General Question

jeanmay's avatar

Is there a way of speeding up thinking without diminishing the quality of thoughts?

Asked by jeanmay (3419 points ) April 26th, 2010

I am and always have been a slow writer and thinker. I have thought about learning to touch type to help speed up correspondences and other activity online, but I think it might be my brain power that is more of a problem!

I don’t trust my initial thoughts and have to take time to digest and think things through at leisure. This is not always practical.

Is there a cure for being dull-witted? Are there certain activities or techniques I can adopt to help be a better thinker?

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31 Answers

anartist's avatar

in the short term—coke.
In the long term—exercise.

JLeslie's avatar

Are you a slow thinker, or maybe just bad at making decisions?

jeanmay's avatar

@JLeslie I’ll have to think about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jeanmay Hahaha. Ok. Let me know. :)

ETpro's avatar

@jeanmay I’ve been working on one for a couple of years now.

frdelrosario's avatar

Meditation won’t make the car go faster, but it will clear the road sufficiently for the car to avoid traffic and reach its destination more quickly than it had before.

Coloma's avatar

I’d be happy to donate some fast thinking…is there a surgery for this?

Jesus…sometimes I WISH I was slower. While I had my experimental moments I have always joked that it’s a good thing I never did really get into drugs, I’d spontaniously combust. lol

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

The time you take to entertain your doubt is what keeps you from doing what you need to do in any given moment.

AstroChuck's avatar

Uhhhhhh, uhhhhhh….
Nope.

jeanmay's avatar

@JLeslie Ok, so if standing dithering in front of two similar brands of cereal for ten minutes in the supermarket means I’m bad at making decisions, then I’m bad at making decisions. But is that a separate issue? Those kind of situations are annoying, but more annoying is having someone ask you a question, and not being able to think of a good answer until hours or days have passed. Or taking hours to write a personal email because I’m approaching it like an academic essay. Are there techniques to improve response time under pressure?
@Captain_Fantasy So I should remove the doubt?

wundayatta's avatar

I say give it up. That’s what I decided to do when I got here. I just write and I never revise and I never let myself think about it. I just hit Answer and then I disappear until it’s permanent.

I think we are often so worried about what others will think that we edit ourselves into paralysis. You don’t have to trust your mind. You just have to let it do what it does without judgment.

Try it for a while. See what happens.

On the other hand, I am really curious about what it’s like to live in a mind that doesn’t seem to move very quickly. The first thought that came to my mind on reading this question was that you should catch bipolar disorder. Then your mind will move! Too fast.

I learned to touch type because I was so frustrated with having to write things down by hand. I lost probably ninety percent of what I was thinking when I had to write by hand. It was so frustrating that I just had to learn to type. Now I can type at the speed that I think and I can get most stuff out. I’ll slow my thinking down in order to let my fingers catch up. It’s much easier that way.

I think most people are perfectly natural fast thinkers, but they get shut down by parents or teachers or whatever—people telling them they are too dumb to be worth listening to. No one is too dumb. We all have things worth listening to. Or, I think I find things I want to listen to in everyone.

If you shut down that inner critic—the part of you that says you have to think it over carefully before you say anything, then you will find your thoughts speed up quite a bit. You will also feel quite relieved. You no longer have to hold things back all the time. Yeah, you might get in trouble sometimes, but it’s worth it. The freedom is worth it.

Another trick is that I watch myself. I see what goes on as an impartial observer and then I record what I think or say. It takes the burden out of thinking because I no longer have to think. I just have to watch my thoughts. Sounds weird, I guess, but that’s how I work it. I’m not really two people, but I act as if I am. Make life so much easier when I’m trying to write or tell a story.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

@jeanmay Yes! Doubt is the enemy.
I bolded it for emphasis

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What are you comparing on those boxes of cereal? Are you just admiring the pretty box covers and contemplating which one will look better in your kitchen? Perhaps the toy prizes inside each of them is being compared for future collector value? Are you contrasting ingredients and vitamin content? Perhaps you are sitting in front of them with your iPhone researching each corporation to determine their carbon footprint and child labor policies?

Are you hypnotized by the dazzling typefaces with honey dripping from them?

Are you analyzing the quality of food photography wondering if that’s really milk or just Elmer’s Glue?

What exactly causes you to spend 10 minutes trying to decide which cereal to purchase?

Let’s say you make $30 per hour at your job. So 10 minutes of your time is worth $5. That means the cereal ends up costing you $5 extra plus the cost of the cereal… and cereal is already expensive at $4 per box… $9.00 for Cereal???

