Are you experiencing a bout of brain fog? Know that you can cut through the confusion and sharpen your thinking with a few simple steps. Here are six ways you can collect your thoughts and make better decisions.
1. Find a quiet place
Noise can quickly break your train of thought. Find a quiet place where you’ll be less likely to encounter interruptions. Remove any visual distractions, like clutter. If you’re having difficulty locating a place where you can sit quietly, think about finding a better time to think as opposed to a better place. Try getting to work before your co-workers so that you can avoid the hustle and bustle of the day.
2. Reduce stress
It’s hard to think clearly when you’re a ball of stress. Anxiety has a way of causing your mind to flit from thought to thought or just freeze up altogether. Find ways to relax and recharge. Meditation is one way to quiet your mind and recalibrate your thoughts. It’s important to pay attention to your emotions so you can approach your tasks with clarity.
“Emotions are a gift to us, and critical thinking strongly depends on our emotional awareness and how we deal with it. We should always systematically and automatically ask ourselves what is our thinking that led to this certain emotion,” says Christ Lewis in Critical Thinking: 50 Best Strategies to Think Smart and Clear, Get Logical Thinking, and Improve Your Decision Making Skills.
3. Go outside
Take a walk and enjoy the fresh air so that you can clear your head. Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to get your thought process going. Besides, sitting indoors all day isn’t good for your mind or your body.
4. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake
One way that you can unintentionally block your thought process is to become fearful of making an error. This will lead you to overthink the problem or task at hand. In order to come to the best conclusion, you need to try to stop yourself from worrying about the outcome.
“Fail to succeed. Intentionally get it wrong to inevitably get it even more right. Mistakes are great teachers — they highlight unforeseen opportunities and holes in your understanding,” says authors Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. “They also show you which way to turn next and they ignite your imagination.”
5. Don’t make a decision under pressure
One of the worst things you can do is try to make an important decision while you’re being pressured for an answer. It’s hard to be clear and thoughtful when someone is waiting on you to respond immediately. If possible, tell him or her you need some time to think things through and that you’ll return with an answer by a specific deadline.
6. Challenge yourself
Those who consistently put their brain to work have an easier time solving complex problems. Exercise your brain by reading on a regular basis or completing tasks that require critical thinking skills. Remain curious and hungry to learn something new every chance you get.
Burger and Starbird advocate continuing to challenge yourself beyond your formal education: “Education does not stop with the end of your formal schooling. Even if your formal school days are long past, you are a still a student and, hopefully, will always be one.”