Inspired by the “Screen-Free Blogging Challenge”
Well, technically, I’m supposed to write about online learning. But today I’m going to step back and write about something more fundamental: thinking.
In my last post, I talked about how you shouldn’t just read and reread the topic but explain it to yourself to understand it. Well, just thinking about the topic can help you view it from different perspectives. And if you can view it from different perspectives, you gain a deeper understanding of it and maybe even come to your own original conclusions about it.
Thinking is how Einstein discovered relativity. How Turing invented the Turing machine. It is a fundamental part of every artist and musician’s life.
So let’s go back to the basics and make some time in our day for screen-free thinking without any distractions.
1) First off, you need to schedule the time for thinking in your day. Make sure this is a time when you won’t be disturbed by other commitments. No distractions allowed. It should just be you and your thoughts.
2) Actually, I lied in that last point. It’s not just you and your thoughts. Undirected thinking, while incredibly fun, often doesn’t lead anywhere. You need to have a pen and a notebook or a piece of paper. Also, if you can print out your course materials and problem sets that would be superb.
3) Now you just need to go to the quiet place you had in mind. Preferably, somewhere outdoors. Just being around nature can do wonders for your train of thought.
4) So you’ve got to somewhere nice and you have all the materials. Now it’s actually time to start thinking. Okay, how do you that? There are several ways you can open up your mind more; here are the ones I like the most:
- Mind-map. Mind-mapping is all about connections. You connect the main idea to other different ideas and then you’ll begin to see relations and analogies that you didn’t even know existed!
- Doodle. Doodling has been shown to improve focus and memory. Doodling helps you establish relations between what you’re learning and the graphical representation on paper. The stranger and more funny your doodle, the more your creative brain opens up and furthermore, you’ll be able to remember it for longer.
- If you’re solving a specific problem, make it more general. Then find other specific examples of that general problem. This might help you find new ways to solve your original problem.
- Work at the level of difficulty just slightly above your own. If you want to truly become a master of what you do and look at the problems you are solving in a new way then you should try solving problems that are based on a more difficult concept that you aren’t so familiar with. You might not always be able to solve these harder problems but you will definitely improve at the problems you intended to do.
5) Leave when you’re done. Hopefully, at this last step, you’ve got a better understanding of what you sought to understand and your mind is not a jumble of incoherent thoughts any more.
Now this post doesn’t involve any new techniques or information. You probably already know whatever is mentioned here. But if this post drives you towards actually thinking more about what you’re learning then that’s great!
In the twenty-first century, education is as good as it ever was. You can learn anything. But learning alone doesn’t cut it; you need to able to think critically about what you learn and to create and invent new stuff by using the ideas you learn.
Here, watch a talk from the world’s youngest astrophysicist. Genius isn’t about learning, it’s about thinking and creating.
Next, read this post from Cal Newport about why you should retreat to the outdoors when there’s some thinking to do: http://calnewport.com/blog/2015/10/21/the-power-of-the-outdoor-office/