Fast Thinking vs. Slow Thinking

Key Takeaways

  • Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, examines two ways our brains process information.
  • We can’t actually multitask – that’s a fallacy.
  • Organizing our tasks into fast and slow thinking categories will help our brains avoid the fatigue of trying to multitask.

Daniel Kahneman’s 2011 book, Thinking Fast and Slow, examines the two ways our brains tend to think. First, there’s the fast manner, which is where we spend the majority of our time. This is where we make quick decisions and work on things that don’t require a lot of thought. Then there’s the slow manner, which is where we spend a more limited amount of time. This is because slow thinking burns a tremendous amount of energy, and our brains simply can’t spend a lot of time doing this.

Over the years, we as a society have accepted the idea of multitasking as something many people can do. Many employers even expect and encourage employees to multitask – and you’ll often see resumes where people list this as a skill.

In fact, we can’t multitask. It’s erroneous to think that we can. We can do many simple tasks in a row, or we can concentrate and complete more difficult tasks slowly, but to constantly move back and forth is destructive. It hurts your brain and you’ll become fatigued when you try to mix the simple with the complex, bouncing between tasks for a few minutes here and there.

Recognizing this about 20 years ago, we separated positions within our organization into teams where we had fast-thinking positions and slow-thinking positions. Our fast-thinking team had many things to do during the day, whereas our slow-thinking team had complex issues that required a lot of deep thinking before taking action.

As you know, when you deal with your money, fast and slow thinking both play important roles. There are the simple things, such as paying bills and buying everyday necessities. But then there are more complex decisions, such as how you want your estate to be transferred, and what you’re going to do about a new tax code that’s coming into play. Those decisions require a lot of thought and research and cannot be made on the fly.

The key to organizing your tasks is to examine what things you’re able to feel comfortable doing with a high energy level throughout the day, versus what will take longer to accomplish. Then group the slow-thinking things together, separating them from the fast-thinking tasks. From there, you can work your way through your list, finishing one thing before moving on to the next. By doing this, you’ll accomplish what needs to be done and you won’t drain your energy by attempting to multitask.

Whether you’re struggling with many tasks at work or at home, try grouping your work into slow and fast-thinking categories. It makes sense and you’ll likely find it very helpful. Until next time, enjoy.


If you’d like to read more on this topic, here is one of our past Coyle Blog posts that you might enjoy:

Fast VS Slow Thinking: Emphasis on the Latter Makes All the Difference



Gary Klaben serves as a Financial Advisor, and visionary for Coyle Financial Counsel. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about The Coyle Process, approach designed to get your arms around the big picture, so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about The Coyle Process and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
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All information is from sources deemed reliable, but no warranty is made to its accuracy or completeness.   This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only, and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective client.  The information is not intended as investment advice, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or invest in any particular investment or market segment.  Those seeking information regarding their particular investment needs should contact a financial professional.  Coyle, our employees, or our clients, may or may not be invested in any individual securities or market segments discussed in this material.  The opinions expressed were current as of the date of posting but are subject to change without notice due to market, political, or economic conditions. All investments involve risk, including loss of principal.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

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