Unplug & Recharge//

Deep Thinking In The Age of Distraction

Disconnect. Your imagination, creativity and next big idea depends on it.


Disconnect. Your imagination, creativity and next big idea depends on it.

“Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” Plato said that. It’s profound.

Thinking is the core of our being.

But today, world is hostile to serious thought.

In an age of information overload, depth of thinking is becoming less and less valued.

The most common barrier to deep thinking is distractions. And distractions simply crowd our minds with inferior thoughts.

Modern life is overstimulated, technology-driven, and information-saturated.

Information — even good information — can become distraction if you’re not thinking about it, evaluating it, or analysing it.

Instead of making time for thought, our lives are cluttered with shallow thinking habits.

Today, the first thing people do when faced with a moment of downtime is to reach for their smartphone.

“The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking,” said Martin Heidegger.

Our insatiable need to tune into information — at the expense making time to think, relax, refresh and recover is costing us.

We’re addicted to distraction, and it’s holding us back.

Interruption-free space is dying.

People fear isolation.

Despite the incredible power and potential of pausing for thought, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for sacred space to think. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.

The practice of deep thinking is increasingly becoming difficult for many people. In our ever-increasing digital world, every waking moment is “connected time,” for millions of people.

Deep thinking is how we increase our number of valuable and useful thoughts.

Your quantity of valuable thoughts has a direct effect on your quantity of valuable actions.

We all think, but not all of us think deeply, which is thinking beyond what your mind defaults to.

But the most effective, successful and innovative people schedule time for deep thinking.

Warren Buffett has spent 80 percent of his career thinking.

“That’s what created [one of the] world’s most successful business records in history. He has a lot of time to think,” says Charlie Munger, Buffett’s long-time business partner.

The deeper thinker you are, the more rigorous your thinking is, and the more you exercise and challenge your mind, the deeper your understanding can be.

Deep thinking makes your actions more meaningful, focused and valuable.

Deep thinking requires effort and patience. On one hand, effort is necessary to learn the fine art of thinking deeply. Effort is required to maintain one’s focus on one particular train of thought.

Pause for thought

“Time to think” is a priority if you want to be increasingly efficient, solve problems better, and improve how you work.

Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity.

Edward de Bono, the author of The Six Thinking Hats, says, “Everyone has the right to doubt everything as often as he pleases and the duty to do it at least once. No way of looking at things is too sacred to be reconsidered. No way of doing things is beyond improvement.”

You can’t afford not to plan for downtime.

With distraction always at our fingertips, many people are in desperate need of a little time to think.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” he explained.

Thinking involves slowing down and actually soaking in a problem and your creative brain thrives in a “break” mode.

All great creators and innovators make time to rest, get a break or think. Leonardo Da Vinci had a bed in his studio and when patrons accused him of wasting time, he said “If I don’t do this, you don’t get the work.”

You can only create time to think if you have the desire to think. You need to have an understanding of the importance of thought.

If you don’t give the brain breaks, and moments to process information, it will take them in the form of loss of concentration, or mental breakdown.

Find time slots in your calendar that are pretty consistent from week to week and commit to spending time alone to think.

Everyone could use more “white space” during the week.

Make a decision to make time. You won’t create time for thinking if you don’t actively make the time for it.

Commit to spending a few hours every week on thinking and reflection.

At some point in the week, stop, sit down and just think.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates observed.

You can quickly make life more pleasant, more fulfilling if you slow down.

When you enter a space outside the flow of targets and deadlines, you can start to focus on what is happening in your life right now.

Just giving your brain a chance to power down and refresh makes a huge difference in life. You’ve got to create a thinking conducive environment in your natural setting.

Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved problems. It allows ideas and new projects the space to grow and make better connection.

In his book, Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking, Dennis Q. McInerny, said, “Bad ideas do not just happen. We are responsible for them. They result from carelessness on our part, when we cease to pay sufficient attention to the relational quality of ideas, or, worse, are a product of the willful rejection of objective facts.”

You can only get better ideas of you take time to think about your thinking.

Make time for ‘think time’!

You can’t do your best work while moving from one jam-packed day to the next. Life is lived at such a pace today that thinking — quality, intentional thinking — doesn’t just happen.

Like an artist creating an oil painting, you must take a few steps back from the canvas of your life, to assess all of your activities and accomplishments — the individual brush strokes of your life — from a wider, more holistic perspective.

I do my best thinking when I am free from the confines of walls and doors.

I like taking long deliberate walks. I find it very helpful.

Ideas connect better when you take purposeful breaks.

One of history’s walking enthusiasts was Charles Dickens. Dickens could rack up 30 miles a day, or rather night, walking.

Whether in London or at his country house in Kent he always took long walks.

A simple walk outside can aid your creative brain if you find yourself stuck at a desk and unable to elicit the next bright spark.

In today’s constantly connected world, finding solitude has become a lost art.

Solitude provides time for you to think deeply.

Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. Constantly being “on” doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself.

Make time for yourself. By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are, you’re more likely to make better choices.

It’s hard to think of effective solutions to problems when you’re constantly distracted.

Starting today, shake up your routine and create white spaces for yourself.

Schedule it. Block off 15 minutes every day, on your calendar, if you can — in the middle of the day — to THINK.

Schedule daily blocks of downtime to refresh your brain or pause for thought. It can be anything from meditation to a nap, a walk, or simply turning off notifications for thought.

There is no better mental escape from our tech-charged world than the act of deep thinking.

“If it’s important, it should be on your calendar. Yes, it might sound silly, but if thinking can lead to that creative idea, or result in solving that problem, or benefit you mentally or physically, why wouldn’t you have it on your calendar?” argues Greg Baird.

Schedule your thinking time during your best time, not when your sluggish and likely to have a hard time to think.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly (my free digest of the best productivity, behaviour change, and neuroscience posts). Subscribe and get a free copy of my new book, “The Power of One Percent Better: Small Gains, Maximum Results”. Join over 38,000 people on a mission to build a better life.

Originally published at medium.com

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