The Art of Thinking Clearly 2

The Art of Thinking Clearly

Did you know the average person’s brain processes about 70,000 thoughts daily?

Thinking is something we all do, but we usually take it for granted. 

As a UX professional, the ability to apply the concept of ‘design thinking’ to your thoughts is vital. And there’s a difference between good and bad thinking. Good thinking takes time and costs money, but bad thinking is even more expensive. After all, fixing problems caused by narrow-minded solutions will always cost more in the long run. 

Looking for ways to improve your thinking and become more aware of your thoughts? Read on for our practical tips. 

What do you already know?

The discovery phase of any project is crucial. You must consider how much you already know about the product, users, business and processes. 

Immersing yourself in this information will help you to gain a deeper understanding of all aspects, which means you’ll be armed with the knowledge required to make well-informed decisions. 

A good test of how much you know is writing it down. If the page ends up being blank, your mind probably is too. That means you need to ask more questions and start challenging assumptions. To get started, try putting yourself in the user’s shoes. 

Be mindful that there will always be some subject areas where your knowledge is limited. This is absolutely fine – as a UX designer, your role is to extract and use your critical thinking skills to process the information logically. UX designers tend to be well-equipped for the task as they have fewer distractions and can look at things objectively. 

Clear your head

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “Go clear your head”, and we’ve all struggled to sleep after a busy day. 

Feeling overwhelmed with information means our minds end up racing to try and process all that we’ve consumed that day. 

From the media, finances or worrying about what other people think of you, the cognitive load becomes too much, and the fog descends. 

It might seem obvious, but sometimes it helps to think about less. What can you afford not to think about? 

Some things are more important than others, so you’ll want to prioritise things like health and family. But if something you saw on the news is playing on your mind or an Instagram post has made you self-conscious, it’s probably time to reduce your consumption. 

Try focusing on the things you can affect, acknowledge your thoughts and cut out anything unnecessary. 

Think more broadly

Some day-to-day projects require us to think more broadly and explore every avenue. This inevitably takes more time – it’s not just a case of acknowledging things – you have to dig a little deeper. 

You can try a few methods to help you gain a better understanding and see the bigger picture. Remove unnecessary distractions and take a step back. Go for a walk or leave your desk to make a drink. Sit in the garden, allow your mind to wander and take time to explore those broader thoughts. 

If you try too hard to focus your thinking, it’s easy to become narrow-minded and fixate on one problem. This might lead you to miss other ideas and details for the problem that you’re trying to solve. 

It’s essential to carve out time to allow your mind to wander, even if it’s to dismiss an idea and move on to the next one. It’s all about exploration – and that takes time.

Remain open-minded

During the early stages of a project, some projects might seem obvious. It’s all too easy to begin solutioning, even if it’s done mentally. 

The main reason for this is that our cognitive biases distort our thinking. We jump to what we’re familiar with without considering other implications or root causes. 

Resist the temptation to go with your first idea – let’s be honest, it’s usually the worst or something we have preconceived.  

Try sketching your ideas

This one might not be for everyone, but it’s worth giving it a go. You might find that creating a few basic sketches helps you to be more considered. It might be a specific component that will probably never make it to production, but sketching it out means you can begin to think about how users will use the product practically. 

Sketching will force you to think about things you might have overlooked or consider additional useful functionality to solve problems. You’ll probably end up screwing it up and throwing it away, but sketching your ideas will help validate them, so it’s worth the time and effort it takes. 

Thinking is complex, but like most skills, practice will only help you to improve. The more you do it, the easier it will be to find ways to help you become better at it.


Marc Bowers
Marc Bowers
Articles: 14

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