Thinking Tips
Taking Facts About Your Mind Seriously

Taking Facts About Your Mind Seriously

Consciousness has identity. It is what it is. It can do some things and not others. Some aspects of it are directly introspectible, others can only be inferred. This is a fact that one learns in philosophy class. Knowing it helps you solve real-world problems whenever...

Don’t Make Concentration Harder Than It Is

Don’t Make Concentration Harder Than It Is

When Thinking Lab members tell me their task is hard, I hear alarm bells in my mind. Invariably, I find they are making a difficult task harder than it has to be. A difficult task is one that requires a special mental effort to complete. It may require all your...

Three Types of Obstacles to Concentration

Three Types of Obstacles to Concentration

When we played 20 Questions as a family, the first question was always, “Animal, vegetable, or mineral?" If you are trying to identify an object, it falls into one of those categories.  When you are mentally stopped, unable to concentrate, you should ask an analogous...

The Need for Certainty

The Need for Certainty

"Certainty denotes confidence that one can act on a conclusion without doubt, without needing further deliberation or investigation." (Harry Binswanger, How We Know) I learned firsthand of the need for certainty to act during Superstorm Sandy some years ago. I was...

How to Analyze Old Baggage to Lighten the Load

How to Analyze Old Baggage to Lighten the Load

I use "old baggage" as a generic term to refer to any recurring motivation that gets in the way of pursuing your goals in the present. For example, writer's block is caused by old baggage. So is fear of conflict, which stops you from having the conversations you know...

Check to See You’re Being Logical

Check to See You’re Being Logical

I often recommend that when you are confused in your thinking on some issue, you need to take multiple passes, first to gather information, then to test your thinking. The simplest test is to ask about each sentence, "is that literally true?" By asking this question,...

Learn from Mistakes, not Failure

Learn from Mistakes, not Failure

People often say that you learn from failure. But I think you learn primarily from your mistakes, not from your failures. There's a big difference. You can make a good decision, based on sound reasons, and still have it result in failure. For example, there can be...

The Roles of Thinking, Observing, and Learning in Gaining Knowledge

The Roles of Thinking, Observing, and Learning in Gaining Knowledge

A friend told me she'd read my pamphlet on "Thinking on Paper" and had immediately used it to think about a family situation. She'd concluded that she needed to talk with someone to find out more information. She wanted to know if that was "all right." Of course, it...

Natural Explanations for Some Mysterious Phenomena

Natural Explanations for Some Mysterious Phenomena

As part of the work I do to help people master the use of their own minds to achieve important goals, I occasionally find myself in the role of a "debunker." Many people don't understand how the subconscious works and they treat its influence on their lives as a kind...

Plan to Percolate

Plan to Percolate

I often spend an hour pre-thinking about a topic before I "need to," not because I'm pressed for time, or because it's new material, but solely to allow me to percolate. Planning to percolate is a good use of your brain. If you don't know what I mean by "percolate,"...

What is “Crow” Overload?

What is “Crow” Overload?

Mental overload is the #1 obstacle to thinking. Whether it's too many things to think about, too many emotions to give you space to think, or too much complexity to untangle in your head, it is THE problem. Indeed, what distinguishes humans from animals is that we...

Judgment “Bias” is Countered by a Logical Process

Judgment “Bias” is Countered by a Logical Process

We often hear about psychological studies which purport to show that physical circumstances affect people's judgment. For example, in one study people were given either hot coffee or iced coffee to hold, then they read a packet of information about a fictitious...

How to Warm Up Your Mental Circuits on Demand

How to Warm Up Your Mental Circuits on Demand

A friend of mine once told me that she hated doing housecleaning. Rather than make herself clean on a schedule, she would clean only when she felt disgusted by something dirty. That would give her the motivation to clean up that area. This method worked for her for...

Taking Words Seriously Can Help You Get Things Done

Taking Words Seriously Can Help You Get Things Done

"I need more time." That is what a client told me was the solution to his grueling work schedule. We say such things without thinking about it, but it's worth pausing for a moment to focus on the thought. How could the solution possibly be more time? There is no such...

Stuck in a Pattern? Break Out with an Experiment

Stuck in a Pattern? Break Out with an Experiment

It's easy to fall into a counterproductive pattern. Perhaps you often check email before settling down to work--and then reading the email wipes out your morning work time. Or three days in a row you put off an important call until the afternoon--then forget to make...

The Work of Worry

The Work of Worry

If worries never break your concentration, congratulations. Most of us get stuck occasionally in a worry loop. For example, you might be trying to work out some budget numbers, when you start worrying about whether they will be acceptable to your boss. Each number...

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

It happens to the best of us. You sit down to work on your top project, but soon you find yourself thinking about how to respond to a contentious email. Or after a solid hour's work, you step out for a quick break and get waylaid by a co-worker who "just needs five...

Coping with Interruptions

Coping with Interruptions

By some estimates, people lose 2 hours of work a day due to interruptions. The time is wasted in two ways: First, when you are interrupted, you often lose your place. You have to go back and redo some of the work to restore your working context. Second, the topic of...

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

Don't be embarrassed if you occasionally feel scattered. It's a normal transition state. For example, after you've finished a major project, you may feel somewhat scattered until you've figured out the next big thing to focus on. But don't let yourself remain feeling...

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