Explore the best ways to think quickly and efficiently.
Here’s how to be a quick thinker, according to experts:
Table of Contents
- 1. To be quicker thinkers we must work on mastering the art of thinking
- 2. Resolve past hurts
- 3. Know your areas of competence
- 4. Take great physical care
- 5. Practice decision-making
- 6. Prepare yourself for whatever you expect to occur
- 7. Exercise your brain
- 8. Get plenty of rest
- 9. Maintain awareness
- 10. Defer judgement
- 11. Encourage “out-of-the-box” ideas
- 12. Build on the ideas of others
- 13. Stay focused on topic
- 14. One conversation at a time
- 15. Be visual
- 16. Go for quantity
- 17. Play
- 18. Pay attention to details
- 19. Apply Pareto’s 80-20 rule
- 20. Don’t get too hung up on the “right answer”
- 21. Put yourself out of your comfort zone
- 22. Educate yourself on the topic
- 23. Read relevant books
- 24. Refer to an expert
- 25. Prepare yourself for small, mental battles throughout the day
- Frequently Asked Questions
Mentor and Coach | Author, “Recover from Your Divorce In 4 Steps: The No-Fluff Method for Divorced Men by a Divorced Man“
1. To be quicker thinkers we must work on mastering the art of thinking
“I think, therefore, I am.”
A lot has been attributed to the importance of thinking since Rene Descartes’ famous quote above. Indeed, much has been said about how our thoughts create the conditions in which we live.
But what about the notion of thinking quickly?
If we are to believe that our thoughts are crucial towards our success, then developing quicker thinking processes will allow us to create greater conditions in a quicker time.
It, therefore, makes sense to study how we can develop our ability to think not just more positively but also more quickly. The way to train ourselves to be quicker thinkers is to work on mastering the art of thinking.
Once we become a master at something, we get quicker at it because the subconscious absorbs it until it becomes automatic.
In his book, Mastery – a masterful book in its own right – Robert Greene extols the virtues of mastering something – anything – by illustrating how many of the world’s masters in the arts and sciences such as Mozart and Einstein learned to master their particular pursuits.
Greene is careful to emphasize that it is a myth to believe that one must be a “genius” in order to master a discipline.
What these masters all shared in common was not their brainpower. Rather, they all immersed themselves fully in a subject matter through repetition and devotion, to a point where the particular field they were pursuing became ingrained in their subconscious.
Applying this to the mastery of thinking, it is crucial that we immerse ourselves in reading/watching/listening to leaders in the field of personal development.
This is because, as far as I am aware, there is not a single personal development leader who doesn’t agree that the starting point of any personal development begins in one’s thoughts.
I, therefore, recommend that to achieve mastery in thought, we must start with purchasing books on personal development. Notice that I intentionally used the word “purchase.” This is because, in my experience, when we invest in a book as opposed to borrowing, we are more likely to actually invest ourselves into the book.
While there are many thought leaders with valuable contributions to the art of thinking, in my opinion, there are three books that one must start with:
- The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
- The Master Key System by Charles Haanel
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
It can be debated that the quality of a book is highly subjective and subject to opinion. Fair enough. However, these three books repeatedly surface as the prime influences of virtually all the thought leaders I have seen and read.
In The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Murphy goes to great lengths to illustrate just how powerful our thoughts are. They form a vital part of dictating what we attract to ourselves, and it is the conscious mind that dictates that which flows down to the subconscious mind. This book helps us understand just how crucial it is to guard our thoughts against negativity.
For those aware of the Law of Attraction, Charles F. Haanel was really the pioneer behind the concept. The Law of Attraction dictates that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life. Haanel provides a framework for how to tap our positive thoughts into the Universe to create positivity in our lives in the realm of health, wealth, and love.
Related: 25 Best Law of Attraction Books
Finally, perhaps the most famous of the books on personal development and Law of Attraction is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Hill studied over 500 self-made millionaires, and his findings were compiled into this landmark book aimed at creating wealth.
