Why You Need an Extended Mind To Be More Productive

Why You Need an Extended Mind To Be More Productive.

Have you ever played Tetris?

If not, you know the concept: Blocks are falling out of the sky. And you must fit each of the pieces into nice rows with no spaces. Otherwise, the rows will stack up and blocks can no longer fall.

The more rows you make, the more points you score.

Easy enough right?

But here’s a question: what if you could control Tetris with your mind? Would you be better at the game if you didn’t have to use the keyboard or controller at all?

Research says no.

In fact, the physical actions of clicking and rotating help you figure out which pieces go where. If you tried to do it only in your mind, it would slow you down.

Those extra tools (in this case, the keyboard or controller) help you win. The tools and the use of the tools (called epistemic actions) help you:

  • Reduce memory involved for a task
  • Reduce the number of steps to figure something out
  • Reduce the margin of error

All of this sounds great, but how does it help you be more productive?

Say you’re making a pizza at home. You like pizza and you’ve made it before. And even though you’ve made it before, you probably still need a recipe. What does a recipe do? It tells you:

  • It tells you the number of ingredients
  • The amount of each ingredient
  • And how to combine each of the ingredients
  • And then how long to cook all of it together

In some ways, the recipe is a tool–it helps you think better about the next steps to take. It helps you avoid errors and you don’t have to think about all of the steps involved in making a pizza.

In other words, tools help us think better and capture ideas. This is called the extended mind.  

Here’s a quote from the researches who first developed the concept:

“Language appears to be a central means by which cognitive processes are extended into the world. Think of a group of people brainstorming around a table, or a philosopher who thinks best by writing, developing her ideas as she goes. It may be that language evolved, in part, to enable such extensions of our cognitive resources within actively coupled systems.”

In this example, language brings our thoughts into the world. It’s an extension of our minds.

But there are more tools that can be used in brainstorming than just language. Pen, paper, whiteboards, bubble charts help us to not only process our thoughts, but generate new ideas.

That’s an extended mind.

We can’t stay in our heads forever and the tools help us get it all out there.

How Tools Helps Us Think Better

We need tools — like notecards and lists, in addition to tech tools–to help us think, process and generate new ideas. We also need tools to help us capture our thoughts and ideas to turn them into something bigger such as our projects and work.

These tools actually help us process information better than we would without them. They bring to life to what’s in our heads.

The Benefits of  An Extended Mind

At ClickUp, we’re all about being the tool that links your head to your projects. We want your thoughts, ideas and plans to become something real, meaningful and true. That’s productivity and we want to be the platform that connects all the dots. Let’s see how that happens.

1. Idea Capture

David Allen, the creator of the Get Things Done methodology, firmly believes that our brains can’t handle too many ideas at once and that we have to make room for more. To do that, we need to capture and store those ideas.

You’ll need a pen, pencil, a notebook, a napkin, Evernote, Google Keep or the ClickUp notepad to record all of those notes and ideas. From there, you can start prioritizing using the GTD formula.

Great ideas need a place to rest. Allen says, “That’s why good thinking can happen while you’re working on a computer document about a project, mind mapping it on a paper tablecloth, or just having a meeting about it with other people in the room that allows you to hold the context.”

What exactly does that mean…???

2. Hold the context.

Let’s expand on that thought a little more. Holding the context allows you to remember and record the circumstances that led up to an idea so that it’s not quickly discarded. Sometimes, you don’t know where great ideas are going to go next, which is why the napkin, the meeting, the piece of paper, the phone app are key to letting the idea remain so that you can review it later. Holding the context is preserving the idea’s potential.

With ClickUp, you can hold the context of:

  • Your next big project idea and reminders with the Notepad
  • Your next project plan and its feedback by using comments and assigned comments
  • Each piece of the project with tasks
  • Each step that you need to do with checklists and templates

You can get the steps, processes and thoughts out of your head and into ClickUp. Which, in our opinion, is exactly what a project management system should do.

3. Share and share alike

One element of successful projects and team collaboration is sharing. You can extend your mind into ClickUp so that others can see, comment and yes, even add onto your original ideas and plans. This is where true collaboration happens. Transparency into your tasks, details and to-dos will help your project and ideas take on a life of their own, as each member sees and knows how to contribute. Successful productivity doesn’t only depend on you. The extended mind of ClickUp will streamline your collaboration.

4. Reflection

Do you or someone you know keep a journal? But why? Is it for someone else to read? Maybe, but usually not. What it does help you do is remember what you were going through–your emotions, feelings, goals, successes and trials.

How do you do that for your company or organization? You can’t unless you reflect on your projects and then store the results. Productivity software and project management systems can help you do exactly that. The time estimates, comments, attachments, notes and more can offer a safekeeping repository for your whole team to note what worked and what didn’t.

  • How long did that one task take? Check ClickUp.
  • How many sprints did we need for that release? Check ClickUp.
  • What was our PR strategy around that last product launch? Check ClickUp.

Too often organizations don’t capture with the extended mind– it’s stored in everyone’s head. That’s why the seasoned employees can often say “We tried that and it didn’t work, remember?” and then they offer their opinion to the five others who weren’t with the company at the time, with fake gravitas.  

The organization had no way to extend its mind, so it’s stuck with shady memories of the past. It doesn’t have to be like that.

A project management tool is a central place for all of your files, attachments, presentations and relevant documents will help you to not only think about the past, but to help you chart your future from those mistakes.


Your projects are like Tetris. You’re moving each piece to its right position, fitting it in snugly. And as we learned, your projects won’t be as successful if you try to keep everything in your mind.  You need the tools to place each piece, record the outcomes and reflect on what happened.

Other wise each piece will stack up…and then what?

Game over.

Tools don’t hold you back or keep you from your best work. Instead, they extend your mind to hold the context, share your ideas and reflect on those actions.

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