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6 Ways to Improve Your Analytical Skills

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When you’re confronted with a high-stress, complex problem, how do you react? Are you calm and calculated, or do you become confused and flustered? Your response is an indicator of your analytical thinking. When employers interview you, they are often examining a candidate’s ability to discern a problem, investigate it and respond accordingly. These skills are considered “analytical skills”.

Indeed defines analytical skills as, “the ability to research, collect and analyze information to form more complex ideas about it…develop solutions for complex problems and interpret data to gain more knowledge about the subject.” But what happens if you aren’t very good at it? Fortunately, analytical and critical thinking can be practiced just like any other skill. 

Here are some of the best ways to improve your analytical skills: 

1. Read More Often

Reading is something that we too often lose as adults, and yet it’s an imperative part of keeping your brain stimulated. 

Reading frequently keeps your mind alert, as it transforms letters on the page into words with meaning. 

The genre of the book isn’t important, so long as the book is mentally stimulating for you — reading your childhood favorite might be fulfilling, but unfortunately it won’t help improve your analytical skills. 

It’s best to read every day, even if at first you can only maintain it for a short while. Try joining a book club to help keep you accountable and choose new material. 

analytical skills

2. Play (the Right) Games

As incredible as it sounds, games are actually one of the most efficient ways to improve your analytical thinking skills

By challenging your brain to solve riddles and put pieces together, you’re encouraging it to think in ways it doesn’t normally do, and training it to seek out details and solve problems. Puzzles, Scrabble, chess, and sudoku are all great examples of games that stimulate your brain. 

3. Practice Your Observation Skills

When was the last time you sat and simply watched people walk by? People watching is a great way to train your brain into noticing intricate details, a key attribute for high analytical skills. 

The next time you are alone in a public place, try absorbing in everything around you: which notes the bird is singing, what you feel underneath your left foot, how the air feels on your skin. It might feel strange at first, but by forcing your mind to process every action and feeling, you are training it to notice the minute details in your surroundings. 

Eventually, you can apply this exercise directly in a working environment, for example with a report or complex spreadsheet. 

4. Ask a Lot of Questions

Cognitive neuroscientist Araceli Camargo stated, “When we are motivated we have a more heightened engagement with the subject we are learning. In other words, the more curious we are about a subject, the more it engages our cognitive functions, such as attention and memory.” 

By asking questions, you are both expressing your interest in a topic and inviting your mind to investigate further. More information on a given subject will lead to a more detailed analysis and a more thorough response. Practice asking at least one question after someone tells a story, finishes a presentation or gets to the end of a meeting. 

5. Get Rid of the Calculator

A great way to sharpen your analytical skills is by going back and reviewing the concepts covered in your last math class.

Math is arguably the purest form of logic, requiring a step-by-step methodology in order to solve the problem. In the book Does Mathematical Study Develop Logical Thinking?, doctors Nina Attridge and Matthew Inglis demonstrate that studying higher mathematics correlates with increased logical abilities. Those who regularly solve advanced mathematical equations demonstrate higher critical thinking and analytical skills.

Try to remember some of the last formulas and equations you studied. Review the most advanced material you have learned in the past and refresh your memory on the aspects which are less clear. By typing specific mathematical concepts into a search bar, there are many forums, blogs and even software programmes which will allow you to freely practice and check your work on the formulas you choose to review. 

6. Try an App

There is an entire section on the app store dedicated to health and wellness, with thousands of apps waiting to be downloaded. 

Apps such as Lumosity and Happify are designed specifically to train your brain, presenting a series of exercises and puzzles intended to improve problem-solving, flexible thinking and attention spans. 

Beyond apps dedicated to mental awareness, data collection apps (such as a calorie counter) require you to log daily and then interpret the data. In this way, they are helping your mind practice its analysis skills and seek a solution.

Time to Hone Your Analytical Skills

By improving your analytical skills, you become both a more competitive candidate and a more observant person overall. Deciding to improve your analytical skills might seem like an intangible goal, but the reality is that it can be honed and improved. 

Activities such as brain games and reading can be both enjoyable and mentally stimulating. If you’re looking to really bring your analytical skills to the next level, there are specific certificates and degree programmes available which put analytical skills development at the forefront of their coursework.