While this book’s focus is about becoming wealthy, it is really a study in how to think, as the title of the book “Think” and Grow Rich, implies.
When we begin the process of immersing ourselves in these books, the Universe will then open up other channels for developing our thinking. There are literally channels dedicated to the topic, such as on Youtube and various podcasts.
As we continue to master thinking, we will see that the ability to think quickly automatically will quicken. The Subconscious Mind will do for us what used to happen in the conscious mind, or, at the brain level, if you will.
Like any sport that one takes up, in the beginning, it takes tremendous concentration to take the necessary actions of the sport, whether it’s swinging a bat to hit a baseball, putting a golf ball into a tiny hole, etc. After we do it repeatedly, it becomes second nature and at a quicker clip.
The mind and its thoughts are no different. When we exercise the mind through reading of the literature and full immersion in the subject, the art of thinking becomes second nature and, therefore, quicker.
With quicker thinking, then, we find that we are manifesting great conditions for ourselves and a greater abundance of it as the speed increases.
But it is important to note that it takes patience on the part of the person working on quicker thinking. If we feel anxiety or pressure of any sort, the subconscious will feel it, and it can undo previous work through the negative associations with it.
Therefore, it is important to understand that while our goal may be quicker thinking, there are no shortcuts to achieving mastery, and it must be pursued with great patience.
Nance L. Schick
Mediator | Author | Attorney, Third Ear Conflict Resolution
As scientists and researchers discover more about how our brains work, I gobble up the information. I learned several years ago that I am a lot happier and more productive when I am keeping my thoughts in check.
I often tell my clients, “Our brains play tricks on us.” Or, as a few of my coaches and mentors have reminded me, “Our thoughts are not a reliable test for reality.”
Experts estimate we have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. I’ve read we might actually have five to ten times that many. Regardless, we have far more than we are aware of and acting on. I work with my clients to release the ones that are harmful or hurtful and pay attention to the ones that inspire or empower them. With practice, this also allows them to think more quickly.
It is not unusual for us to overthink situations because they seem familiar and trigger exaggerated responses. I am told this is the amygdala being triggered to keep us safe. We sometimes respond as though we’re about to be eaten by a bear when emotional pain is more likely than physical pain or death. Apparently, our brains have not evolved to distinguish between these two types of pain very well.
I’m no scientist, but what I have learned through my independent research and observation of clients is that the three most important things for us to do to think quickly are:
2. Resolve past hurts
When we carry the burden of self-judgment, shame, and fear, we slow our response time. We tend to first filter our thoughts through fear and question whether our initial thoughts are real. We second-guess ourselves because we’ve forgotten who we are.
Instead, we think we are what we’ve done or felt. Clearing these brain patterns will make us “think” more quickly.
3. Know your areas of competence
“I don’t know” is an acceptable thought and answer, especially when something is outside an area that interests you. Don’t feel the need to comment or have an opinion on everything.
4. Take great physical care
Our brains need rest, exercise, nutrient-rich foods, and proper hydration. When we don’t get these, we don’t think as quickly or clearly. Likewise, alcohol and other substances will slow our thinking.
Certified Life Coach | Founder, The Expat Partner Coach LLC
Thinking quickly is a skill that comes naturally to some — fret not if you don’t fall into that category. You can become a quick thinker with practice and preparation, as well as a bit of grit.
5. Practice decision-making
Think of your brain as a muscle that can be trained to function more quickly. Throughout your day, build awareness of how long you take to make various decisions. Notice what you are thinking about as you ponder.
When faced with a decision, categorize it based on complexity and importance (e.g., Low – Medium – High).
Based on this categorization, challenge yourself to focus on the most critical information and to limit the amount of time you spend thinking about the answer.
Work through the decision-making process as quickly as possible:
- consider alternatives
- make your decision
- take action
- access results
As the complexity and importance of the decision increase, the need to add time to research supporting information and ponder will also increase.
