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How to Be a Quick Thinker in 6 Steps

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    Do you ever wonder how people in high-pressure situations deal with stress? Medical professionals and government officials have to make quick decisions every day. Some of the situations have life-or-death implications. So how do they do it?

    The truth is that there’s no inherent gene or talent for how to be a quick thinker. Instead, thinking on your feet is a skill that you can develop over time.

    "If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done."

    One thing is important when learning how to be a quick thinker, though. You want to make sure that any of the opinions you offer are well-considered and well-informed. That means that you should wait to respond until you’ve given the situation the consideration it requires.

    Learning how to be a quick thinker isn’t about learning how to react as fast as possible. It’s about learning to consider multiple angles of a situation quickly. It’s also about identifying any places where you don’t have enough information and subsequently asking for clarification.

    I’ve developed a system for how to be a quick thinker that helps me make decisions in my day-to-day life.

    The Importance of Thinking Fast

    No matter what profession you’re in, you’re likely to encounter situations where you have to think fast.

    Maybe you’re giving a presentation and answering questions you didn’t expect to be asked. Perhaps you’re being asked to solve an unusual problem by a customer.

    Thinking fast is vital for making quick judgments about a situation. It’s also important when you’re in situations where you need to give an immediate answer. Fast thinking lets you offer ideas that can be built upon by other people in a collaborative environment as well.

    How to Be a Quick Thinker

    How to Be a Quick Thinker?

    So the next question is how to be a quick thinker. You know how important it is to be quick on your feet, but how are you supposed to do that?

    The idea of changing your life approach can seem overwhelming. That’s especially true if you’re someone who doesn’t often take assertive leadership positions. Maybe you get nervous that you won’t give the right answer. Or maybe you prefer to let other people take the reins.

    You have to unlearn these responses when you’re learning how to be a quick thinker. It’s vital that you understand that you have a valuable point of view to bring to the table.

    This is the step-by-step system I’ve developed for how to be a quick thinker:

    1. Trust your insticts

    2. Say these words: "I can do better!"

    3. Get physical four hours after learning something new

    4. Think on your feet

    5. Relax

    6. Use stall tactics

    1. Trust your instincts

    The first step is to trust your instincts.

    But how does trusting your instincts teach you how to be a quick thinker?

    Your instincts about a situation are often right. One aspect of how to be a quick thinker is trusting your gut, even if you don’t yet know why you feel the way you do. Many people pause to second-guess and pick apart their instinctive reactions, which can slow you down and waste your time.

    At the same time, trusting your instincts sometimes means knowing when you don’t have all the answers to a situation.

    For example, you might get these feelings about a situation:

    • I should ask someone with more expertise about this.

    • I should defer to someone who works in this field.

    • I should get more information before making a decision.

    • I should take time before I act to make sure that I’m working with logic rather than emotion.

    These are all valid instincts! You don’t always need to be the first person to offer a response. You don’t always need to have the solution. Sometimes you’ll be looking toward other people for the answer instead. Trusting your instincts is about knowing when to speak and when to sit down.

    On the other hand, your instincts might lean toward a particular method of problem-solving or certain solution that you think is best. If this is your area of expertise, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. Offer your opinion when you’re sure that you can back it up with facts and solid reasoning.

    2. Say these words: "I can do better!"

    Tell yourself that you can do better.

    A big problem that many people have is talking themselves out of any idea they have. They think that they shouldn’t bring the thought to the table, or that they’re arrogant by doing so, or that another person will have a better idea.

    So part of thinking quickly is learning to recognize your worth. Your thought processes are unique. There’s no one in the world whose brain operates exactly like yours. And that’s a blessing!

    By affirming that you can do better, you’re reminding yourself that your input is valuable.

    3. Get physical four hours after learning something new

    This is an interesting fact that many people don’t know about learning how to be a quick thinker: Exercising a few hours after you learn something helps you recall it later.

    Part of how to be a quick thinker is being able to internalize new information. Whether that’s a dilemma presented at a meeting, a new course in your workplace, or facts about the quarter sent to your work email, being able to remember the content is essential.

    If you want to know how to be a quick thinker, you have to be able to recall all the relevant pieces of information when you make connections. That’s why this study is so exciting.

    A Dutch research team did a study on the memory recall of a group of 72 participants. The findings were published in Current Biology.

    First, each participant in the study was asked to spend forty minutes on a task related to learning. They were given a great deal of information to absorb and apply in the future.

