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Would You Like To Maximise Your Brain? Try Emptying It First

Would You Like To Maximise Your Brain? Try Emptying It First
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Keeping track of everything that you ought to remember and everything that you need to do can be overwhelming. Does it ever seem like your mind is completely overloaded? There’s always something that needs your attention.

Keeping all those tidbits of information in your head is mind-boggling, and it keeps you from being able to relax. Externalising your tasks by writing them down is a simple way to free up your metal space and get organised.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a “brain dump” is the perfect way to reduce stress, focus, and get motivated.

There’s nothing wrong with externalising

Some people deny the value of externalising or feel that it’s a sign of weakness. They may feel that a need to write things down means that you don’t have a good memory or the mental capacity to keep up. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We come by this aversion to writing things down honestly. Socrates felt that writing destroyed our memory and weakened our minds. He even argued that it was “inhuman” to write things down.

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Sometimes pulling out the pen and notepad seems like a step we could skip. For example, you could go to the supermarket without making a grocery list, or pack your suitcase without a packing list. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.

Without a list, you’ll end up going over-budget at the grocery store, or you’ll forget to buy something. Without making a packing list, the likelihood that you forget an essential item like your phone charger or travel adapter increases dramatically.

    Your brain isn’t meant to juggle so many things at once

    Our brains are powerful, but research shows that we don’t multi-task very well.[1] When you multi-task, your brain splits your attention. You may think that you are doing two tasks at once effectively, but your mind is just flipping back and forth between them.

    You can only hang on to a few ideas at a time, and you can only truly focus on one task. Your brain also doesn’t prioritize very well. Your emails, your to-do list, that thing you have to remember, an item you’re waiting on, and the task you’re trying to complete are all competing for your attention.

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      Our brains are made to solve problems and make connections. They aren’t so great at holding onto tidbits of information that we could easily externalize.

      Here are ways that you can (and should) externalise

      1. Make a to-do list. When you write down what you need to do, the thought of those tasks won’t clog your short-term memory.
      2. Use a calendar. Adding your appointments and meetings to your calendar keeps you from having to worry about them. Those items come into your mental space only when you need to focus on them, which keeps you from worrying about whether you’re forgetting something all the time.
      3. Make shopping lists. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home from the store only to realise that you’ve forgotten what you went there for in the first place. A shopping list will save you time, and it will help you stick to a budget.

      Imagine what you could do with more mental bandwidth

      Freeing up mental space occupied by trivial items gives your brain the chance to do what it’s built for: coming up with new ideas and making connections.

      Your mind has such an incredible capacity for innovation, but it’s the wrong place to store everything you need to get done. It’s not made to house your to-do lists and appointment calendar. The more you can get rid of these things that are taking up your mental space, the more clearly you’ll think.

      In the late 1920s, the Zeigarnik Effect was discovered. This psychological concept explains that our brains hold on to incomplete or interrupted tasks more readily than they hold onto completed ones.[2] The things you haven’t finished take up more bandwidth than things you’ve already done.

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      Put theory into practice

      When I emptied my mind of all the things weighing on it, I realised how the Zeigarnik Effect influenced my life. After I cleared my mind by externalising everything that I could, I had so much more mental clarity, and I was more relaxed than I had been for a long time.

      I also learned that it’s important to capture tasks as they come up in order to maintain clarity. Getting unresolved commitments out of my head and onto task lists was great, but new things were constantly coming up. I had develop a system to keep those low-return tasks from taking over.

      Find a system for externalising that works for you

      Some of the most productive people I know rely on good old-fashioned pen and paper to keep their commitments in order. This is a great system, but it’s not the only way to approach externalisation.

      I’ve settled into a system that integrates seamlessly with my life. You have to find something that seems completely natural to you. It should make it easy for you to see, manage, and prioritise everything that needs your attention. Choosing the right system makes things come together almost effortlessly.

      The ‘Waiting For’ list is a powerful tool to add to your productivity arsenal.[3] It adds a new dimension to your to-do list. Instead of just tracking what you need to complete, you also note things that you are waiting on to complete those tasks.

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      For example, imagine you’re planning an event, but you need a formal request document signed by a superior to order supplies. Your ‘Waiting For’ list would include something like “Receive signed formal request from the boss.”

      Having such a list can help you understand what parts of your projects are within your control and what needs the input of others. Tracking this can let you know whom to follow up with if you don’t have everything you need.

      This system is simple to integrate. Of course, you can write your list by hand, but you can also develop a system for handling emails. After you send emails that need responses, drag those messages into a ‘Waiting For’ folder. You’ll be able to see what you need to be tracking, and it will help you catch important messages that might end up in your spam folder.

      Free your mind

      There’s nothing noble about trying to make your brain do things that it doesn’t do very well. Develop a system to externalise what you need to do. You’ll feel less stressed, and you’ll be so much more effective when you’re free to focus.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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      Last Updated on June 1, 2021

      10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

      10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner
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      The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible?

      If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter.

      The following 10 tips will help you become a fast learner:

      1. Analyze Your Learning Style

      Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are:

      Is your memory associated to sound?

      Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners.

      If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.

      Do you relate information to visual content?

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      If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.

      Are you a physical learner?

      If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures.

      A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying or listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.

      2. Use the Right EdTech Tools

      Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management and brainstorming, etc.

      One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online:

      • StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study.
      • If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear.
      • You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused.
      • Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity.
      • Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time.
      • Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science.
      • You can also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

      3. Train Your Brain to Accept New Information

      Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks.

      One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

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      4. Get Some Exercise

      You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too!

      Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused.

      If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

      5. Work on the Ambiance

      If you have a noisy neighborhood or a working environment full of distractions, you won’t be able to learn or study no matter how hard you try.

      If you want to learn quickly, you need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

      6. Take a Lot of Notes

      Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes.

      This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material. It will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.

      Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

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      Here’re some tips to take notes effectively: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

      7. Make Mind Maps

      Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn.

      You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens.

      Some tips mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

      8. Experiment with Memorization Methods

      Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some people memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence.

      However, memorization can be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

      Try this if you want to memorize more and faster: How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

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      9. Find the Right Context

      Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information.

      Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joy of learning.

      The first step? Jot down as much information and as many ideas as possible: How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

      With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

      10. Study Every Day

      It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit.

      The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read.

      If you start studying as soon as possible after you have learned some new concepts, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

      More to Help You Learn Quicker

      Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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