Welcome to the second part of our How To Learn series. You missed part one? Read on here!
In this post, we will look at how to distill your thoughts into key learnings. It is one thing to read about something, and something else to reflect upon it and turn it into deep learning. Strategies for clear thinking are crucial for this. So that’s the topic of this blog article. How can you make sense of all the chaos happening inside your head when you’re consuming information?
Three Strategies To Organize Your Thoughts
Three strategies to organize your thoughts will be introduced in this article:
- How to use writing to think clearly
- How to use mindmapping to think clearly
- How to use speech to think clearly
We are all different learning types, and none of these methods are better than the others. Perhaps, one suits you perfectly but doesn’t suit your team members at all. Perhaps, one works great for you in one situation and another method is perfect for another situation. Try them all out and see what happens.
Strategy 1: Write to Organize Your Thoughts
Thinking is a complicated process that we still haven’t understood fully yet. So much is going on in our brains that it’s can sometimes be hard to keep up. One way to structure our thoughts is through writing.
Some of us are taught that writing is for putting down clearly articulated thoughts and ideas. We write when we know what we want to communicate. However, this is only part of the truth. Writing is also amazing to develop our thoughts and ideas and make them more clear and structured. We also write when we want to figure out what we want to communicate.
One way to do that is by freewriting. Freewriting is the act of just writing down whatever is in flowing through your head. No judgment, no editing, no right or wrong. Freewriting is not just great for understanding your ideas, but it is also amazing for clearing your head. It sometimes feels impossible to think clear thoughts, because your headspace is just so full of worries, thoughts, dreams, anxieties, fears, memories, etc. Putting it all down on paper creates space for new and clearer thoughts.
Another way to use writing to structure your thoughts is to write down the most essential things, perhaps as bullet points or as short sentences. Julian Shapiro, entrepreneur, and serial investor likes to begin a new article as a Tweet – i.e. a 280 summary of the essence of his article. This really nails down the main idea of whatever it is he wants to explore.
Three Tips For Freewriting
So next time you are learning something, try this method:
- Free write for 10-20 minutes to clear your thoughts.
- Free write for 20-30 minutes on the topic you want to learn about
- Write 1-sentence key findings to distill the most essential from your learning experience
Strategy 2: Mindmap to Organize Your Thoughts
Some of us have a more visual approach to the world, and in that case, mindmapping can be a great way to clear your thoughts and understand your learnings.
Mindmapping is basically writing down a series of words and connecting them with each other. Here is a video explaining the process:
Just like with freewriting, it works best if you don’t judge, edit, or categorize your thoughts in right and wrong. Just let the thoughts flow and then, once you’re done, you can zoom out and see the broader picture of the map. You can see how your thoughts connect, maybe by adding more lines. And you can mark what seems most important to you, maybe by using colors. It’s a more creative way of making sense of what’s going on in your head. Feel free to also add drawings or doodles or anything that helps you to organize your thoughts.
Strategy 3: Speak to Organize Your Thoughts
Lastly, some of you might be better at thinking if the activity is social. Speaking your thoughts aloud can be super helpful for clearing your thoughts. Just like with writing, it is the act of expressing the chaos that’s in your mind that transforms it into structured and clear thoughts. So if you’ve been occupied with a topic or have just consumed some information about a subject, try talking to someone about it. You can teach them about it, or simply just share your thoughts with them. The chances are high that you’ll feel like you know a lot more about the subject after you’ve spoken about it.
Getting Input, Making Output
In order to learn it’s rarely enough just to take in a lot of information. To really learn, you must also create some output. It can be notes, a drawing, a presentation, or whatever. The form doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the act of expressing yourself.
So create some stuff, pirates, express yourself, and share your thoughts with the world!