How can I learn to think?

How to be a studentLearning how to think is really the whole point of going to university because it is one of the few periods in your life when you get time to do it.Unfortunately

How can I learn to think?

How to be a student

Learning how to think is really the whole point of going to university because it is one of the few periods in your life when you get time to do it.

Unfortunately, it is also a period when you have a lot to think about - from the possible origins of the universe to how a can of Red Bull and a jar of pesto could make a nutritious meal.

In many ways, this is good. Like any skill, successful thinking takes practice. The more time you spend thinking and the more ideas you come up with, the more likely it is that some of them will be good ones. And if they're all rubbish, try not to dwell on it. Your thinking will never improve if it consists entirely of thinking how much of a failure you are.

Having a one-track mind won't improve your pondering power anyway.

Geniuses generally come up with their brilliant innovations by thinking about a subject in lots of different ways and forming connections between apparently disparate ideas.

On the other hand, there are times when you need to know what you are supposed to be thinking about and why, and to stay reasonably focused. Mulling over pesto options won't necessarily help you nail the origins of the universe.

If you are having trouble thinking, it may be because you lack another skill that would make it easier. It could be that you don't actually know anything about the subject you are supposed to be considering, or don't have a wide enough vocabulary to put your thoughts on it into words. Perhaps your time-management skills are so bad that you've only left 10 minutes to tackle the universe question.

You may also be in the wrong environment for productive thought. If you share a house with seven keen trombonists and a drummer, you may have trouble hearing yourself think, although bear in mind that this could be because you haven't had a thought worth hearing. In any case, a change of scene can spark all sorts of exciting ideas, so remember to take breaks and don't confine yourself to a bedroom or library - explore stimulating new locations.

At the same time, don't assume that the more way-out an experience, the more it will boost your thinking powers. In fact, you shouldn't be assuming anything. Proper thinking is about forming an argument or a critical analysis that you can back up with evidence and reinforce with appropriate examples.

One way to hone this skill is to think critically about what other people are thinking - from authors, to your tutors, to friends. Thinking is not always something that needs to be done alone. In fact, communicating your thoughts can help to develop and clarify them. So, if your housemates ever abandon their instruments, engage them in conversation, look for holes in their arguments, and explain your own.

Should this approach mean you run out of people to talk to, try honing your thoughts by writing them down and putting them in some kind of logical order. Then, there are special thinking techniques you could try, such as mind-mapping, whereby you jot down words and ideas around a central concept, or Edward De Bono's six thinking hats, in which you tackle a problem in five different ways - factually, emotionally, pessimistically, optimistically, creatively - the sixth hat being worn to move between them.

If you get really good at thinking while at university, you may be able to think of a way to carry on musing - and thus avoid actually doing anything - once you leave.{{#ticker}}








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