Improve Critical Thinking Skills for Success

Over the years, critical thinking skills have been at the top of my daily habits to practice. Why is that? Well, critical thinking calls for us to practice metacognition – thinking about our thinking. When we stop and think about our actions, they become more purposeful, and we actually become more productive. This might actually sound counterintuitive. Why would critical thinking strategies that call for us to slow down make us more productive? One of the strongest factors to a productive day is motivation. When we are not motivated, it is hard for any of us to start a task let alone finish it in a reasonable amount of time. However, when we use our critical thinking skills to create purpose behind our actions, our motivation skyrockets.

How Motivation Plays an Important Role?

As an executive functions coach, I have learned that critical thinking skills are the stepping stone to finding intrinsic motivation. What is intrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within us. It is the difference between saying “I should probably do that” vs. “I need to do that.” Intrinsic motivation grants us a sense of purpose and the rush of urgency. The critical thinking process is all about finding the intrinsic motivation behind each task. When we integrate metacognition in our daily planning, we begin to notice two things. First, there are tasks that don’t excite us because we don’t understand why we have to do it. Then, there are tasks that fill us with excitement, joy, and a little bit of fear. The fear we feel is an excitement for the challenge to come. Critical thinking skills help us pinpoint what tasks motivate us.   

My Critical Thinking Strategy

Tapping into my critical thinking skills is quite challenging at times. I get caught up in the rush of the day and tend not to slow down and process my thoughts. However, what I have found to work and what works for my clients with executive functions challenges is this. 

  1. Create a Balanced Daily Routine: The critical thinking process is very taxing on our brains. This is why establishing a balanced daily routine is important. Set structures each day helps us better set personal expectations, leaving us with more energy to be thoughtful. Important set structures include proper timing of meals, exercise and breaks. Finding what is a balanced daily routine for yourself is in itself a critical thinking process! 
  2. Setting Time Aside to Journal: Journaling is one of the most effective critical thinking strategies for those that have executive functions challenges. Some individuals are able to sit and marinate in their thoughts. However, I find the structure of writing set prompts and physically processing my thoughts prevents me from thinking in circles. Some set prompts could be “What do I need to do today and why?” or “What was challenging today and why?”  When using journaling as one of my critical thinking strategies, I like to attach “and why.” This serves as a reminder to think purposefully. 
  3. Take a Break When Things Get Overwhelming: It is so important to recognize that critical thinking is the same as purposeful action. If we go about planning out our day with purpose, we will tend to be using our critical thinking skills a lot. It is important to recognize when our critical thinking capacity is at its limits. When I feel spacey, overwhelmed, a tad bit too stressed, I like to take a break and go for a walk. The sun, fresh air, and breeze all help release happy hormones in our brains that help us relax. Gives our critical thinking skills a break and time to recharge!

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