Start with easy decisions and work your way up to thinking more quickly as complexity increases.
Learn to cut through extraneous details and focus on the key aspects impacting your decision. We often overthink simple and routine decisions, such as what to have for lunch or what to wear to work. This is a waste of time and effort. Don’t get bogged down in detail or stuck in a loop of rumination.
With practice, you will be able to assess a decision and work through the decision-making process with fluidity.
6. Prepare yourself for whatever you expect to occur
Prior to any engagement, prepare yourself mentally and physically for whatever you expect to occur. Read about the topic, ask experts for advice, or practice what will take place to enable yourself to think and respond quickly. As with decision making, rate the situation by complexity and importance and invest time preparing accordingly.
For routine meetings with a volunteer organization, you may not need to spend as much time preparing as you would for a presentation to your biggest customer.
No matter what the situation, if you don’t have an answer, quickly admit that as well. While quick thinking will make you look intelligent, being honest and direct will enable you to gain respect.
Strong self-care practices are also vital to your preparation. Stay well-rested, hydrated, and nourished to enable your brain to function efficiently. Taking deep breaths will clear your mind and calm your nervous system as you prepare for an important event.
Regular meditation and movement will also help keep your mind sharp.
Mental stamina takes time to build. Be kind to yourself and focus on incremental improvement. Determination and perseverance will make thinking quickly a fluid practice over time.
Enric Batalla Robert
Social Media Marketing Manager, Silicon Valley High School
In order to perform at a high level in school, in the workplace, or just in life in general, the brain requires plenty of nurturing. Life often requires us to trust our instincts and make decisions on the spot or comprehend new information at a fast rate.
This is not always easy, and it can be overwhelming for those who need some extra time to gather their thoughts and come to the intended conclusion(s). With the proper training and dedication, anyone can teach themselves how to become a more efficient thinker.
Here are three ways to strengthen your brain and speed up thinking.
7. Exercise your brain
Just as our bodies need regular exercise to stay in shape, our brains do as well. A telltale sign of a “fit” brain is its ability to process a problem and come to a solution for said problem. Keep your brain in proper shape by picking up a hobby or two.
Hobbies are effective because engaging in an activity that makes you happy releases tension from the body and, therefore, the brain.
Hobbies also facilitate quicker thinking by prompting your brain to store and spread information throughout your mind. Due to the fact that hobbies generally occur on a regular basis, the brain is able to remember the pattern, store it, and later dig up the information the next time the hobby is performed. This is why newly learned activities become easier the more they are executed.
8. Get plenty of rest
A lack of sleep can have quite a negative impact on your cognitive performance. Not to mention, the brain is a very needy organ, absorbing 20% of the body’s energy each day. Giving your brain a proper amount of rest is essential for clear and efficient thinking.
When the brain is not well-rested, all of its functions slow down, and as a result, thinking is not only much slower but also not nearly as accurate, which is why staying up all night the day before a test is counterproductive.
Trying to perform in a sleep-deprived state has been proven to be similar to executing normal tasks while under the influence.
9. Maintain awareness
With awareness comes more thinking power. When we take the time to observe the events going on in the space around us, our brains are learning how to be more perceptive.
A perceptive mind is able to quickly assess new situations and come up with the appropriate solutions. Being able to maintain a high level of awareness comes with a variety of benefits.
Having this skill means that a conflict can be spotted and contained before it gets out of hand, and the brain will have a much easier time pondering difficult decisions when faced with them.
Those who practice maintaining awareness will also be able to contribute prompt and valuable feedback in conversations. They can even provide assistance in a state of emergency due to the fact that they remained present in the situation, which is why first responders have a high level of awareness at all times.
Being able to “think on your feet” comes with plenty of brain training through regular exercise and repetition.
