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10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

Growing up, I had a coach who would always say, “Today is a great day to excel.” It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout my life: the knowledge that every day you’re given a chance to improve on the person you were the day before.

It’s also a great reminder that you’ll never get this exact moment back, so you should use every second to your advantage. Knowing this, it’s important to practice mindfulness every day, and to get into the habit of continuously improving your life in some way or another.

You can make the most of each day by:

1. Asking questions and following up on them

As kids, we harbor a natural curiosity about the world around us. We probably drove our parents nuts asking so many questions, but it was because we genuinely had to know why the sky is blue, or why dogs bark and cats meow. As we grow older, we get busy living life and, unfortunately, lose interest in discovering information about our world.

We should keep our imagination alive by actively asking questions and seeking out the answers on a daily basis. Keep a journal throughout the day of ideas that pop into your head that you don’t have time to think about at work.

Instead of lazing around on the couch for an hour when you get home, use this time to find the answers to the questions you had throughout the day. Even if the knowledge you gain isn’t directly applicable to your job, digging deeper into a seemingly minuscule interest could lead to the discovery of a life-long hobby.

2. Reading something new

Because of smartphones, we literally have the ability to read every piece of literature that has ever been penned by man in the palm of our hands. Don’t spend all day scrolling through Facebook for cat pictures.

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Check out apps like Flipboard and Longform, which collect stories from around the globe that you can tailor to your interests. Don’t just read the same old news sites. Instead, read an opinion article that directly jibes with your own perspective.

Reading an article you disagree with can potentially expand your mind, and help you come to a realization that changes your life. Even spending time reading for pleasure will keep your mind active and moving forward.

3. Sharing new knowledge

Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you’ve learned actionable and meaningful. Just like we have the ability to take in knowledge easily through the use of smart phones and the Internet, we also have the ability to share this information with our friends, family, and even complete strangers around the globe.

Use your Facebook page to share the interesting story you just read, or use an interesting photo gallery as a springboard to a fictional piece of literature. If you find something that interests you, share it with the world.

You might end up establishing new connections that could last a lifetime.

4. Applying new knowledge

There really is no point in learning something if it doesn’t inspire you to improve. Think of reading an advice column: If you don’t actually take the advice, you really just wasted the time it took to read the article in the first place.

If you take the time to learn something, you should take the extra step to learn how to use that information. If you play guitar and read an article about music theory, pick up your guitar and put your new-found knowledge into practice.

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You never know when you’re headed toward a breakthrough unless you take action to get there. Before you set out to read or learn to do something, ask yourself: How will I use this new knowledge?

Once you have a goal for learning, you’ll be much more motivated to learn in the first place.

5. Seeking out interesting people

Social media sites like Twitter have made communicating with interesting people incredibly easy. If you’ve ever spent time watching videos on TED, you know there are people out there who have incredible ideas and visions for our world.

These people are, well, people just like you. Reach out to the people who have inspired you.

They might be busy and may or may not respond, but if they do it could lead to a mind-expanding dialogue with limitless possibilities.

6. Doing something that scares you

When I started writing for all the Internet to see a few months ago, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough, or my ideas would come off as pedantic and idiotic. After penning about 40 articles for Lifehack, I’ve become absolutely overwhelmed by the positive responses many of them have received.

If you’ve just learned a new song on guitar, play it for a group of friends. Then play it for a group of your peers. Then play it in front of a crowd. As you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, you’ll find it expanding each time you stretch it.

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Learn to be okay with being nervous and afraid; if everything was easy to do, nothing would be worth the effort.

7. Eating healthy

In school, our teachers would always advise us to eat well the night before and morning of a big test. They wanted to make sure you were fresh and had the stamina needed to work for hours on end without a break.

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will keep you energized and willing to go the extra mile in everything you do. If you feel like garbage, you’re not going to want to push yourself to excel.

To keep things interesting, you can always find healthy eating recipes on Pinterest. Make sure your diet is full of fruits, vegetables and various proteins so you can hit the ground running each and every day.

8. Playing games instead of watching TV

Doing crossword puzzles, playing video games, or even watching Jeopardy is much more beneficial than vegging out and watching reruns of your favorite sitcom. Your mind should always be working, even during leisure activities.

Working on puzzles or playing games increases your logical thought and problem solving processes, which can positively affect all other aspects of your life.

Even time honored games like Tetris prove to be both fun and beneficial to your brain. And, even though your brain is working throughout these activities, you’ll be relieving the stress that your mind accumulated throughout the workday.

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9. Exercising

Along with eating healthy, keeping your body healthy is of utmost importance if you want to improve your overall well-being. Again, you won’t really be apt to push yourself mentally if your body is physically sore.

Take the time to get up and move, even if you only have a short period of time each day to do it in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park at the end of the parking lot at work.

As with everything else, you need to make every second of your day count in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

10. Setting aside quiet time

Your brain, and your body, need time to recharge every day. Of course, you should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but in addition to that, you should spend some time to yourself, with no external stimuli around to bother you.

Take 10 minutes before bed or after waking up to meditate and let your mind relax. Try not to think of any of the stressful situations in your life, and just be.

And you don’t have to be a seasoned meditation expert, either. Psychology Today makes it clear that meditation really is for everyone.

Doing this before bed will make falling asleep much easier, and doing it in the morning will allow you to face the day without anxiety. And, if you can get some quiet time in during your lunch break, you’ll be energized and ready to work when everyone else has hit the two o’clock slump.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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