The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Externalization'?

Externalization is the process of transforming our thoughts into some sort of external form, typically by writing or speaking. We respond better to stimuli in our Environment than our own internal thoughts. We can improve our productivity by converting our internal thoughts into an external form.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Externalization'

One of the quirks about how your mind works is that it handles information from outside of your head better than the thoughts that are rattling around inside of your head.

If you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer or coach, you know what I mean. When exercising by yourself, it’s very easy to listen to the little voice inside your head that says, “this really hurts — you should stop” — even if you’ll get better results by continuing.

When working with someone else, the little voice goes away, since there’s a person in your environment who’s encouraging you to push yourself just a little bit more. As a result, you get a better workout.

Since we respond more easily to stimuli in our Environment than our own internal thoughts, there’s a simple method we can use to improve our productivity — we can convert our internal thoughts into an external form our minds can use more effectively.

Externalization takes advantage of our perceptual abilities in a very intelligent way. By converting our internal thought processes into an external form, externalization essentially gives us the ability to re-input information into our own brains via a different channel, which gives us access to additional cognitive resources we can use to process the same information in a different way.

There are two primary ways to externalize your thoughts: writing and speaking. Writing (or drawing) is the best way to capture ideas, plans, and tasks. Not only does writing give you the ability to store information in a form you can reference later, it gives your mind the opportunity to examine what you know from a different angle. Challenges and issues that seem insurmountable while they’re bouncing around in your frontal lobe can often be solved surprisingly quickly after they’re put on paper.

Capturing your ideas on paper makes them easier to share with others, in addition to archiving your thoughts for later reference and review. As the saying goes, “The palest ink is clearer than the fondest memory.” Notebooks and journals, regularly used, are worth their weight in gold.

Speaking—to yourself or to another person—is another effective method of externalization. Vocal externalization explains why most of us have had the experience of solving our own problems while talking with a friend or colleague. By the time you’re done talking, you’re likely to have more insight on your problem — even if your listener didn’t say a word.

The key to vocal externalization is to find an audience who is willing to listen patiently and avoid interrupting you as you talk through an issue. Even talking to yourself or an inanimate object can help: explaining your problem to a rubber duck, teddy bear, action figure, or other anthropomorphic object sitting on your desk can work, if you can get over the awkwardness. More often than not, “rubberducking” the problem makes it easier to solve.

However you choose to Externalize your thoughts, don’t keep them locked up in your head. Experiment with different approaches to find with method works best for you. To help keep your mind clear during the day, schedule a small amount of dedicated time to externalize. Early mornings or late evenings typically work best for this purpose.

However you do it, the more you Externalize, the clearer things your thoughts will become, and the faster you’ll make progress toward your goals.

Questions About 'Externalization'


"Words are a lens to focus one's mind."

Ayn Rand, philosopher and author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead

From Chapter 7:

Working With Yourself


http://personalmba.com/externalization/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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