Fast thinking is a major asset and being able to do so takes the pressure away in many areas of life. Quick thinkers will likely be happier and more confident because they are spending less time weighing complex decisions and more time trusting their instincts and practicing being mindful and aware.
Implementing these tips will ensure that your brain is consistently alert and ready to act.
10. Defer judgement
For the sake of this exercise, throw your “logic” out the window. Hang your concerns at the door – don’t worry, they’ll still be there when you’re done brainstorming! The intention is actually to let your mind and imagination run free.
11. Encourage “out-of-the-box” ideas
A brick as a pillow? An old, empty soda bottle as a telescope? Marshmallow gunk into glue? Sure! In the art of brainstorming, there is no box to limit your creativity, and all ideas have the possibility of leading to something great. Go for it.
12. Build on the ideas of others
Brainstorming can be an awesome, quick team exercise for long-time comrades to first-time strangers. Practice “yes and…” to build off ideas and momentum—marshmallow gunk into glue and using it to piece old bottles into a telescope.
13. Stay focused on topic
Let your ideas run free, and your focus run deep. Brainstorming is a great way to practice honing in on a particular topic or problem you or your team is looking to solve. Let focus fuel your creativity, not hinder it.
14. One conversation at a time
One of my favorite parts of brainstorming is it’s actually an exercise in listening as it is in innovation, ideation, teamwork, and creativity. Mulitple people, one conversation at a time.
15. Be visual
Whether you’re the next Picasso or think you don’t have a creative vibe in your body — challenge yourself and others to be visual. Drawing out your idea activates a different side of your brain, all things we encourage in brainstorming!
16. Go for quantity
More is more, and there’s no such thing as “too much” or “too big” of an idea when brainstorming. Remember, leave your logic and judgment (of yourself and others) at the door.
When we view brainstorming as a courageous act of play, we give ourselves and our teams the permission and encouragement to tap into an innovative collective process. Brainstorming can be a powerful tool in cultivating inclusion, diversity, equity, AND belonging. All through the lens of ideas as play.
Career Expert, Get Cover Letter
Quick thinking is the skill that will allow you to succeed in many areas, not only in professional activity but also in personal life. Here are some tips that I would like to give to anyone who wants to develop this ability.
18. Pay attention to details
Track everything that is happening around you, observe people, analyze their actions. Let the picture of your world become much wider.
Train your brain
There are several ways here: develop your hobbies, solve puzzles, or do things that are not typical for you. For example, walking around the house with your eyes closed, trying not to bump into walls and furniture, or doing everything with your left hand if you are right-handed)
Read more books
Many experts say 1 book per week will be helpful. If you don’t have time to read, listen to audiobooks on the way to work, to the fitness club, or to a meeting with friends.
Eat a balanced diet
In order to think well, one must constantly nourish the brain. For this, a balanced meal full of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats must be observed daily.
Business Coach | Founder, Ledu Education Ecosystem
19. Apply Pareto’s 80-20 rule
This principle or rule says that 20% of the information is essential and relevant in any piece of information that may include facts, people, analyses, etc. The rest 80% information is unimportant and irrelevant.
Pareto says that to become a quick thinker, we need to forget and ignore irrelevant information and focus only on the vital and relevant 20% of data. It helps us to remember the information better and makes our thinking quicker and efficient.
The benefit of 80-20 rule
The 80-20 rule of remembering and processing information plays a vital role in making quick decisions. As an educational consultant, I’ve suggested this rule to many of my clients and practiced it myself as well.
It benefits the best in making quick decisions because we just have the necessary information to make a decision, and our mind processes this little information quickly. Less and relevant information leads to faster processing, and which helps in quicker thinking and decision making.
HR manager, ResumeLab
20. Don’t get too hung up on the “right answer”
Whether it’s a memory issue, lack of confidence, or nerves when put on the spot, not thinking fast on your feet can feel frustrating at times.
