15.03.2019 |

Episode #10 of the course Learning how to think clearly by David Urbansky


In this final episode, I have a couple more techniques that you can immediately use to improve your thinking. After that, you’ll find a list of takeaways from this course; print it and place it where you work so you’ll have these tools ready when you need them. Remember, improving your thinking is about active thinking practice, not just knowing the tools.


Thinking on Paper

One supplemental thinking tactic I’d like you to try is writing down your thoughts on paper. When you have a specific problem or question, write it down. This helps you focus your attention to just this one issue. Writing down every thought that now comes to mind naturally slows you down, as you can’t write as fast as you can think—and you learned already what slowing down can do for your thinking ability!

Furthermore, having a written record of your thought process allows you to check your line of reasoning and correct it where necessary. Complex problems also require many thoughts that are hard to keep in your head at once. Writing them down frees up mental capacities for clearer thinking. Give it a go!


Limit Your Focus

As we’ve learned, the brain likes to focus on one thing at a time. If you have many things on your mind and find yourself overwhelmed, there’s a simple solution: Make a list of tasks that require your attention and sort them by priority. You will probably come up with several items that are on your mind and competing for your attention. Draw a line after the first five items. Everything below this line is off limits until the top items are taken care of. Your mind can now rest, knowing that you recorded this list and can clearly focus on the things that matter most.


What You’ve Learned

Now is the time to sum up what we have learned from this course. Here are the tips and tricks from this course:

• Consciously slow down your thinking if decisions are important. As you’ll recall, your “System 1” often spits out answers quickly, but using “System 2” gives you better answers.

• Use the three-step critical thinking process: 1) Understand the argument, 2) evaluate the argument, and 3) draw your own conclusion based on the facts.

• If you’re stuck on a problem, go through the list of mental models to see whether any may apply and guide you toward a solution.

• Schedule thinking time! Mark it on your calendar, and don’t allow interruptions for at least one hour each week. Use this time to tackle work, problems, or any other topics that are dear to you.

• Meditate to get more of the gamma brain waves that allow for fast and powerful information processing.

• Breathing is linked to cognitive functions. Twice a day, use the 4-7-8 method: Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8.

• Let your eyes roam if you have trouble remembering something.

• Use embodied cognition to your advantage. For example, nod/shake your head to influence your thoughts and frown to go into critical thinking mode.

• Look at someone’s pupil size to see how engaged they are in the conversation.

• Music affects your brain waves. Find out which music helps you concentrate best—typically, it’s music without vocals.

• Use the Pomodoro technique for optimal concentration over longer periods of time (25 minutes work + 5-minute break + relax for 20 minutes every 2 hours).

• Eat for your brain. You need about eight glasses of water, 120g of glucose, 250mg of omega-3 fats, and 500mg of choline daily.

• Work out regularly, just enough to get your heart rate up and that precious oxygen flowing to your brain.

• Try to space out your vacation days over the year in eight-day blocks for optimal recovery.

• The quality of your thoughts is proportional to what you know and remember. It is therefore important to improve your memory.

Thank you so much for reading this thinking course! I really hope you’ll find these thinking tactics helpful and can put them to good use. If you have any feedback, I’d love to pick your brain, so please do let me know.



Another course by David Urbansky

How to improve your memory


Recommended video

Why Thinking on Paper Is a Fast Way to Focus | Ryder Carroll


Recommended book

Fast Focus: A Quick-Start Guide to Mastering Your Attention, Ignoring Distractions, and Getting More Done in Less Time! by Damon Zahariades


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