I often doodle during music events or while listening to audio, generating drawings like this these:
Did you know that scientists have found that doodling can increase your focus and actually help you remember details of what was talked about while you doodled? An art business conference I attended last year actually had doodle pages in the handouts!
Apparently doodling keeps your brain from day dreaming, about a vacation for example, which often involves planning and other cognitive ‘executive functions’.
“Doodling, in contrast, requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, which - if unchecked - will jump-start activity in cortical networks that will keep you from remembering what's going on. Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don't pay attention.”
They note that this doesn’t work if the activity you are immersed in also requires visual processing, so no doodling in art history class!
In business these days, there is a whole school of note-taking that utilizes doodles. The fancy name for this is ‘graphical notation’. The idea is instead of getting swamped under lots of detail, you capture higher level patterns and ideas while freeing your brain to capture that detail for future recall, similar to the experiment with the telephone calls described in the article linked above. I did this at an all-company symposium in 2015, capturing the main ideas of a series of presentations. It was challenging and exciting. Here is a great book that describes the process of visual note taking:
"The Sketchbook Handbook - The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking" by Mike Rohde.