Active thinking and decision making

Sometimes when people ask me what I’m doing, I’d say I’m thinking and they would smirk.

I have dedicated thinking time every day. It is well worth it.

In this post, I’ll talk about how active thinking helps me in making effective decisions and can help you too.

There are two types of people.

  • People who think, and not do anything.
  • People who do things without thinking.

Both are bad. There are outliers. Warren Buffet is a famous example of more reading, and less doing. He spends five to six hours a day reading books and newspapers. But outliers are far from reality.

For most people to get the best out of life, you need to have a balance of both thinking and doing.

In this post, I’ll be talking about active thinking, which means dedicating time to think. We must be thinking of things every day. Random thoughts don’t count as active thinking. Active thinking is a full-time task.

Why is thinking important?

Actions without thinking can be most of the time sub-optimal. Thinking is the first step to fulfilling actions. Active thinking requires you to decide what to think about.

Thinking leads to a decision, the decision leads to action. The cycle repeats.

Great actions requires great thoughts. There is no shortcut. Active thinking often protects you from the reactive and emotional decision.

How to think?

Quality of thoughts matter.

Thinking is not sitting idle. It requires focus. Why is it that your thoughts go wild when you are in the toilet in the mornings?

You are focused. There are pretty much no distractions at this point.

One way to focus while thinking is to write down your thoughts. Writing those down bring clarity to your thoughts. It helps you see the potential outcomes, analyse them and make rational decisions.

  • Write down the problem or goals
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • What is in your control, what is not?
  • Should you worry about factors that are not in your control? Most of the times, not.
  • What can you do about factors that are in your control?
  • What set of actions with the controlled factors will take you close to those outcomes(aka solution)

Once you get good at this, you won’t need to write it down.

For complex thoughts, you can even take it to the next level with mind mapping tools such as Coggle.

It lets you think through the set of possible actions and their outcomes. Outcomes might again need another set of actions, and this can go a few levels deep. Mind mapping tools can come in handy in such scenarios. It releases the load from your brain. It helps you think clearly.

It is always better to use some tools for mind mapping as long as you are not Sherlock Holmes with a mind palace.

Thinking alone won’t help you succeed. The next and main step is taking action. You need to find the right balance between both. Most of the time a good thinking session is followed by a set of actions or at least a plan to execute.

I hope this post inspires you to take time to actively think about something important that is going on in your life. And leads you to take effective action.

Feel free to write to me at about your experiences and questions.

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