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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Clearer thinking

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The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, find inspiration, and discover joy in the everyday.
Rob Walker
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

Coming across Rob Walker’s work: The art of noticing, which came out in 2019, I was quite feeling different after reading it, I would say the book helped me rediscover my passion with “simple, low-stakes activities which improved my ability to experience and be present in the world. To be a clearer thinker, a better listener, a more creative team member.

Don’t clean up, slow down instead.

We all experience overwhelm not only once but many times in life, that is completely normal and typical, it may happen when we have a lot of tasks to complete but when the day comes to an end we feel like we’ve achieved nothing meaningful. Best to do is to slow down, take a deep breath and reserve one hour a day to take a look at everything we’ve done so far and redirect ourselves, the main idea here is to be more curious instead of trying to be more productive. Embrace the joyous exploration as Rob says.

By looking at what’s happening in the world right now, and some of the bad things that are going on, we need to face this attention deficit that’s keeping us from getting things done and push against it in order to solve these issues, and to complete this, the first thing, to begin with, would be practicing paying attention, knowing that attention is what makes us human, so let’s start practicing how to notice things.

Versions of noticing:

Robert sites five different types of noticing, each one constituting of different activities with different levels of difficulty which we can use to practice improve our sense of noticing:

First lets start with looking, and this is the easiest one that we may start with, lifting up our eyes and spotting something new every day, noticing colors, spending time really seeing something and that could be 2 hours looking at an art piece in a gallery.

Next comes sensing; Observing can engage our senses by hunting for things that tickle our senses. When it comes to sound, take inventory of the everyday sounds as we move through life. We can even take it a step further and think about reviewing sounds as if we were a critic, or create a map of what we observe.

Third is going places: looking for imaginary clues, going somewhere new, taking a different route, or taking the hardest route to get somewhere so why not walk home for 50 minutes instead of catching the bus.

We all have access to the maps app, don’t use that and make it a way of engaging with the world by “ getting there the hard way”, look up direction and write them down before leaving, the challenge here is all about making the journey without using any real-time guidance from your own phone or device. This may seem crazy or daunting but it does change our ways of feeling and interacting with our surroundings.

One more step is: Connecting with others. follow strangers but not in a stalker’s way, let the person lead you to somewhere different, talk to random people you see while waiting for the bus or at the store or at the beach or even at a party, make up backstories for strangers you see: observe them and try to think of what they’re doing in their lives, what is their story?

Finally, be alone: Make a list of stuff you forgot to buy in the supermarket, things you touched today, new clothes you want to buy for summer season, get distracted, why not get all dressed up and ready to go on a date with yourself or just make pancakes for dinner at home.

There is creativity in attention:

The fact that we see things is what actually brings our work to the next level, it is a necessary skill that allows us to escape the boring way of looking at things and overcome the surface level of looking at things, instead, we notice and pay attention to connections that others overlook.

Robert says “The difference between looking and seeing, between hearing and listening, between accepting what the world presents you and noticing what matters to you.”

The art of noticing is important to bring things together and pay attention to the right stuff at the right time, which is needed in many areas of life, including personal relationships, business, education, and creativity since it helps make better decisions, and solve problems more effectively.

Celebrate awkward moments and look at them through someone’s eyes.

We may not always happen to be in our comfort zones as observers. During these times and as iPad kids, many of us find it hard to sit down and eat a meal without a phone to keep us company, and we rarely find ourselves alone in public but that actually can be revealing in some sense. Robert walker proposes to take a look at the weirdest thing in the room and ask ourselves a question: “So what’s the story with that?” let’s consider it an icebreaker for any situation we may find ourselves in.

When we take on the view of someone else, we start to see the world through fresh eyes. According to Robert, the most honest viewers are children who happen to be also creative and imaginative. And to pause and think “What would a child see here” to shift our mindset and view things from another different perspective.

Another thing, take a walk with an expert. It might mean having to take a tour in the city where we live, or finding an expert in any domain, geology, or typography even. “Walk together and allow your attention to be directed by others; explore your familiar world through an unfamiliar perspective,” Robert Walker suggests. As our interests develop, we continue to dive deeper learning the names of plants we see, or whatever it is that we encounter regularly but don’t have a clear idea about.


Take time to consider any decision, all have an indirect effect.

We may rush and jump into things without really reconsidering the decision that we just made and until which depth it may be beneficial for us, and whether it will have any indirect effects or not…

That is why taking time is always a good idea in most cases, it allows us to weigh the pros and cons of different options and make a more reasonable choice knowing that when facing an important decision, it may be the case that it is tempting to rush into making a choice, especially if there is pressure coming from external factors.

However, not taking enough time to carefully think through the available options can enhance the act of making impulsive decisions that one may later regret.

Start with gathering information regarding available options, consider the potential outcomes, and think about the risks and benefits. Seeking advice from others who have experience with similar decisions or who have different perspectives than your own is very helpful and practical. Eventually, the decision must be yours, since it concerns only you, but taking the time to consider all the relevant factors can help us feel more confident when making a choice.

  1. Walker. 2019. The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, find inspiration, and discover joy in the everyday. Knopf; Illustrated edition. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
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