The theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman, was once visited in his office by a historian, who wanted to interview him. Casting his eyes around the room, the historian saw Feynman’s notebooks, and expressed his delight at seeing such “wonderful records of Feynman’s thinking.”
“No, no!” Feynman objected. “They aren’t a record of my thinking process. They are my thinking process. I actually did the work on the paper.”
“Well,” the historian replied, “the work was done in your head, but the record of it is still here.”
Feynman would not let this matter rest, so important it was to him. “No, it’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work on paper, and this is the paper.”
Chances are you are not a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, like Feynman. Neither am I. Yet I believe your brain and mine function
in exactly the same way that Feynman’s brain did.
Thinking It Out
One of the major take-aways that we can glean from Richard Feynman is to write, draw or sketch our thinking out on paper or on screen.
All too few professionals appreciate this simple truth: we work things out by writing them out.
There is something that happens, a sort of feedback loop, that, as we write or notate, the writing actually clarifies what we are thinking about. Whatever our thinking profession is, we will find solutions as we write, draw or sketch them out.
Learning how to learn, how to get better at my work, has always been a passion of mine.
People ask me about my process. In the next few articles on this blog, I want to share some of that process with you. I call it my personal thinking process.
When I took steps to get my thoughts outside of my head, when I externalised them onto the page or screen, they became clearer. Once I did that, a process emerged.
Over the next few blog articles, the process I will share with you can become personal to you too. You might care to follow my process, to begin with, then feel free to adapt it.
This process is also something that will help you improve your thinking, specifically your ability to get clarity, to better connect your thoughts and ideas, as well as create new ones.
Finally, it is a process, because its parts work together in an intentional sequence, producing something that is greater than the sum of the parts; much greater. Like organs in your body, each needs to interact with the other organs in order to function properly. In the same way, if you follow this process as a whole you are likely to experience prolific productivity.
Preserving Valuable Ideas
You need a process to preserve and reference your valuable ideas and insights over time. Without a doubt, some of these ideas will be original to you. This process will help you collect your thoughts in one place. The process also provides you with a means to revise and improve these ideas.
More than that, if you master this process, you will find that your productivity will increase significantly.
I will write more about my personal thinking process in the next few articles.