Another 10 minutes for peanut butter… Another 10 for Ham vs Beef… Another 10 for Toothpaste…

At this rate, your grocery shopping probably takes at least 2 hours… Adding $60 of your time to the final bill.

And now you gotta make up your mind which way to go home!

Did you chose Paper or Plastic?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

BTW… Yes, there is a cure for being Dull Witted… It’s called Sharp Criticism.

jeanmay's avatar

@ETpro Is it a secret?
@frdelrosario That is a great suggestion, will look into that.
@wundayatta…we edit ourselves into paralysis”; very insightful. I will try quietening my inner critic for a while, and watch what I do.
@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Sorry for being dim, but are you suggesting stupid people can be made cleverer by a good telling off?

rovdog's avatar

If your slow thinking is good thinking than go with it. Sometimes I have ideas in my head for years before I figure them out. Also- I think you can train yourself to think fast- or at least to write fast. As I’ve learned to write over the years I have found a key skill is to silence critical thought while writing and then go back and rework and refine that writing. That kind of training has lead to me writing much quicker than I used to. But I still do the same thing that you do- I still tend to labor over emails looking for perfect phrasing when all I really want is the person to meet me for coffee at 3pm or respond to my question. I’m kind of stupid like that.

ETpro's avatar

@jeanmay Is it a secret? No, it just doesn’t work yet. But I’m still thinking about it. :-)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@jeanmay Hey don’t be sorry with me. I don’t have a problem with dimwits. And I certainly did not accuse you of being one. You gave that title to yourself. I don’t know you well enough to consider you one way or another.

Your comments and responses do not lead me to believe there is anything dimwitted about you. But you know yourself better than I do so it’s your call.

And yes, a good telling off can definitely give dimwits a wake up call. It gives them cause to make decisions and learn from experience. And that’s much better than holding up traffic, holding up lines, making people wait, or wasting time and money.

A little planning would go a long way to making life easier for everyone including the dimwit. Make a plan and stick to it. Meandering about aimlessly will come to no good. Make a decision, live with it, learn from it, and use it as a catalyst to make better decisions in the future… In other words… Live.

jeanmay's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Well, I must say I’m rather fond of meandering, and it has led me down some marvellously interesting paths. But I would like to know how to switch off the meander-mode when the situation requires it.

rovdog's avatar

@jeanmay thanks! You could also try to figure out what hours of the day you are most productive. You could place limits on yourself and say “I have to get all my emails done” in half an hour. I have trouble doing that but it has worked at times when I know I can’t waste time- actually now is kind of one of those times. I gotta get to sleep because I have to be super productive tomorrow. Hope you figure it out! And then tell me.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sure there are times for wandering. There are also times for planning… and a plan is the only mechanism to “switch off the meander-mode”.

jeanmay's avatar

@rovdog He he, thank you!
@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Good point.

Nimis's avatar

Certain types of thoughts lend themselves well to a slower pace. I’d hardly say that speed is indicative of quality (either way).

Kodewrita's avatar

Read something a while back about the thinking habits of non-literate civilizations and the conclusion derived from that was the notion that verbalizing actually slows your thinking. If its possible to actually visualize (this is advice that I also find hard to implement though it works sometimes) the logical sequence rather than speaking the thoughts in your mind, that would help.

Another tip is to try not to be too emotionally disturbed. blocks your pathways with so much chaff. you keep going off at tangents to lick your wounds or focus on useless distractions.

Meditation might help.

Another tip from computer programming is to work long hours on a particular subject. Initially you are in some kind of transition state with slower thought but after a while (it seems a switch goes on in the brain) the thoughts flow on their own.

wundayatta's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Can I be a dimwit if I call myself one? Please?

No, what I call myself is irrelevant. It’s only what other people think that affects how they interact with me. If you agree with her assessment of herself as a dimwit, when, in fact, you don’t think that at all, you’re not doing anything helpful. You’re just creating more confusion for an already confused person. It’s just a hex.

lifeflame's avatar

I think first of all you need to develop a sense of when something requires decision, and something requires marinating.

Anne Bogart talks about it wonderfully in her book “A Director Prepares” when she talks about two concepts in aikido: irimi and ura. Ura is to circle around, while irimi is to “to enter/to choose death.” In a combat situation, sometimes it is better to go around, and sometimes it is better to confront it directly.

I recognise sometimes I am holding off a decision because I am afraid of committing to something. I’m afraid of making the wrong decision and looking stupid, when I actually know (deep down) that what I need to do is to take the plunge— more time and thought is not actually going to help.

