Boost Your Strategic Thinking While Improving Your Memory of MinutiaSeptember 1, 2014

September 1, 2014

Boost Your Strategic Thinking While Improving Your Memory of Minutia

Hurt,Jeff-VelvetChainsaw110x140Jeff Hurt is executive vice president, education and engagement, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, and is based in Dallas, Texas. Velvet Chainsaw Consulting exclusively services companies and associations with their annual meetings, conferences, education and events. They also help technology, service and membership organizations establish and execute plans and processes that result in improved business results. Hurt has worked in the events/nonprofit arena for more than 20 years including Keep America Beautiful as a consultant/trainer/writer; Keep Texas Beautiful as education coordinator; professional development manager for Meeting Professionals International; professional development manager for Promotional Products Association International; and director of education and events for the National Association of Dental Plans. Originally published by Jeff Hurt in “Velvet Chainsaw Midcourse Corrections.” Contact Hurt at 214-886-3174 or

How strategic is your thinking? Do you crave information? Do you believe that more is actually better? Do you desire data, data and more data?

If you hunger after more and better ideas at all cost, your info-craving habits actually zap your brain’s energy. The persistent pace of focusing on details makes it more difficult for your brain to decipher and understand the big picture.

Details or Big Ideas

According to cognitive neuroscience expert and author Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D.*, when you focus on remembering minutia and details, it adversely affects your ability to engage in strategic thinking.

The access to more information is not, on its own, making us smarter. More likely, quite the opposite is true, says Chapman.

Exposure to large volumes of information steals and freezes your brainpower.

However, according to Chapman’s research, when you focus and engage in strategic, abstract thinking, you improve your ability to remember the details. You boost both your strategic and detailed thinking!

Defining a Strategic Brain

So what exactly is a strategic brain?

When you use your brain strategically, it filters information by deliberately sorting input and output. The approach is two-pronged:

  1. Attend to necessarily essential information.
  2. At the same time, filter out extraneous data that is less critical to the task at hand.

In contrast a nonstrategic brain takes in all information, according to Dr. Chapman. You need to strive to build a strategic brain, not a detail-focused brain. A strategic brain is a brain changer. And a life changer, she says.

A strategic brain also helps you handle the details better!

Multitasking Causes the Brain to Lose Balance

Multitasking doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth.

What we call multitasking is actually alternate tasking. Shifting attention from one task to a second task and then back to the first one.

Each brain shift requires increased mental effort. As the brain shifts, working memory from the first task is lost. Instead of doing one task well, two tasks are done poorly.

Our need to respond quickly to emails, texts and phone calls, cross items off our to-do list and juggle countless demands is masked as productivity.

In reality, when we multitask and constantly respond to distractions, we are running over nails and broken glass that flattens our tires into mental exhaustion, says Chapman. We lose our brain balance.

Improving Your Brain’s Gatekeeper

Your brain’s frontal lobe acts as a gatekeeper. It can focus on certain information while blocking the rest.

One way to improve how you learn, ignite your imagination, and boost your big picture thinking is to practice strategic thinking. You have to adopt the principle that less is more says Chapman. You have to engage your gatekeeper.

One way to improve how you learn, ignite your imagination, and boost your big picture thinking is to practice strategic thinking. 

Here’s one way Chapman suggests to improve your strategic thinking:

Practice focusing on one core task for a minimum of 15 minutes. Don’t let any interruptions distract you. Be hyper-vigilant to keep the focus on that one task. Then take a break.

Repeat that process several times a day for several days and weeks. Only with practice can the brain then filter out the superfluous information flooding our senses.

Chapman says, we must remember this paradox:

Your brain works smarter when you make it slow down. I&FMM

*Hat tips to Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., the author of Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy, and Focus, (Free Press, January 1, 2013). Chapman is the founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and a Distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. In “Make Your Brain Smarter,” renowned cognitive neuroscientist introduces the latest research in brain science and shows how to tailor a program to strengthen your brain’s capacity to think smarter. In this all-inclusive book, Dr. Chapman delivers a comprehensive “fitness” plan for a healthier brain and includes strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, increase productivity, enhance decision-making and strengthen how your the brain works at every age.

Back To Top