Episode 087: Start Sketching to Make Your Dreams a Reality Says Doug Neill

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Doug Neill Sketch Noting

Doug Neill

Doug Neill is building a business around the skill of sketch noting.  They are handmade drawings to help people visualize complicated pieces of information. Sketch noting can also be incredible useful for helping you get unstuck and to visualize the change you want in your life!

He spent a good part of his career as a math and science teacher.  Most recently he was a substitute teacher in Portland, OR. While pursuing his graduate degree in education, he started drawing again for the first time since he was a kid.

He was starting to realize the traditional teaching path wasn’t for him. In 2012 a lightening bolt of inspiration came to him after watching Sunni Brown’s TED Talk on doodling while sitting in a coffee shop. He said he saw the potential for integrating his new found passion for drawing and his experience as a teacher. He wanted to teach people how to sketch out their ideas.

We ask all our guests what it means to be UnStuckable and Doug was nice enough to sketch note it for us! (Thank you again Doug!)

UnStuckable Sketch Note

Key UnStuckable Takeaway

Start sketching out your ideas or the change you want in your life!

We’ve discussed lots of writing exercises on UnStuckable, but drawing out your ideas might be easier than trying to put them into words.

As Doug advised in his interview, don’t worry if you don’t think you are a good drawer. The point is to get your ideas out of your head with as few barriers as possible. Tap into your inner child and doodle to your heart’s content, so you can start making the change you’ve been dreaming about!

Quick Action to Get Unstuck

Set aside 10 minutes each morning to sketch whatever is on your mind.

Many of us wake up with a rush of thoughts about what we need to do for the day ahead or things we are worried about. Create a daily habit to cleanse your morning thoughts by drawing them out. Get started by:

1. Buy a sketch notebook or gather up a bunch of scrap paper you have around your house.

2. Keep your sketch paper and a pen or pencil in place you will feel most comfortable drawing each morning.

3. Make sketching your thoughts a part of your morning ritual. You might even make drawing the very first thing you do every day.

4. Try this experiment for at least a week to see how it makes you feel. Who knows, you might even learn something new about yourself.

UnStuckable Quotes From Doug

“More people are starting to see the benefits of doodling and sketching out ideas.”

“Sketch noting are hand-sketched notes that include words that provide a visual summary of a piece of information.”

“Looking at visuals activates a different part of your brain, so you can take in information much more quickly.”

“The goal of sketch noting isn’t about making your ideas aesthetically pleasing, it’s about getting your ideas down on paper.”

“Being UnStuckable is making daily progress even when the motivation isn’t there.”

“There is freedom when you apply constraints.”

More Habits & Actions

  • Doug has been reluctant to tell people he is a sketch noter because it’s not a well known profession, so he tells people he helps people sketch out their ideas.
  • He start drawing again during his graduate school program for the first time since he was a kid.
  • He sees sketch noting as an opportunity to combine his passion for drawing and his background in education.
  • After watching a TED talk by Sunni Brown who has written a book on doodling, he was so inspired he immediately bought a domain and started a website.
  • Since his undergraduate days, Doug has been aware of his need to go through a transition every couple of years.
  • What Doug liked the most about drawing was that it was a skill he could apply to a wide array of different needs.
  • He first started getting paid for his sketch noting work by being hired for freelance projects.
  • Sketch noting is a great tool to help you tackle any problem or challenge you might be facing (including getting unstuck!)
  • Doug is currently evolving his business toward selling teaching materials to educate others about how to sketch note.
  • As you being to sketch note give yourself some basic parameters to organize your ideas.

Alternative Perspectives

  •  At some point in school we are easily directed away from the arts toward verbal and mathematical skills.
  • Graphic recording is a visual representation of conversations held during a meeting, conference or presentation.
  • Sketching noting is a great tool for processing lots of different pieces of information.
  • Align, then build your business to understand how you want your business to sustain your lifestyle.
  • Sketch noting creates an extension of your thoughts and enables you to free parts of your brain to process other information.


Doug Neill’s Website

The Graphic Recorder

Verbal to Visual

The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown

Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

Blah, Blah, Blah by Dan Roam

The Sketch Note Handbook by Mike Rhode

Good Life Project

Google Image Search for Sketch Notes

War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

Questions & Feedback

Have a question or feedback for us? Email getunstuck@unstuckable.co or Tweet @unstuckable

Thank you for listening. If you like something you heard in the show, let Doug, Chris and Stephen know by tweeting us @unstuckable

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Thank you for for your support and let’s get unstuck!