How to Think Faster

Thinking faster is quite a skill to develop but, how? Plus, what does it mean to think faster?

Thinking faster

I have been interested in human performance for as long as I can remember. I was always very athletic but not overly smart in the classroom. I wasn't a struggling student, I just didn't thrive with course work. Now, I enjoy researching topics like it's a pass time. I think I enjoyed it way back then too, I just didn't know it.

I was that annoying child who would always ask 'why?' Not as a game, I just wanted to know. If this thing is supposed to do that, why wouldn't you design it to include this also?

I think where I got most pleasure and still do, is looking at complex topics or challenges and try to break the moving parts down. I struggling to break things down mathematically, but with people I have far more success. So, my questions and pleasure of breaking down complex systems to smaller more understandable parts has lead me to researching human behaviour. Decision making, skill acquisition and all things related to the learning space. I can't get enough.

The question I ponder most when researching and experimenting is;
How can I learn something faster than I otherwise should?
How can I teach someone, faster than they otherwise should?
What systems (biologically or cognitively) can I use to leverage the learning process?

Cool questions to attempt to uncover. I'm not sure there will ever be 'The Solution'. I imagine it's more like moving the needle towards the 'more often' and 'more correct' direction. More good and less bad.

Recently, a lot of my thinking has been centered around making better and faster decisions. It's a fair argument to ask, why not just aim for better decisions, why does it need to be faster also? Well, the sports I really love are quick and quick and correct decisions are where the magic happens. If we are talking about life decisions or business decisions, time would be less of my focus.

Fast Learning

Two sports I am mad about. Tennis and Formula 1. A close second is surfing, athletics and rock climbing. All for very different reasons.

This article is focused on tennis with a touch of formula 1.

A few blog articles back, I discussed an app we are developing with a fairly brilliant company out of New York - De Cervo. (Article)In essence, this app will be designed to speed up the decision making process for tennis players. The first goal will be to speed up decision making around the return of serve.

I won't bore you with how it works, just that it will get your brain firing from the moment you start using it. The entire solution is built on the idea of 'making your brain make faster decisions that are correct more often' - Yep, thinking faster in certain a very specific situation.

The above is a tech solution that you can take anywhere in your pocket. Brilliant but not yet ready. What other ways can you train yourself to think faster?

I want to break down the mechanism of decision making, if you will indulge me for a few seconds.

Imagine we have a tennis player in position to return the serve. The server steps up to the baseline. There are now two areas of vision. Immediate/focused vision and the outside world in the peripheral. All is input via the visual cortex, however, where our cone of attention lies, is what 'information' we hold on to. We decide what we see or we learn (over time) where we steer our attention. Let's use Andre Agassi to help me for a second. As you know, Andre was one of the best returners of the game. What did he 'see' that others didn't? The information coming into his visual cortex was practically identical. How he process that information was where he differed.

We want to train the what we 'look' at, what we see on contact and how quickly we process that information to make better decisions - That ultimately lead to us having more impact with our return of serve. I think I can best demonstrate this in a video here.

So we have: Environment (opponent and their movement) - Expectations (Past experience) - Visual cue - Processing information - Decision - Motor response (reaction). The goal to speed up this process while maintaining and improving accuracy of the decision.

Reaction time

Our next article will expand on the above with some exercises you can add into your training to think and react faster. Activities you can do at home, plus some game changing things you can add on court. All coming up in How to Think faster - Part Deux