How I lost my sense of direction in technical complexity and found my way with visuals


One late summer morning I was walking, with great hopes and high expectations, into the campus grounds of The Technical University of Denmark. First day at university. I dreamed of becoming an engineer. My grades were good, my motivation was high, and I was confident that this would work out just fine.

Nevertheless, I soon realized that The Technical University was indeed technical. Very technical! Long curriculums, complicated topics, and complex concepts needed to be learned. The many lectures in technical language with many many slides made me drowsy and I had a hard time remembering what was just said and how to use it in exercise, assignments, and exams.

Study groups and friends helped a lot, but how to stay focused and remember stuff from lectures? How to be well prepared for exams? I was lost.

I struggled with this until I started drawing my lecture notes instead of just writing. I drew simple illustrations to explain concepts, I added color and arrows to show differences and connections, and I varied fonts and bullets to highlight important passages and topics.

Drawing changed something in my brain. I started to understand and remember much more of what I heard in lectures and read in books. I did not get drowsy, and I was able to stay more focused. Not a single exam was failed.

The power of visualizing complex stuff with simple drawings helped me find my way.