Even improvisational actors say they had to train a lot to get comfortable with responding to spontaneous ideas being thrown at them. One thing that is echoed in their classes: don’t get too hung up on the “right answer.”
If you are being asked a question and all eyes are on you, trust your gut and give an answer. It may not be perfectly curated, but it has some feeling behind it, and people respond well to that.
If you would like to increase your thinking tempo, I found timed games helped me, like chess and Boggle. Playing a game with a timer ignites your nervous system a bit, so your brain knows it’s “go time.”
One thing that also worked for me was joining Toastmasters. This international speaking club gets you up in front of your peers, giving speeches from day one. All the talks are timed, and many of those talks are spontaneous “table topics.”
Having a weekly “thinking on my feet” practice really helped me develop this fast-thinking skill.
PhD Holder | Founder, Native Russian Teacher
21. Put yourself out of your comfort zone
The best way to become a quick thinker is to put yourself out of your comfort zone constantly. We only grow when we are faced with problems. When we are faced with challenges, we develop the ability to think and react quickly.
As a result of my 11-year career as a teacher of a foreign language, I concluded that my students had the best progress when they had no other choice but to use the language.
When the situation was like that, their brains were forced to think of ways to communicate in a foreign language, which eventually helped them in other aspects of their lives too.
Many of my students are managers who are always in control of their ordinary life situations. However, as this was a new language for them, they had to learn how to deal with a completely new situation.
They were beginners, insecure, and not confident—exactly the opposite of what they were used to.
Speaking the new language, they learned how to improvise and react effectively. There was no time to think, as the conversation was flowing and they had to say something. At first, it was difficult, but later they got used to it and developed their quick thinking.
Not only did they improve their communication skills, but they also learned how to act in situations that are not comfortable for them. So, when it comes to the work environment, they became better in negotiations, as they developed the capability of quick thinking thanks to the foreign language they have learned.
Related: 17 Best Negotiation Books
Therefore, learning a new language and communicating with people, even though you don’t know the language perfectly, is a great way to boost your quick thinking capabilities, which is one of the most important traits in today’s work environment.
President, Worldwide College Tours
One of the most important skills to have is being a quick thinker. As a quick thinkers, we can in any situation and adapt quickly to the idea or problem that is at hand. While some are born quick thinkers, others can learn to be quick thinkers over time.
Here are three ways for someone to practice thinking on their feet:
22. Educate yourself on the topic
Sometimes when we are in a crisis or situation that needs quick thinking, we stall because we’re searching for the answer and weighing the options in our minds. If you know and understand the subject, you will be able to make snap decisions.
A large component of quick thinking includes being confident in your decision.
The purpose of quick thinking is to be able to make decisions without fear or regret diligently. This takes practice and confidence in one’s decision-making.
Try to exercise your brain as much as possible by doing activities to keep your brain stimulated. These activities can include reading, physical exercise, and mind games that will help you understand situations and think quicker.
Everyone should work on their quick-thinking skills as early as possible. We all face situations that require quick thinking – whether it be at home, work, school, or other.
Students in high school can work on their quick-thinking skills with simple school tasks. This will help prepare them for a future no matter which career path they follow.
Co-Founder, Parenting Nerd
23. Read relevant books
If you have trouble being a quick thinker, I’d suggest reading books on the relevant topic. This is a budget-friendly way to sharpen your thinking skills.
These books contain tips and tricks which help a person learn how to think better, smartly, efficiently, and quicker. Some of the books that I recommend people to read include:
- Quick Thinking on Your Feet by Valerie Pierce
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
24. Refer to an expert
Another great way to sharpen your thinking capabilities is by consulting with an expert. These people have learned over the years how to think while being on their feet.
Some of these experts were naturally good and quick thinkers, while others learned how to establish this skill over time. The reason for consulting these experts is that they’ll teach you how you can strengthen your thinking power and where you are lacking.
