Thinking About Thinking

Peter Chapman
4 min readJun 14, 2021

In my last essay, I talked about the importance of physical self-awareness. In this essay, I want to explore another aspect of self-awareness that’s important: metacognition.

Metacognition is the act of “thinking about thinking,” paying attention to your own thought processes. Because my clients are interested in becoming better problem-solvers, we tend to invest quite a lot of time in cataloging and refining how they approach problems. If you want to become a better problem solver, paying attention to and evaluating your own problem-solving process is incredibly helpful.

What is a Metacognitive Skill?

We can group all metacognitive skills into three categories: planning, executing, and evaluating. I like to think of this three-step process as how you might navigate if you were lost in the woods: planning is picking a direction to walk in, executing is walking in that direction, and evaluating is pausing and looking around to see if you’re heading in the right direction.

Planning: Picking a Direction to Walk In

Planning skills are those that help you define a problem, break it down into tractable chunks, set up a productive environment, and pick an appropriate framework or approach. Here are some planning skills:

  • Writing down a problem statement: “I’m going to write a job description for a designer that we can post on our website.”
  • Outlining the various components of the problem you’re staring at: “I need to figure out what the relevant skills are, how much we’re prepared to pay this person, what we want to say about working here, and how many years of experience we want.”
  • Generating possible approaches: “I could just sit down and write this. I could also look for information by talking to peers at my company about this, talking to friends of mine who have hired designers before, or looking at Linkedin job posts for similar jobs”.
  • Coming up with a plan: “First I’m going to write an outline, then a first draft, then I’m going to polish it as best I can, then I’m going to message coworkers asking for feedback”
  • Creating an environment conducive to good work: putting on music that helps you focus, setting your…