Have you ever been in a situation where you had to think fast and struggled to come up with an answer? Maybe you just want to feel a little sharper in your daily dealings with people. Learning to think quickly can yield positive results for your career, education or personal life.
Method 1 of 4: Think fast in the moment
Step 1. Relax your mind
This sounds easier than it is when you want to give a quick answer on the spot. However, you can calm yourself using relaxation techniques, such as:
- Take a deep breath. Your heart rate will slow and move more oxygen to your brain.
- Repeat a positive and affirming message to yourself. This can be as simple as 'I can do this'. If you are often faced with situations that require quick thinking, you can prepare a phrase ahead of time so that those specific words immediately come to mind.
- Tense your muscles for a few seconds and then release. The effort will help you focus. Choose muscles that cannot be seen, such as the biceps or the thigh muscles - you don't want the questioner to notice your stress.
Step 2. Listen carefully to the question
Make sure you understand what the questioner is asking by looking them straight in the eye and listening carefully to the question. Remove all distractions by putting away your cell phone, turning off the TV, and closing your laptop.
You can also study the questioner's body language. When the person asks the question, pay attention to his or her eyes, facial expressions, and body position. For example, if the person makes eye contact, smiles and turns to you, these are all good signs that he or she is interested in what you have to say. However, keep in mind that facial expressions can be misleading. People are good at masking how they feel by using their facial expressions
Step 3. Ask to repeat the question
If you don't understand the question, politely ask if it can be repeated. It's important to make sure you fully understand what someone is asking. This will also give you some more time to think about it.
Say something like, "Can you please repeat the question?"
Step 4. Repeat the question itself
You can also repeat the question to yourself to make it easier to understand. Repeating the question out loud may help you understand it better and give you more time to come up with an answer.
Don't be afraid to ask for explanations. If the question is unclear or uses unfamiliar jargon, a simple clarification can help you answer quickly and competently. Say something like, "Can you explain what ___ means?" Or "I don't quite understand. Can you rephrase the question please?'
Step 5. Don't deviate from the point
By focusing on a point and the supporting information, your first response will be more focused. Don't dwell on superfluous details. If the questioner wants to know more, he or she will ask another question -- and in the meantime you have shown that you can think and inform quickly.
For example, if your questioner asks, "How long have you worked as a salesperson?" then your response should be short. You might respond with, "About eight years." Don't go into detail about all the places you've worked in those eight years unless the questioner asks
Method 2 of 4: Prepare to think fast
Step 1. Prepare for "what if" scenarios
Chances are, people at work, school, or other commitments will occasionally ask you for things. Take the time (if not under pressure) to consider situations that might require quick thinking, and plan how to answer these questions.
For example, your teacher may ask you a question related to something you had to read in class, such as, "What was the main character's name?" or "What did you think of the book?" Be mindful of questions your teacher may ask and try to prepare your answers so that you don't have to pause before answering
Step 2. Practice speaking and writing clearly
Clear communication will help you quickly exchange information with others and avoid miscommunication.
- Work on eliminating vocal tics, such as excessive "ums" and "uhs."
- Use non-verbal cues such as eye contact and well-placed pauses.
- Use proper grammar.
- Check how formal a given situation is and decide how to respond.
Step 3. Make sure you are well informed
Be aware of the specifics and background information of projects so that you are not caught off guard by a question. Get experience in your specific field and you'll have laid the foundations to quickly draw well-founded conclusions.
For example, if you are a nurse working with psychiatric patients, learning as much as you can about psychiatric nursing interventions can help you react quickly in different situations
Step 4. Turn off electronics and other distractions
If you know that a situation calls for quick thinking, avoid any distraction that could distract your attention from the task at hand.
- Eliminate ambient noise, such as that from the radio, television or music through the headphones.
- Close social media accounts and extra tabs in your internet browser while you work.
Step 5. Minimize multitasking
Concentrating on one task at a time will help you think more focused and react faster when confronted with a question or problem. Try to stay focused on only one task at a time, even when you're busy.
For example, if you have a line of customers waiting for service, and the phone is ringing, choose one thing to focus on. For example, you can focus on the customers before you and let someone else answer the phone, or even let voicemail handle it. Or, if you have a lot of homework to do, pick one assignment to work on. Complete that assignment and then move on to the next one
Method 3 of 4: Cultivating quick thinking
Step 1. Believe you can get better
Studies show that learning from your mistakes improves your mental processes. Believe you can get better at quick thinking and you will! Take the time to analyze your successes, but more importantly, analyze your failures. Think of mistakes as a necessary step in gaining knowledge.
Step 2. Undertake quick thinking activities
Your brain is like a muscle that responds to training. An added benefit is that participating in quick-thinking activities can actually improve your mood. You feel happier and more creative as you learn to think faster.
- Play games to improve your reading comprehension. Read an article or chapter from a book as fast as you can, and give yourself 20 seconds to quickly summarize it.
- Go through the alphabet and recite words or names for each letter. Do this as fast as you can, or try to come up with a certain number of words for each letter.
- Play with timers.
- Take online quizzes or apps that train the brain.
- Quickly name things you've done or seen recently -- cars, books, movies, etc.
- Play improv games with a friend or colleague.
Step 3. Use all your senses
The more senses you use, the more parts of your brain will remember what information you want ready. Match colors, smells, or bodily sensations to words and ideas.
For example, while reading a newspaper article, you may be able to remember the information better if you pay attention to the sensory details, such as the way the author describes someone's appearance or actions
Step 4. Organize tasks you give to your brain
Use a calendar to track events so that your precious brain space is not taken up by data that can be easily saved for later reference.
For example, you can write down appointments you have, dates when you have to pay bills or lists of tasks
Step 5. Repeat the information you really want to know
Repeating information out loud or writing it down will strengthen the neural pathways that make up your memory. Repeat important information to make it easier to remember.
For example, you could repeat the date of an important presentation or the names of your new classmates
Method 4 of 4: Keeping your brain healthy
Step 1. Get regular exercise
Research shows that regular exercise increases the number of small blood vessels that carry oxygen to your brain. Exercise also lowers blood pressure and can help manage stress.
When faced with a particularly stressful situation, take a walk. The combination of exercise and a change in your physical environment will help your brain refocus and stimulate faster thinking
Step 2. Eat healthy
Your brain needs a lot of energy to function properly, so it's important to eat what encourages clear thinking. Some foods are better for the brain, while others can make your thinking blurry.
- Foods, such as fortified grains, whole grains, salmon, flaxseeds, blueberries, turmeric and green leafy vegetables, help your brain stay healthy.
- Reduce your consumption of saturated fats and unhealthy cholesterol from animal sources, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Step 3. Maintain good emotional health
People who are anxious or depressed tend to score lower on cognitive tests. Talk to a friend, seek help, or see your doctor if you think you may be suffering from excessive anxiety or depression.
Step 4. Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation and exhaustion also cause low results on cognitive tests. Adolescents and adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to function properly. Your brain won't fire quickly when tired.
- Reading books can also help as they give you a more vivid imagination and creativity.
- If you have a smartphone, there are apps that are specifically intended to train your brain. Free versions come from Lumosity, Brain Age Game, Clockwork Brain, Memory Trainer, etc.
- Devoting yourself to something that interests you or makes sense to you will help you remember things better. Starting a new course is a good start.
- Avoid overloading or stressing your brain. It's good to take a break every now and then.
- You may or may not notice immediate changes. Learning is a process.