Practical Thinking Tools For A Hectic World
As technology becomes advances, the ways we interact with one another are also changing. Workplaces are being replaced by home desks. Meetings are being replaced with Zoom calls, and local business connections have turned to worldwide networks. While there are many benefits to these advancements, they don’t come without consequences.
While more connected, we’re also more stressed than ever. Issues with mental health are at an all-time high, more people are unhappy at their jobs, and burnout has become commonplace. It’s all a little hectic.
So why do things seem crazier than ever before?
In the past, it was easier to separate work life from social life. At the end of the day, employees would leave their work to go home and relax. Now, it’s easy for work life to roll over to your social life. With smartphones you can check your work emails, contact colleagues about work and take work-related calls. As a result, your brain is in work mode more than it's not.
Without time to unwind, it's hard to think straight. When you’re not thinking straight, your stress levels rise, and when your stress levels rise, you quickly become overwhelmed. So how can you process everything in a hectic world?
- Learn To Focus On The Present
In the twenty-first century, it’s easy to be caught up in life. There’s always a meeting to worry about, a presentation to give, and a deadline to meet. We’re forever preparing for and anticipating what’s next, never giving ourselves time to slow down. Although it’s important to be prepared, constantly being on the go is exhausting.
Our lives seem to be getting faster and faster, with increasing levels of anxiety, stress and unhappiness becoming the norm. By living in the present, you learn to slow down. A great way to do this is to focus on breathing. When everything feels a little too much, move your focus to your breath.
This process allows you to be present. You can never take a breath in the past or future, only now. Although there are many ways to control your breath, scientists have found that a double inhale followed by a large exhale (almost like a sigh) two to three times can instantly bring you back to the present.
This helps you to control overthinking and allows you to focus your mind on what’s important.
Meditation has become the new ‘popular trend’, and in the hectic modern world, it's a trend that has huge value. There are many different ways to meditate, with apps like Mind guiding you through the process. But how exactly does it help you think practically?
Meditation puts you in a state of deep relaxation. During this state, it's easier to focus your attention on one thing, eliminating excess thoughts that crowd your mind and cause unnecessary stress.
Although the skill of meditation takes time to learn, it allows you to clear your mind of clutter after only a few days of practice. Instead of going home after a long day at work and scrolling through social media (and giving your brain more to process), meditation lets you process everything that happened during the day to clear your mind.
This helps you make better decisions and teaches you how to control your breath when life gets stressful. Research has also shown that meditation can enhance physical and emotional well-being, which further improves your ability to think practically.
3. Break Down Complex Problems
With complex problems, you can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed. Breaking problems down into small compartments can help you avoid being overwhelmed and create a solution.
For example, let’s say you work a sales job. To reach your monthly goal you need to make 30 sales in the next month.
You’re currently making 5 sales for every 100 calls. This means to make 30 sales, you’d need to make 600 calls this month.
If you’re working 25 days, that’s 24 calls a day. Assuming you’re working 8 hours, you’d only need to make 3 calls an hour. Now, the issue doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
4. Take Walks In Nature
We live in a world of constant stimulation. According to a 2022 study by USwitch, the average screen time in the UK is now five hours per day in addition to any screen related work. This means some adults are spending over 13 hours a day looking at screens, during which they’re consuming and processing new information.
This overloads our senses and makes it almost impossible to think practically. Instead of focusing on the problem at hand, our brains are still processing everything else consumed throughout the day.
One way to overcome this overstimulation and improve our thinking processes, is to take regular walks in nature. When we take walks in nature, our brains begin to process our current thoughts and problems without being overstimulated.
This is fantastic for practical thinking, as it helps sieve out all the unpractical thoughts you’re having. If you have a problem that you can’t get your head around, do this:
Start a brainstorm with the problem in the centre. Write everything you can think of, and then go for a walk in your local park. During your walk, note down anything useful that applies to the problem. When you get home, return to the brainstorm and apply the thoughts you had throughout your walk. Often your unconscious brain will do the work for you, which allows you to think practically instead of being overloaded by thoughts.
5. Take A Step Back From Situations
When you’re in the heat of a situation, your thoughts can be a little chaotic. We automatically think of the worst case scenario.
“What If I forget something?”
“What if my manager doesn’t like my PowerPoint?”
“What if my team rejects my idea?”
But when you take a step back, you realise that many of these thoughts don’t actually have any real consequences.
If you forget something urgent, you can always find an alternative solution.
If your manager doesn’t like your PowerPoint, you can learn from the mistakes and apply your new knowledge to your next one.
If your team rejects your idea, you can come up with a better one.
By taking a step back, we think practically and overcome many of the anxieties that crowd our minds.
Are Practical Thinking Tools A New “Must Have”?
With our world showing no sign of slowing down, developing these practical thinking tools may become a “must-have” for future employees. Having these strategies is a great way to avoid overwhelm and burnout, and will help us to think practically when times get tough. Much like any tool, some of these may work better for some people more than others. Give each a try and see which works best for you.