How to think more effectively

Table of contents

How to Think More Effectively—A guide to greater productivity, insight and creativity

ISBN: 978-1-912891-13-9
Available at: School of Life
Date read: 2020-09-24

This is a neat little guide from The School of Life on how to improve one’s thinking skills. It features some deliberate techniques and intentions for thinking that can help the inexperienced thinker with optimising their process. Especially if you’re—like me—not used to think about grand schemes or are also having trouble figuring out how you really feel about something or what you actually want, this is a valuable book to pick up.
The book contains small excercises called “mental manoeuvres” for each chapter to help you get started with the discussed method or approach.

If you’re already used to think about the “grand scheme”, using a journal to make sense of your thoughts or have some well established routines for thinking about things, this probably isn’t of too much use for you though.

My Notes

Strategic Thinking

There are two different kinds of thinking:

  1. What we would like to achieve (strategy)
  2. How to achieve it (execution)

Our minds are better suited for the latter, since what we would like to achieve has been a no-brainer for most of human existence (gather food, don’t die to wild animals or neighbour tribes, reproduce, …).
This is not completely true anymore, so an emphasis on strategic thinking can be helpful.

Cumulative Thinking

Our mind’s output is intermittent, so it should be captured for easier continuation of thoughts, questioning previous ones, and refining them.

Butterfly Thinking

Good thoughs may be fleeting and hard to hold on to because they may feel uncomfortable or weird.
Repetetive our routine tasks can help us lower our gards from falling into this anxiety trap in order to catch those thoughts.

Independent Thinking

We should not underrate the value of our own minds, compared with all the great thinkers that have been before us. There’s no reason our mind can’t have ideas as great as they did, and we should not let them define the boundaries of our curiosity.

Doubting the knowledge that has been built before us is a good way to have great new ideas.

Focused Thinking

Vague feelings or thoughts should be challanged with further, refining questions in order to bring clarity.

Philosophical Meditation

Philosophical meditation is the idea of not letting go of fleeting feelings and sentiments, but instead to confront them and examine them. Focusing on topics we feel anxious or insecure about can help bringing us more clarity.

’Mad’ Thinking

Don’t be afraid of thinking thoughts that might appear mad at first glance. They can bring new perspectives or “what if” ideas.

Friend Thinking

Sometimes it helps not to think alone. There are too few good listeners though with whom to achieve this, who validate your thoughts and guides you through them, helping you asking the important questions.

Good listening is more valuable than advise.

Reading Thinking

Other peoples thoughts, in the form of books, can help bring new perspectives into our own thoughts or validate ones we feel insecure about.
Disagreeing with authors is also a valuable insight that brings us forward.

Envious Thinking

Allowing ourselves to feel envy can help us figure out what direction we’re headed. “What exactly am I envious of, and why?” are questions worth asking yourself.

Analogical Thinking

Drawing analogies or comparing patterns from other topics may help bring new perspectives into old problems or thoughts.

Empathetic Thinking

Like analogies, another person’s perspective can show us something new about ourselves. Also understanding other people is easier when thinking about ourselves in their feet. Other people are more like us than we might realise.

Death Thinking

We tend to forget that we’ll die someday and think our daily grind will go on forever. This leads to us delaying actions we might do rather soon than late.
Reminding ourselves that we will die someday could help us focus on what’s really important to us.

Love Thinking

Look at other people through the eyes of love. They might seem bad, but most bad behaviour is the consequence of hurt. People are hurt, not bad.

Sceptical Thinking

We should regularly remind ourselves that we might be wrong and challenge our thoughts.