Pablo Picasso once said: Action is the foundational key to all success, and so we delve heads on into what can help us to think smarter.
I would advise you to get a notebook and a pen and use that whenever you come across an actionable item in my blog. This will help you keeping track on your developments. I will sometimes refer back to previous to do’s, and so it is nice that you keep the assignments in one place.
- Write down all the distractions in your notebook with two white lines in between every distraction you can think of. Just blur it all out, it doesn’t need to have any consistency I wrote down mine below.
- Write below each distractions how to move them away (either physically or mentally).
- Step 1: Remove all distractions that can permanently be removed for better concentration right now (yes, if you need to get up, you should). I’m now changing the clock in my office with the one in my bedroom that is digital. Yes, at this moment. And make sure you will stick to this list of tasks to prevent distractions. Turn it into a habit.
- Step 2: Cultivate concentration. Okay practice on fun stuff first to learn your brain to concentrate. Think of a topic that you truly see as fun. Do you have it? Just to supply you with some suggestions: do you have any hobby that you wish to learn more about? Perhaps fishing, golfing, playing guitar, photography? It should be a topic that you truly like, I mean: programming in Java seems like fun, but learning all the syntax of it is in essence very boring – trust me on this one. Do not choose a topic too big for this assignment. If you want to learn more about fishing, just chose a small topic like fishing hooks for trout (or whatever, I’ve no clue what I’m talking about when I’m honest). You can already ponder about this for a while if you’d like (and see what distractions pop up in the process that weren’t put down on the list – if so, add them and do something about them – this list might grow during time). My topic of choice is Monet. I recently went to his gardens (hence the pictures of the ponds filled with water lilies in this blog. I like to paint too and I would like to learn from his work how I could attempt to make such beautiful watery landscapes myself. Write down your chosen topic in your notebook. No worries about the concentration step yet, it will come later in this assignment. You can always expand or reduce your chosen topic at a later point in time.
- Step 3: Ruminate good mental food. This will be done in three separate sub steps during this assignment.
- 1) First look for information on your chosen topic on your own (either in books, magazines, the book of knowledge on the internet, whatever). Write interesting/important things down about the topic in your notebook / or digitally if that goes quicker. If you don’t really feel like doing this assignment right now, you’ve probably chosen a wrong topic (I will not take the blame :-)). Chose another one. Click on the file below so you can see what I made of my topic.
- 2) Once you learned from other sources about the subject, start to continuously ask yourself the why and how of your topic (which questions you actually ask yourself is based upon what you want to learn). Let your inner voice be a true child of four: why, why, why, why, why, and why. And for the sake of being complete: how, how, how, how, how. Know that children learn by questioning all things around them. Even if you get stuck answering a next why or how, ask why or how. I chose to study a water lily painting of Monet. Because I want to be able to obtain similar effects at my paintings, I constantly asked myself how parts of his painting were created. I weaved through the braid of the used technique (Alla Prima) my thoughts on how Monet would have implemented each step, truly using my assumptions, own experiences when painting (my thoughts are provided in blue when looking at the attached file). I’m not saying all of my assumptions are correct, but in this part we are not concerned with finding the correct answers. We are just exercising the rumination of good mental food. To ruminate the information you found please close of your research with conclusions that you can draw from what you found out.
- 3) The last sub step is to actually meet with someone you mentally think is higher in rank then you. I know, I know, this might be a hard confession to make to yourself (but the good part is, you do not have to share this information with anyone). Just find someone that you esteem and invite him or her to talk about what you learned in sub step two. It doesn’t need to be very formal, just tell him/her you’ve done some research about your topic and what you learned about it. Try to really ask his/her opinion. For instance: I found XXX on the internet and in combination with YYY I conclude ZZZ. Would you come to the same conclusion? (obviously change XXX, YYY and ZZZ into what you figured out).
- Beware of conformity: we will in a later action item start to think out of the box, we now do only the thinking part…
- Cultivate solitude: I don’t know in which circumstances you did the assignment above. Were you doing it when your children were around, or did you have some private time? Did you manage at all to do this assignment? Or did you just did not found any private time? Well, in essence: if you’re reading this part without having a little body of research on your favorite subject, we can conclude that something did not went well. Check your agenda again, did it include enough time to invest in thinking smarter? Check the list of distractions again, were you really able focus? Did you think that this is a stupid assignment? Well, perhaps your topic wasn’t chosen carefully. The thing is, if you just read through this blog post as a nice bedtime read without the willingness to put in any effort, then I fear it will be hard for me to make you think smarter. So if you did not create a small file with research on your topic, or if you did not invite someone you deem worthy of changing thoughts on your subject; do analyse how come. Ask your inner self next time you brush your teeth, what it is that is keeping you from it.