Do you need Smart Thinking?

In the modern world, most of us are asked to think for a living, yet few of us have ever been taught much about the way our minds work.  Nobody would be asked to build a bridge without learning some physics or to practice medicine without knowing biology.  Why should thinking be any different?

Smart Thinking provides a background in cognitive science along with specific tips to help you think more effectively.  Periodically, I will add a few quizzes to get you thinking about the way you think.  See how you do and decide whether you are a good candidate to read Smart Thinking.

From Chapter 1 of Smart Thinking

Self-knowledge: The First Step to Smart Thinking

The central goal of this book is to give you the tools for smarter and more effective thinking.  I first brought these insights together in class that I developed to teach executives at companies interested in enhancing the performance of their employees.  By bringing these lessons to their employees, these leaders are helping to develop what I call a Culture of Smart.

To get started on the road to Smart Thinking, it’s valuable to evaluate your behavior first.  I often give the following quiz as part of my class to give everyone a chance to think through some of the behaviors related to Smart Thinking they engage in regularly. This questionnaire comprises a set of behaviors that you may or may not perform.  Put a check in the first box next to each item if you think this is something you should do.  Put a check in the second box if you think this is something you actually do.  Check both boxes if both categories are true. 

Nobody is going to see this but you, so be honest with yourself. 

Should Do
Actually Do
1. I often check my email on my smart phone before and after meetings to keep up with what is happening.

2. If I run a meeting, I limit the agenda to just a few items.

3. I keep my email program running on my computer to try to deal with new issues right away.

4. I have a few hours of my work day where I do not answer the phone.

5. I routinely teach what I know to other people.

6. When solving problems, I draw on examples from areas of work very different from my own.

7. I usually take the same route to work every day.

8. When I need to solve a difficult new problem, I find a few different ways to describe it.

9. I treat each new problem in its own unique way.

10. When I don't understand a point that someone has made in a meeting, I speak up and ask them to explain their reasoning.

11. I skim new articles in my field as a way to keep up with what is happening.  I read them in more detail after I know they are relevant.

12. I frequently talk to people about what they are working on.

13. When I get stuck on a hard problem, I put it aside and move on to something else for a while.

14. I draw lots of diagrams to help me understand problems.

15.  To be more productive, I multitask a lot.

Before we go on, I want you to do one more thing.  Some of the things on this list may have been actions where you were not entirely sure whether you should do them or not.  If you see any of those, circle them.

When you take a quiz such as this, you usually get a score that involves counting up correct and incorrect answers.  Maybe after that, you get some general advice based on the number you got.

I want to evaluate the results in a different way.  First, look at the two columns of boxes.  If you checked the box on the left, did you also check the one on the right?  Every time there is a check in one box but not the other, that means there is disconnect between what you think you should do and what you actually are doing.  If there is something you believe you should do that you don’t actually do, there might be a mental habit waiting to be formed.  If there is something that you actually do that you believe you shouldn’t do, then you may have a bad habit.

To help you interpret the results of this quiz, know that items 1, 3, 9, 11, and 15 are all things that you should avoid, because they get in the way of Smart Thinking.  The rest are things you should be doing to promote smart thinking.

Was there anything on the list that you thought was good but wasn’t (or the other way)?  Was there anything on the list that you circled, because you weren’t sure whether it was good or bad?  Those mistakes and circles are just examples where learning more psychology is going to help you know the right thing to do.

A Quiz for you.

Answer the following questions by circling a number on the scale.  Answer these questions only about your behavior during the work day.  Low numbers mean you rarely engage in this activity.  High numbers mean you often engage in this activity.

                                                                              Almost             Almost
                                                                              Never              Always

1.  I answer emails within 10 minutes of their arrival.       1    2    3    4    5

2.  I let the phone ring without answering it.                    1    2    3    4    5

3.  I create time blocks in my schedule to work on big
projects.                                                                       1    2    3    4    5

4.  Co-workers drop by unannounced to discuss issues.  1    2    3    4    5

5.  I use an instant messenger to contact people.              1    2    3    4    5

6.  I get anxious if I know someone is trying to reach me  1    2    3    4    5

7.  I have regular meeting times with co-workers             1    2    3    4    5

8.  I keep an agenda with a list of tasks to complete.        1    2    3    4    5

 Add up your scores for Questions 1, 4, 5, and 6.
These are the Short-term Draws on your time.

Now, add up Questions 2, 3, 7, and 8.  
These are your Long-term Time Savers

If your score for your Short-term Draws is high, and your score for the Long-term Time Savers is low, then you probably do a lot of multitasking.  You are probably not being as efficient as you can at work and at home.  

In Smart Thinking, I provide specific suggestions for helping you to reduce the multitasking you do to help you learn and think.