The idea of mindfulness has a lot of currency these days, and the media is full of tips about how we can learn to be more focused. The New York Times offered ideas about how to be mindful while brushing your teeth, for example. While part of the idea of being mindful is that we get more out of an activity if we are not distracted by stray thoughts, being focused may be more complicated than concentrating on one thing at a time. Doodling, daydreaming and even forgetting have positive aspects that contribute to our ability to think that are often overlooked.

I have always been a doodler, but during my school years I was careful not to let the teacher see me do it. I often would draw during the discussion portion of the class, though I took notes when at lectures, a habit that seemed to help me remember even if I never looked at them. Later I…

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