Focused vs. Diffused Thinking: You Need Both to Learn and Solve Problems, The Incrementalist, Ep. 11

To learn new concept and skills, you need to engage both the focused mode and diffused mode of thinking. Learning is a meta skill that allows you to turn information into intelligence and knowledge into expertise. If you know how to learn, you can broaden your passions and not just follow existing ones.

To solve problems, you must access and activate the neural networks in your brain.  There’s the task-positive network and the task-negative network. Task-positive is focused mode. And task-negative is diffused mode. You cannot use both at the same time. Instead, you move from one to the next to fully understand a problem and generate the best ideas to solve it.

In episode 11 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will discover:

  • The difference between the focused mode and the diffused mode of thinking
  • The reasons you need both modes to learn new things and solve problems
  • The limitations of the focused mode, e.g. Einstellung effect
  • The limitations of the diffused mode, e.g. lack of deliberate practice
  • Salvador Dali and Thomas Edison’s use of micronaps (hypnagogia) to get unstuck and generate ideas
  • How to activate each thinking mode and move from one mode to the other
  • Why mind mapping is better than linear note taking for connecting ideas and seeing the big picture

Resources cited: 

Stay focused & diffused,

Dyan Williams

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps


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