    After this, the participants were divided into three groups. One group didn’t exercise, one exercised immediately, and one exercised four hours after the learning task.

    Everyone in the exercise groups participated in the same type of exercise, which involved 35 minutes of intense cardio on an exercise bike.

    The participants were tested two days later on how much they’d retained from the learning session. That gave them enough time to encode the material into long-term memory without losing it. The group that waited to exercise had the best performance.

    In fact, MRI images were taken of the brain. They showed that people who exercised later had sharper activity patterns in their hippocampus. This part of the brain is vital for memory and learning.

    What does that mean? It means that one of the most straightforward solutions for how to be a quick thinker is to exercise a few hours after a learning session. Researchers aren’t sure why this helps, but it may have something to do with the release of endorphins.

    Your brain has an easier time encoding information into long-term memory when it’s working with endorphins. Also, exercise causes the body to produce norepinephrine and dopamine, which are brain chemicals that improve memory and emotion.

    4. Think on your feet

    You have to pay attention to what’s going on around you because that’s what allows you to think on your feet. The more you observe about any given situation, the easier it will be to apply problem-solving solutions. If you’re called on in a meeting, you want to be attentive enough to offer thoughts instead of being that guy with no input.

    “Thinking on your feet” may sound easier said than done. After all, how are you supposed to learn to respond immediately to a situation if that’s not something you’re used to doing?

    Practice following these steps:

    • Pay attention to everything happening around you.

    • If you’re asked for input, give whatever ideas you have in your head, even if they aren’t fully formed.

    • Consider different angles of a situation when deciding how to approach it.

    • Look for problem-solving solutions that take into account multiple aspects of the situation.

    You won’t always have a perfect solution to every problem or question. But when you’re willing to offer something, you can work collaboratively with the other people in your environment. You don’t have to solve everything, but you should be someone whose input is essential to the team.

    5. Relax

    Stress makes it harder to think. That’s one of the toughest facts for many people to deal with. Do you remember being paralyzed by test-taking anxiety in school? What about being so worried about performing well in a career assessment that you couldn’t focus on?

    The more stressed you get, the more trouble you have with concentrating. Your body is diverting all its resources to your fight-or-flight response, rather than giving you ways to think through the problem.

    So one way to think more quickly is to reduce your stress response. Relax. Chances are, you aren’t dealing with a life-or-death situation. Remind yourself that the consequences of mistakes are small and that you’re doing your best to be an active participant.

    It can also help to do exercises to control your breathing. Try exhaling fully, making sure to empty your lungs. Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of six. Breathing out longer than you breathe in helps your body to calm down.

    Be confident in yourself. Insecurity can make you nervous, especially in situations involving important people. Remind yourself that you have reason to be there. Space wouldn’t be the same without you there.

    6. Use stall tactics

    Sometimes you won’t have an answer right away. You’ll need to buy time to respond. Using specific stall tactics can help hide the fact that you need a minute.

     

    Repeat the question yourself.

     

    Repeat the question to the asker to make sure you have it right. This gives them a chance to confirm that you’ve understood them. On top of that, saying the question yourself helps you to internalize and think about it.

     

    Narrow the focus.

     

    If you’re asked a broad question that you’re not sure how to answer in a nuanced way, you can narrow the focus. Give your thoughts on one smaller piece of the puzzle, rather than trying to tackle it all at once.

     

    An important part of this tactic is that narrowing the focus can help you arrive at larger solutions. Sometimes broad questions have to be broken down into a series of smaller questions. Only by answering all of them will you come up with a bigger solution.

     

    Ask for clarification.

     

    If you’re not sure how to respond to a question, ask the question asker to clarify. They can explain what they’re asking or rephrase the question. This buys you some time, but it gives you a clearer picture of the question you’re supposed to answer.

     

    Ask for a definition.

     

    Similarly to asking for clarification, you can also ask for a definition. This works best for situations that include marketing jargon or advanced terms you might not have heard before.

     

    If you don’t understand a question, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You can’t offer your most considered thoughts if you don’t understand what you’re being asked. It’s better to ask for clarification and then have a good answer rather than silently nod along and hope not to look stupid.

     

    In Conclusion

    You need to develop the skills necessary to analyze an ongoing situation. You should be able to draw conclusions about the limited information you’re given.

    But at the same time, it’s also vital that you relax. If you get stressed by the situation, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes. A big part of how to be a quick thinker is keeping a level head so you can make logical choices, rather than acting out of panic.

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