session? Graphic recorder Sarah Page’s graphic record about rock climbing holds some keys to overcoming the panic moment. In addition, here are some techniques to help improve in that area.

Rock Climbing Graphic Record
Sarah Page’s Graphic Record of her rock climbing experience

What to do when you’re behind

Dealing with the feeling

  1. Label it, acknowledge it, but don’t get involved in it.-Know your “why”. Why are you there? To build better innovators? To serve the client in the future by holding space in the present? To get paid to draw with markers? Know your “Why” ahead of time, so when you’re ready to quit, you’ll have a reason to keep going.

2. Fill your cookie jar. Between events, write down all of your victories in life. Large, small, artistic, intellectual, physical, professional; capture them all. That’s your cookie jar. When you feel your focus waning, grab a cookie. It will fuel you and sustain you! (This strategy is from David Goggins, who used his cookie jar to run 101 miles with no training. He also shat himself twice and gave himself a pile of injuries, but you’re not doing that; you’re drawing a picture! Speak gratitude and have a cookie.)

3. Mentally rehearse self-calming between gigs.  Imagine yourself in the position of getting behind in a session. Practice labeling, speaking your why, or having a cookie, and moving on! The more you can imagine yourself in an uncomfortable situation, and imagine yourself handling it well, the more likely you are to do it in the real world. We all sink to the level of our training, so train yourself to calm down and crush it!

4. Give yourself permission to get lost and find yourself again. Rarely will you miss the one essential thing; you want to capture the essence of the session rather than every specific thought. Graphic recorders are neither transcriptionists nor machines. Your listening journey will show up on the board, as it should. It’s not about you, but you’re part of it so don’t sweat it if your graphic record looks like a human did it.

Procedures to mitigate and minimize the impact of losing focus

  1. Discover your best placeholder. Is it a figure? A word? An icon? A sticky note? What mark can you make that will jog your memory when you can return to it? We usually have circle-back time during sessions when we can revisit areas left unfinished. Trust that will happen, make your placeholder, and move on.

2. Practice your iconography. Make sure you’ve drilled down several icons for manager, workflow, digital, AI, disruption, safety, consensus and other business ideas that come up frequently. Even if you make the first shape or mark for the icon and move on, you’ll remember what you were doing when you circle back. NOTE: It’s also important to engage with industry or company branding, jargon, and other specific visuals ahead of the gig.

3. Practice, practice, practice.  Do a lot of listening and sketchnoting. Listening and graphic recording are complementary skills and they improve with deliberate practice. So pick an area to improve (focus, staying with the talk, setting placeholders, etc.) and work on that via podcasts, TED talks, panels, and so on.  Work on this until you see improvement. The better you are at listening and scribing the less likely you are to fall behind or to panic when you do.

4. Debrief with a colleague. Talking over what happened or reflecting and reporting back can prepare you for the next session. We all benefit from learning from one another’s struggles as well as our victories. Falling behind, losing focus, and missing content are part of the job, and so is mitigating the risk of those incidents. With practice and reflection, we can reduce them from barriers to speed bumps.