Taking time to think is great. But, it’s only useful if you act on positive thoughts in a constructive way. For most of my life, I certainly wrote more than your average Jane. Yet, I still never quite tied my writing into a solid avenue for my often unmitigated thinking to explore.
Translating your thoughts into words is quite the task even for the most experienced scribes. So, if you think you are quite intimidated by writing a single paragraph, keep in mind that you aren’t alone. Even the most seasoned writers face a similar crisis when there’s that one pesky idea that you can’t seem to convey just quite right.
There are plenty of books written about how to think more effectively, so I’m not looking to echo that general line of advice. Still, there are many habits that productive people take that you can take with translating your thoughts into something that reads reasonably well in writing.
For me, one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in writing occurred when I began to break thoughts down into smaller, more digestible chunks. I’ve learned to take more breaks and streamlined my decision making process in other areas of my life in order to open up more brain-space to consider the nagging issues that I wish to relate in a tangible form to others, so that I can better think through them myself. Writing things down does, in fact, give you a new way of relating with ideas, especially difficult ones.
It’s also a good idea to train your brain to think more deeply about things. Highly productive people don’t just pursue a general knowledge of subjects, but rather come to a deeper understanding of specific subjects. This is something I’ve done for years, despite general education trying to force us to move from subject to subject seemingly on a whim.
To be truly productive in studies, you need to focus more deeply on the topics and delve into why that topic interests you so much. Typical schooling doesn’t allow for this, and in fact, even offers disincentives for this approach. After all, you want to pass those quizzes and tests and have a general knowledge in order to get a good grade in the course. Focus too much on any particular aspect of that course and you’ll overall fail miserably.
Because of this archaic and often extremely limiting course structure, most education leads to students graduating with superficial knowledge about hundreds of subjects, but deep knowledge on perhaps only a handful of those. Being merely proficient at something isn’t really enough for anything except making conversation. Being truly productive means indulging yourself in topics that you wouldn’t mind spending countless hours studying. I remember hearing the advice that you shouldn’t study something in depth unless you would want to write a book on that subject.
My general feeling is that there are three steps to thinking more productive thoughts. The first step is realizing where your keenest interests lie and focus primarily on those. The second step is to simplify parts of your life that are taking up too much of your brain-space but aren’t offering you any productive benefits. The third step is to finally sit down and write down all of the thoughts you have on a subject, along with any questions you may have and even seemingly unrelated thoughts.
The most profound discoveries occur when you can make connections between seemingly disparate things. But, unless you train yourself towards a more productive way of thinking, you’ll miss these connections that become more obvious once you allow yourself the latitude to intently study the subjects that you most identify with and pursue most aggressively. Once you learn how to think more productive thoughts, you’ll find yourself becoming more productive in practice, too.