Thinking is hard. The main reason is because the brain wants to be efficient, so it develops routines and habits that are hard to break. That’s why sometimes your head hurts when you really put your mind to work; you’re forcing your brain to break it’s routine and be unefficient.
On top of this, our brain has bugs (cognitive biases) which screw up our decisions. We have to become aware of them and examine them; this will help you think clearly. Here’s a list of them to start:
20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions pic.twitter.com/5v3ypiyI01
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) December 17, 2020
Again, thinking is hard. It’s well known that writing down your thoughts, editing, reflecting and refinining them helps you think clearly. For me, blogging has been a tool that helps me think clearly.
When I started to think about writing my own blog I dabbled with 10+ topics. Before committing to my own domain name, those blogs were hosted on WordPress.com, Posterous and blogger. I have way too many interests, that has certainly helped my blogging because of that curiosity.
I decided early, while I was developing for my blogging style, that my blog posts would be less than 500 words. That way I would force myself to be concise and focused. On a side note, posts I’ve written at 1,000 words have higher traffic; but I’m not interested in writing those on a week to week basis.
Writing about one specific topics helps one think clearly too, because you have to focus on just one thing. I’m literally reading my blog posts whenever I give speeches!
Anyway, from my experience writing, solving problems, creating products and services here are 5 steps to help you think clearly:
You have to be curious. Be curious about what’s happening around you. Observe, notice things that are both usual and unusual. Read widely, about stuff you’re not necessarily interested in or agree with.
Better thoughts come from better questions. Ask yourself: What’s the main goal here? Why do people care? Why does this work that way? How did it come to this? What sucks? What’s great? At what point does this become useless? What has to be true for this to happen? What is my unique value here?
The better your questions, the better your answers; and the more clarity you’ll have.
Expand your perspective
Your perspective, isn’t the only perspective. We have blindspots, many, and we make mistakes repeteadly. One way to see through our blindspots is to expand our perspective by talking to people who don’t think like us, by reading stuff which we don’t agree with, by taking on challenges which we’ve never taken on.
Take note of what you’ve read about, listened to, observed to help you synthetize your thoughts. Reflect on them, don’t hurry, sleep on it. Get away from it. Let them sit in your head for a little bit before coming back to them.
Once you’ve reflected on something, remember that your first thought or idea is not your final or best one. Now you have to “edit”, which is hard. Anybody who’s spent significant time writing, or has written a few books, will tell you that editing is the hardest and most time consuming part of that experience; but also the most exciting and rewarding because you’re close to the end.
It happens in all domains. Product and service ideas, films, songs, books, blueprints; everything goes through an editing process.
Bottom line: Anyone can think clearly, but most don’t because it takes work. Clarity of thought is quite rare, but you can do it with the right approach and effort.
Also published on Medium.