How to Think More Effectively Book Summary - How to Think More Effectively Book explained in key points
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How to Think More Effectively summary

The School of Life

A guide to greater productivity, insight and creativity

4.4 (951 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

"How to Think More Effectively" by The School of Life is a guide to improve your critical thinking skills. It helps you to identify cognitive biases, make better decisions, and solve complex problems by using different perspectives and creativity.

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    How to Think More Effectively
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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Devote more time to evaluating your ideas, values, and goals.

    How good are you at prioritizing?

    Most of us believe we’re first-rate. As rational people, we like to think we attend to the most important things in life first, and only then turn our attention to less pressing tasks. In other words, we think our priorities are pretty much in order.

    But are they really? Look closely. Many people’s priorities are actually mixed up. We spend little time engaging with serious, important questions about the value of our goals – and instead jump straight to trying to make those goals happen.

    Do you ask yourself whether more money will really make you happy? Or do you just thoughtlessly pursue a greater income? And have you ever asked yourself whether you’d be better off single, or do you grudgingly plod on in familiar but unhappy relationships?

    Things don’t have to be that way.

    The key message here is: Devote more time to evaluating your ideas, values, and goals.

    It’s easy to say you’ll start evaluating your goals more thoroughly, but actually following through can be tricky: that’s why you need a plan. The first step is to become aware of how much time you devote to executing your plans, and how much time you spend evaluating and strategizing in a more reflective manner. If you currently only evaluate and strategize about 5 percent of the time, try upping that figure to 15 or 20 percent.

    The next step is to try and get over your discomfort. Fundamental, first-order questions are tricky – contemplating purpose and value can often make us feel uneasy. There’s no quick fix for that: the solution is simply to practice.

    Before you jump straight to the execution of an idea that enters your head, try to spend more time actually interrogating it. Ask yourself searching questions about what you’re doing and what you plan to do – questions about value, purpose, and ultimate significance.

    Dare to subject your aims to probing words like “why,” “to what end,” and “of what importance.” It may sound like a recipe for stagnation and inaction, but, well, the alternative isn’t pretty either: a life spent in the pursuit of accolades you don’t desire, money you don’t need, and relationships – both romantic and platonic – that ultimately leave you cold.

    However long it takes, this shift from impulsive action to a more discriminating, evaluative disposition will make your thinking richer, subtler, and more effective.

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    What is How to Think More Effectively about?

    How to Think More Effectively (2020) is a simple guide to improving the way you think. Drawing lessons from sources as diverse as the feeling of envy and the prose of Proust, it lays out the characteristics of effective thoughts – and shows how you can start cultivating them.

    Who should read How to Think More Effectively?

    • Reflective types who want to up their cognitive game
    • Creatives trying to release their inner potential
    • Anyone who’d like to feel a little bit smarter

    About the Author

    The School of Life is an organization devoted to helping people lead richer, more fulfilling lives. It believes that the humanities can help us develop emotional intelligence, wisdom, empathy, communication skills, and much more. With premises in cities like London, Amsterdam, and Seoul, the School of Life offers educational films and books, classes, and therapy sessions.

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