Deep Thinking in The Age of Distraction

 “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” Plato said that. It’s profound. Thinking is the core of our being.

In an age of information overload, depth of thinking is becoming less and less valued. The most common barrier to deep thinking is distractions. Distractions simply crowd our minds with inferior thoughts. Modern life is overstimulated, technology-driven, and information-saturated.

Information — even good information — can become a distraction if you’re not thinking about it, evaluating it, or analysing it. Instead of making time for thought, our lives are cluttered with shallow thinking habits.

Today, the first thing people do when faced with a moment of downtime is to reach for their smartphone. “The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking,” said Martin Heidegger.

Our insatiable need to tune into information — at the expense of making time to think, relax, refresh and recover is costing us. We’re addicted to distraction, and it’s holding us back. Interruption-free space is dying. People fear isolation.

Despite the incredible power and potential of pausing for thought, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for sacred space to think, and our imaginations suffer the consequences.

The practice of deep thinking is increasingly becoming difficult for many people. In our ever-increasing digital world, every waking moment is “connected time,” for millions of people.

Deep thinking is how we increase our number of valuable and useful thoughts. Your quantity of valuable thoughts has a direct effect on your quantity of valuable actions. We all think, but not all of us think deeply, which is thinking beyond what your mind defaults to.

But the most effective, successful and innovative people schedule time for deep thinking.

The deeper thinker you are, the more rigorous your thinking is, and the more you exercise and challenge your mind, the deeper your understanding can be.

Deep thinking makes your actions more meaningful, focused and valuable. Deep thinking requires effort and patience. On the one hand, effort is necessary to learn the fine art of thinking deeply. Effort is required to maintain one’s focus on one train of thought.

Pause for thought

“Time to think” is a priority if you want to be increasingly efficient, solve problems better and improve how you work.

Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation and encourage productivity and creativity.

With distraction always at our fingertips, many people are in desperate need of a little time to think.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it, we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist, Tim Kreider, wrote in The New York Times.

Thinking involves slowing down and soaking in a problem and your creative brain thrives in a “break” mode. All great creators and innovators make time to rest, get a break or think. Leonardo Da Vinci had a bed in his studio and when patrons accused him of wasting time, he said “If I don’t do this, you don’t get the work.”

You can only create time to think if you have the desire to think. You need to understand the importance of thought. If you don’t give the brain breaks and moments to process information, it will take them in the form of loss of concentration, or mental breakdown.

Everyone could use more “white space” during the week. Commit to spending a few hours every week on thinking and reflection.

At some point in the week, stop, sit down and just think.

When you enter a space outside the flow of targets and deadlines, you can start to focus on what is happening in your life right now.

Just giving your brain a chance to power down and refresh makes a huge difference in life. You’ve got to create a thinking conducive environment in your natural setting.

Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved problems. It allows ideas and new projects the space to grow and make better connections.

You can only get better ideas if you take time to think about your thinking.

Make time for ‘think time’!

You can’t do your best work while moving from one jam-packed day to the next. Life is lived at such a pace today that thinking — quality, intentional thinking — doesn’t just happen.

Like an artist creating an oil painting, you must take a few steps back from the canvas of your life, to assess all your activities and accomplishments — the individual brush strokes of your life — from a wider, more holistic perspective.

With acknowledgement to Thomas Oppong

Founder @Alltopstartups. Curator at, Columnist at Inc. Magazine. Featured at Business Insider, Quartz, CNBC, Entrepreneur, HuffPost, etc.