25. Prepare yourself for small, mental battles throughout the day
Quick-thinking is a useful trait to have in nearly every aspect of adult life. It can make you wittier, better at your job, a better conversationalist, a better problem solver, and keep you safe during everyday tasks that could be potentially harmful, like driving or cooking.
It’s an unfortunate reality of life that there may come a time when you’re under some sort of physical threat, and quick thinking can be a literal lifesaver.
If you are pulled into a dangerous situation with an assailant of some kind, there is no better defensive physical skill to have than krav maga.
Krav maga helps you make the most out of quick thinking. It teaches you to make fast, important decisions in high-pressure situations, like if you need to protect yourself from a weapon. Krav maga is all about analyzing and adapting to unique, real-life situations, being alert, and thinking quickly so that the move you make can be at its most effective.
We can learn to think quickly in our everyday lives by following similar logic and preparing ourselves for small, mental battles throughout the day.
For example, let’s take something as simple as preparing for a shopping trip. That sounds like a lame example, but come on, we’re not all Jason Bourne!
A big part of making fast decisions is ensuring that you’re aware of your surroundings leading up to when the time to make a move presents itself.
If you need to make something for dinner one evening and you haven’t planned it yet, you can plan it quickly in your head—IF you’ve been aware of your surroundings.
What have you had to eat the past few nights in a row? What ingredients do you have already on hand? What pots and pans can’t you use because they’re in the dishwasher?
Because a large part of thinking is going through things that have happened in the past in order to make a decision in the future, cutting out the time it takes to think about the past naturally helps you make faster decisions. It sounds a little ambiguous, but it’s a real skill that can be practiced and learned.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I apply quick thinking in my daily life?
Quick thinking can be applied in many different situations, for example:
In the workplace: Being a quick thinker can help you make better decisions in high-pressure situations, such as when a deadline is approaching or when there is an unexpected problem to solve.
In social situations: Quick thinking can help you respond more effectively in social situations, such as when you need to think quickly in a conversation or handle a difficult situation.
In emergencies: Being a quick thinker can be crucial in emergencies, such as when responding quickly to a car accident or medical emergency.
In sports: Being a quick thinker can help you make lightning-fast decisions in sports, such as when you need to change direction or make a pass quickly.
Are there pitfalls to thinking fast?
While quick thinking can be a valuable skill, you should also be aware of some potential pitfalls:
Overconfidence: Thinking quickly can sometimes lead to overestimating yourself and not considering all the facts before deciding. It’s essential to take the time to gather all necessary information before making a decision.
Impulsivity: Thinking quickly can also lead to impulsiveness, which can be detrimental in some situations. It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of a decision before making it.
Overthinking: Quick thinkers can sometimes overanalyze situations or get bogged down in details.
Tunnel vision: Quick thinking can sometimes lead to tunnel vision, focusing on one solution or course of action and not considering other options. It’s important to keep an open mind and consider multiple options before deciding.
Can stress affect the ability to think quickly?
Yes, stress can significantly impact the ability to think quickly. When stressed, our bodies release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can trigger the “fight or flight” response.
While this response can be helpful in certain situations (such as when we need to react quickly to a physical threat), it can also impair our cognitive functions in other ways.
For example, when stressed, our brains can become overly focused on potential threats or negative outcomes, making it difficult to think creatively or consider alternative solutions. Stress can also make it harder to concentrate and remember information accurately.
What are common barriers to quick thinking?
Several factors can interfere with our ability to think quickly, including:
Stress and anxiety: When we feel stressed or anxious, our cognitive abilities can be impaired, making it harder to think clearly and make decisions quickly.
Lack of preparation: It can be harder to react quickly and effectively when unfamiliar with a situation or haven’t thought through possible scenarios.
Lack of concentration: Our brain has difficulty processing information when distracted or not fully focused on a task.
Fatigue: Fatigue or lack of sleep can slow down our thought processes and make concentrating difficult.
Information overload: When we receive too much information at once, it can be overwhelming and lead to slower decision-making.
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