In this case it is about being honest with my fear, and then just going for it.

Verbally, I notice that I have a tendency to meander when I am not certain or confident about a subject. In fact, the more uncertain I am, the more academic and convoluted my writing becomes. When I catch myself doing that, I laugh at myself. “hello, here I am again, writing b.s.”

As for training yourself to respond quickly, I would try exercises where you have to respond quickly. I know you like theatre, so go and do theatre improv or something. In terms of writing, do some free-writing (“Writing down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg is a wonderful book, I think it was very influential in helping me figure out and develop a habit of creative discipline). If you like to move, go do some dance improv, contact improv—things where you have to respond to the moment in a loose, relaxed manner.

I promised myself that I would produce a blog entry a week, and by giving myself a deadline, I have to produce something readable. Give yourself structures which you can push against.

=)

JLeslie's avatar

@jeanmay I do think they are two separate things.

The cereal example I would just buy them both, because it is not an expensive item, it does not go bad quickly, and I will wind up eating both (but I am not tight on money and I have space for most in my pantry). More expensive items I might take more time. Although, sometimes I take more time than necessary because I enjoy looking at everything, like Bounty papertowels, something that in reality does not matter in life at all really, but I like the patterns they have, and I might actually spend a minute or two deciding which design to buy, when most people would not give a damn about a print on a papertowel. But, I enjoy looking at the designs. But, I am not worried about this type of thing, I don’t think I am being indecisive if I like the process.

I do have trouble though with making decisions that will have a larger impact either financially or that I will have to live with for a long time. I wish I was better at that. I get very stuck and worried about the ramifications of the decisions or having regret. I wish I could imrpove that about myself, so I empathasize with you to some extent.

I do think as others have said that practice makes perfect. The more you make quick decisions and see the sky didn’t fall, the more you will get used it.

As for thinking quickly, I also think you have some good answers already. Practice will help. Maybe you care too much about what others are going to think about your answer or what you have written. I think what @wundayatta wrote about your inner critic or parents and teachers having possibly shut you down when you were younger makes sense.

If you have good relationships the people you typically communicate with know you, and if something seems out of character I think they would either give you a pass, or ask you for clarification. So don’t fret so much I think. When writing a formal document for a class, for a lecture, for an assignment, editing and being careful is warranted; but, for everyday conversation whether written or spoken there is give and take and less necessary in my opinion. Have confidence the other person reading your opinions or listening to you will give you a chance to clarify. Maybe that is part of the childhood thing? Did you feel misunderstood maybe in the past? I hate that feeling myself.

I think Practice on fluther.

jeanmay's avatar

@Nimis That’s true.
@Kodewrita Very interesting about verbalising thoughts and how it could slow them down. I might try brainstorming in pictures sometimes instead of just making notes. You are also correct about the effect of emotions on thinking.
@lifeflame A very astute response indeed. @Captain_Fantasy mentioned doubt, but it is impossible to remove doubt while one is also focussed on it. You have turned it around for me with the combat-situation imagery: having a way to recognise the nature of decisions and categorise them is comforting and helps dispel the fear, rather than succumb to it. Honest acceptance of that fear is also key. Quite brilliant, thanks!
@JLeslie It’s true for me too that I revel in indecision sometimes, like in the supermarket. I like looking at stuff, I like things. So that’s fine, as long as I’m not pressed for time. I very much care what people think about me; my writing, my intelligence level, my lifestyle choices and to some extent my appearance. It’s not that I want or expect everyone to like or respect me, more that I’m eager to connect with like-minded others, and therefore strive to give as honest and accurate an impression of myself as possible. Fretful is right! Fretting is such a self-indulgent thing. Thank you for pointing out that I should have confidence in those listening to me or reading my opinions. That is a very good point.

martyjacobs's avatar

Thought I’d add some general mind improvement stuff to this thread. I have the same problem, mainly because I suffer from perfectionism, which never made anyone happy :D

Study the work of Edward De Bono, he invented the term lateral thinking. His books are very good at encouraging creative thought.

If you want to improve your memory, I highly recommend the work of Domonic O’Brien (8 time world memory champion) and Harry Lorayne.

Speed reading is also a useful skill to sharpen your mind, take a look at The Speed Reading Book by Tony Buzan (the man who invented Mind Maps).

Zen_Again's avatar

From what I’ve read so far, @jeanmay you are nothing if not intelligent and insightful. This question is a testimony to that, and an amazing and witty thread has resulted from some of fluther’s best and brightest.

jeanmay's avatar

@Zen_Again Why thank you.

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