Your mind is ready to start become smarter now. It’s designed to do this on its own. Just by processing the sensory input, by thinking about a subject, by exploring an idea in your mind, you become smarter. It’s figuring by its own how things work. The one fucking up this process is you!
You are constantly working against your own progress. If I can get you to stop at least some of the mind-fuckery, you will become smarter by the day. Every day. And by adding a few simple tricks, I promise this will add up and change your life.
When thinking about the time your brain is awake, you can roughly break it in two: input time and processing time.
The input part is assured: there is a lot going on around us and our senses will automatically make sure you receive information all the time. In fact, it’s really hard not to.
The quality of your input material is to be considered, but shouldn’t be your main focus. At least not as much as the processing of information. Here is why: If you take the time to process information, you can analyze, learn from and even filter out bad content. Any kind of learning is progress.
So in order to become smarter, your mind needs processing time. But how is this going to happen if you allocate so much time for input?
Take a moment to analyze your schedule: in the morning you are in a hurry, if you commute, you listen to a podcast, at work you …work, during breaks you check your socials, at home you take time for your family. If you ever have to wait for something, you check your social media accounts …again.
You intentionally fill up even the tiniest gap between your activities and increasingly, you also fill up the time during activities: How many times do you check your mail while working or scroll your Facebook page while eating? Do you take a shit without your phone anymore?!?
So overall when DO you allocate time for thinking? Time for processing information? Time to generate new ideas?
By keeping your mind busy all the time, by making sure you don’t ‘get bored’, by entertaining yourself, you’ll get a lot of input but won’t have much time left for processing: You don’t even take the time to think about the stuff on social media, you just mindlessly ingest it. Scroll ahead! Your brain likes that effortless, delicious and mostly dumb information.
It doesn’t like the processing part as much. Thinking uses energy. It takes effort.
Unfortunately, and comparable to muscle building, the effort is the one that drives progress. You know what happens if you overeat and don’t exercise. The same happens with your mind. If you feed it constantly, but don’t take the time to do the thinking, contemplate, connect the dots, in other words, ‘exercise’ your neurons, you can’t expect it to be other than sluggish and mindfully frigid.
This dumbness adds up too, you know?!?
Now, I’m sure you’re not the drooling while scrolling type. You wouldn’t be here, reading. Yet, there still might be room for improvement. Maybe you could purposefully allocate more time for thinking. Here is what I do:
Before I get out of bed, I meditate and, out of that calm state, I let my mind slide into an unrestricted exploration mode. Free to generate ideas, to elaborate on themes. There is no effort involved, no direction, I just let it happen. Usually this is how I end up with viewpoints for my content.
Before I start my office-hours, I take time to think about my schedule. I might even simulate a meeting in my head and try to foresee sore points that need special handling. I take notes and think on ways to improve the day. This way, I think my way through the day, instead of just reacting to unexpected situations, instead of letting it happen. Living with purpose is the name of this game.
If I’m taking a longer break, I take a walk. This is when the best thinking takes place. Darwin, Nietzsche and Aristotle are a few that described this process. It’s backed by science too.
In the evening, I shut down my screens. You can’t do much thinking while staring at screens. Instead, I read. Reading is a special type of input. The narrative materializes in your mind and you inevitably contribute on how the images develop in your head. If you’re not reading the last bullshit on earth, you will generate some useful thinking too, even AHA moments if the writing is good.
Before going to bed is also a good time for your neurons to unwind, to wrap up the day, to think about what you could have done better. To let all problems rest. This is also good for your sleep.
So if you think about it (pun intended), you will find plenty of ways to integrate thinking in your daily routine. Without stress, without forcing it. It’s not like working out, it’s more like reserving time for, allowing it to happen. And here is my promise: If you cut down screen time and add thinking time, you will become smarter. If you also add reading, walking and meditation to your good habits, it’s going to change your life.
There is no reason to not start thinking about thinking right now.