Focused vs Diffused Thinking: What are they and can they help you be more productive?

What is focused (deep) thinking?

Focused thinking is pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a focused, concentrated and deliberate form of thinking. We use focused thinking when we are doing something important such as trying to learn something brand new, solve problems or perform special tasks.

What is diffused thinking?

Unsurprisingly, diffused thinking is the opposite to focused thinking. It’s much more relaxed and helps you to recover from the heavy impact focused/deep thinking has on your brain.

What is shallow thinking?

Replying to emails, filling out paperwork, paying bills — these are examples of shallow thinking. It’s like being on autopilot, your brain just slugs through the work without much need for creative or deep thought. The tasks are very repetitive, but we all have to do them.

Which is better for productivity?

The truth is, we need all three! They all need to be balanced to achieve your optimum productivity.

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash


“That secular cloister, where I hatched my most beautiful ideas and where we had such good times together.” — Albert Einstein.

Diffused thinking in practice

Salvador Dali and Thomas Edison employed diffused thinking to spark their creativity and inspiration. Dali would sit in a chair, key in hand and start to fall asleep. While drifting off, his mind would wander with new thoughts and ideas. When he finally fell asleep, the key would fall to the floor, make a loud noise and wake him up. Upon waking, he would often have a brand new insight ready. Edison would often do the same using marbles.

Examples of how to utilise each way of thinking:

#1. Sleep

Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

Wrapping up

Balancing focused, diffused, and shallow thinking is important to avoid burning out and maximising your productivity. Alternate between them and you’ll find yourself one step closer on the way to better productivity.



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Timespace is the ultimate productivity planner that incorporates elements of mindfulness so you can maintain a healthy balance between work and play.