How to think better: The ultimate guide
Throughout our lives, people spend a lot of time telling us what to think. Parents, teachers, politicians, pundits, journalists, and internet trolls all want to shape our beliefs.
But how much time has anyone dedicated to telling you how you can think better?
In this article, we will go over some tips and tricks to help you think better.
But before we tell you how to become a great thinker, let’s talk about what that means.
What Does It Mean to Think “Better?”
When it comes to “how to think better,” we are looking at a pretty broad swath of possibilities.
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Maybe you want to learn to think faster or more efficiently.
Perhaps you want to get better at critical thinking and decision-making.
Or it might be that you want to be more creative.
The suggestions we give below can help you to accomplish one or more of these goals. Let’s get started!
1. Get plenty of rest
First of all, are you getting enough sleep? If you are not, that is the number one thing to make an immediate difference in your thinking.
Sleep deprivation is detrimental for cognition, as research shows.
If you do not get enough sleep each night, you will be less alert the next day and have a more challenging time concentrating and thinking clearly.
Are you having trouble getting sufficient sleep every night? Discover eight tricks to fall asleep fast.
Old stereotypes would have us believe that “jocks” in school lack intelligence. But actually, being a jock might help you think better.
Some research suggests that aerobic exercise might improve cognition and even academic performance.
So, if you do not get a lot of exercise, consider making a point of doing so more regularly. Even just the occasional walk or jog could help improve your thinking.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Another lifestyle factor that can make a significant difference in your cognitive abilities is your diet.
Some sources say that diets high in carbohydrates and saturated fat may be linked to “impaired cognitive function.”
Meanwhile, research shows that eating a Mediterranean diet may be associated with better cognitive performance.
Eat a healthy diet rich in nutrition, so your brain and nervous system have what they need to function at their best.
4. Plan tasks ahead
If you are specifically trying to “think better” for work purposes, one thing that may help throughout the day is to plan your tasks ahead of time, either at the start of your workday or at the end of the previous workday.
Doing so should facilitate faster and easier task switching with less decision-making involved, streamlining your workflow and boosting your efficiency.
Some experiments show that task switching exerts a toll on working memory.
The less you can do and the more comfortable you can make it on your brain, the better it will be for your cognition.
5. Avoid multitasking
For many years, job candidates were advised to tell potential employers that they were “good at multitasking.”
Nowadays, this is not something that you would want to boast about in a job interview as many more people are now aware that multitasking isn’t the best way to think or work effectively.
Multitasking is not an ideal way for our brains to function. Learning is not as effective when multitasking, and trying to multitask slows down performance on tasks.
6. Take breaks, including from discipline
There is a lot of controversy over the theory that willpower is a limited resource, with a fair amount of evidence in both directions.
Indeed, a lot of recent research seems to refute the theory.
Nevertheless, burnout is a thing. Regardless of the real causes of burnout, loss of willpower, or ego depletion, people can push themselves too hard.
When you experience burnout or feel depressed, or depleted, physically, psychologically, or both, you only are not going to think as well as you do when energized and enthusiastic.
So, if you need a break now and again, take one. Consider taking time off from intensive work to combat fatigue. And now and again, consider giving your willpower a break too. Break your discipline in small ways if it gives you an easier time maintaining it for the big tasks and tough decisions.
7. Evaluate your emotions
Depending on how you tend to make decisions, you might either lean heavily on your emotions or dismiss them.
Indeed, emotions can help us to identify what is important to us, but they are often not accurate—or our brain misinterprets what they are trying to tell us.
For that reason, it is smart to make sure your beliefs and choices have a rational basis.
But at the same time, blowing off our emotions altogether is not necessarily helpful either.
Emotions do have meanings and messages, even if they are not always the ones they appear to be on the surface.
So, it is worth analyzing your emotions as part of your decision-making process. They are a part of our intelligence.
8. Question your assumptions
According to the psychological theory of transactional analysis, we each memorize unconscious life scripts at a young age.
Those scripts are embedded with assumptions, injunctions, and directives about ourselves and others.
A lot of us proceed through life with little or no awareness of our foundational assumptions.
But when we do not question what assumptions we might be making and what scripts we might be running, we are not really in control of our thought process.
Our thoughts are unknowingly constrained and shaped by those scripts, and thus neither free nor clear.
Make it a point to regularly question your assumptions and audit assumptions you may not realize you are making.
Doing so might increase your self-knowledge, and thus, your control.
9. Be open to new experiences
We all have preferences and needs that are part of our unique personalities and identities.
But sometimes our opinions are not well-informed. We let our prejudices limit our experiences.
Make a habit of being open to new experiences and expanding your horizons.
That way, you can give a fair hearing to alternate points of view.
10. Learn critical thinking skills
Do you practice critical thinking? While critical thinking has many definitions, it is:
- Self-directed and self-regulated
- Based on evidence
- Reasonably skeptical
Critical thinking is a skill, and it can take practice to learn how to do it better.
See if you can cultivate traits and methods that are consistent with critical thinking. The next time you need to make a judgment call or form an opinion, follow essential thinking practices in doing so.
You can also apply critical thinking to analyzing your existing points of view to make sure that they are evidence-based and logical.
11. Be humble
Finally, perhaps the most useful trait you can cultivate to think better is simple humility.
Why? Because humility is a trait that allows us to accept the fact that we can make mistakes.
If we are not humble enough to see our thinking as fallible, we do not second-guess our assumptions, beliefs, and judgments. We may even screen out incoming evidence that we are incorrect.
As a result, it may be hard for us to learn, think critically, and make rational, smart decisions.
But when we are humble, we are more likely to ask questions like, “Is it possible I don’t have all the information? Could my belief be founded on a prejudice? Might I be making assumptions I am not aware of? Did I let my emotions get the better of me when I made that decision?”
In other words, we can self-audit more effectively.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes.
We all have the right to mess up; it is part of being human. If you can keep that in mind, you will find it easier to be humble, honest, and compassionate with yourself. All of those are great foundations for clearer thinking.
Practice These Recommendations Proactively for the Best Results
Now you have a variety of suggestions for how you can become a better thinker.
Some of these suggestions revolve around a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating regular sleep, a nutritious diet, and exercise into your life can help you think better.
Others involve making sure you are working efficiently by planning and minimizing task-switching and multi-tasking.
Still, others involve critical thinking and the exploration of new experiences and points of view.
It takes practice to become a better thinker and a great deal of honesty and humility.
But over time, we are all capable of training ourselves to think more efficiently, clearly, and creatively.