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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity

10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity

Becoming smarter is what a lot of people look for. While joining brain training programmes is an option to increase your IQ, focus and creativity, it can be quite expensive. Luckily there are plenty of free brain training hacks you can learn to make your brain smarter.

In this article, I’m going to introduce to you 10 free brain training hacks that will boost your brain performance and make you smarter.

The importance of brain training

The fundamental building block in the brain is the neuron. By learning ways to enhance the building block, we open a new frontier for understanding the power of our brain. Author of Brain Building: Exercising Yourself Smarter by Marilyn vos Savant remarked,

“Building your brain power will open a new frontier beyond which lies an understanding that seems nearly incalculable.”

So, what’s the point?

We can improve our brain power and intelligence through certain brain training exercises.

You might be wondering:

In our busy life, how can I find time to do this?

The answer is simple and it’s not that difficult.

Brain training is simply cognitive training using exercises to improve your brain power. By improving your brain power, you will find that your IQ, focus, and creative skills will increase as well.

Let’s take a look at how you can improve your brain power through brain training.

Brain training hacks that will make you smarter

Here are 10 brain training hacks you can use now to make you smarter tomorrow:

Hack #1. Learn by teaching

In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans argue that we should learn by teaching.

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“Before you can teach an idea, you must understand it. Therefore, teaching situations can be proving grounds for your own knowledge. Accelerate your learning of a subject by agreeing to teach it.” – Ron and Marty Hale-Evans

How to make this work:

  1. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  2. Find a way to teach the content. If you have the appropriate education, try teaching an online course. If not, try teaching a new idea through places such as Udemy.
  3. Use innovative systems thinking tools to conduct analysis and synthesis and to teach your course. Read my other article to find out how you can explain ideas clearer to others: How to Explain Things Better and Make Others Understand Your Ideas Easily

Hack #2. Learn by writing

One of my favorite methods for learning and increasing intelligence is writing. By writing or blogging on a new topic, I force myself to break apart concepts. I then piece them back together by writing about them.

How to make this work:

  1. Start writing for a blog (i.e. Lifehack.org) or start your own. A great place to start writing is on Medium.com.
  2. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  3. Write about the content you are learning and pay close attention to the feedback you receive once published.

Hack #3. Physical exercise

Physical exercise will not only improve your body, but it will also improve your brain power. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons in our brain. Exercise increases the levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which supports neurogenesis.

How to make this work:

  1. Start an exercise routine. Read my article This 24 Hour Workout Will Leave You Thinking, Looking And Feeling So Good for more ideas on how to start one.
  2. Change your diet. Eliminate refined sugars and start taking vitamins to improve the functioning of your brain.

Hack #4. Listen to audiobooks

My favorite hack to use along with physical exercise is audiobooks. I am always plugged into an audiobook. While exercising, driving, cutting my grass, chores, and just about any other activity.

How to make this work:

  1. Purchase wireless running headphones.
  2. Sign up for a free app connected to your local library e.g. OverDrive. Checkout audiobooks through this free app.
  3. Purchase audiobooks at a discount through Audible.com. If you are unable to find your audiobook free through OverDrive, purchase the books here.
  4. Download the app (or a similar app) Natural Reader, which is a free text to speech online app allowing you to convert text to audio. Essentially, you can convert an online article, a pdf, a word document, and similar files to an audio.
  5. Step #5. After you have listened to an audiobook for a while, try bumping up the speed of the book.

Hack #5. Read smarter

Start reading books faster and smarter. There are certain ways you should read a book. Some books should be read faster than others.

How to make this work:

  1. Skim the book first. Start with the title page, the inside of the cover, the table of contents, then the back of the book.
  2. Identify the author’s main theme (and main points within the book). Ask yourself the question “why” throughout the book. For example, “Why is the author arguing this point?”.
  3. Throughout the book and at the conclusion of the book, ask yourself three questions:
    – What? What happened in the book?
    – So What? What was the key takeaway?
    – Now What? What can you do with this new information?

Hack #6. Reason backward

Maurice Ashley, Chess Grandmaster, discussed the importance of retrograde analysis or reasoning backward in the following Ted Talk:

Let’s look at an example of reasoning backward.

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Read the following sentence:

After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second ‘the’.

Now read the sentence again. Did you notice that you missed the second ‘the’?

Our mind is logical and proceeds forward, so we don’t see the second ‘the’; however, if we read the sentence backwards we will always catch it.

“What is out of the common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward.” – Sherlock Homes, A Study in Scarlet

Hack #7. Quick and easy math tricks

Let’s examine some quick and easy math hacks that should be (but are not) taught in school.

Easily multiply any two-digit number by eleven:

32 x 11

Simply add the first two digits: 3 + 2 = 5

Place the 5 between the 3 and the 2 and you have your answer: 352

32 x 11 = 352

ii. Easily add two digit numbers:

84 + 57

Add 84 + 50 = 134

Then add 134 + 7 = 141

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84 + 57 = 141

iii. Easily subtract three digit numbers:

645 – 372

Take 645 – 400 = 245

Then add 28 (or 20 then add 8) as 400 – 372 = 28

245 + 20 = 265 + 8 = 273

645 – 372 = 273

iv. Multiplication guestimation

Another powerful trick is multiplication guesstimation.

88 x 54 is approximately 90 x 50 = 4500

This is much easier to multiple as 9 x 5 = 45

The correct answer is: 88 x 54 = 4752

For more math tricks like this, I recommend the book Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer.

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Hack #8. Think – Try – Learn

    In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans discuss a powerful tactic called Think – Try – Learn.

    • Think: Theorize, Predict, Plan
    • Try: Test, Observe, Record, Play
    • Learn: Analyze, Define Meaning, Change, Grow

    The following is an example of this method from Alphapunk.com:

      Hack #9. Brain training apps

      Elevate

      and Lumosity are brain training programs designed to improve our focus, speaking ability, processing speed, memory, math skills, and much more.

      Both programs come packed with more than 40 games and puzzles designed to improve our critical thinking and cognitive skills.

      A comparison of the two apps can be found here:[1]

      Elevate

      • Pros: Personal tracking, has the feel of a mobile game, available on iOS and Android, and app of the year for 2014
      • Cons: Poor graphics and only comes in English

      Lumosity

      • Pros: Fun and good memory improvement games, strong brand recognition, progress tracking, available on ios, android and pc, and used in over 180 countries
      • Cons: Expensive, repetitive, and have issues with iOS/Android app synch with desktop

      Hack #10. Learn a new language

        Learning a new language is one of the most powerful ways to improve your intelligence and cognitive capacity.

        I recently came across a fantastic new app called Chineasy Cards. This program makes learning Chinese both fun and aesthetically pleasing. The design principles are stronger than any other language app I have previously came across. I highly recommend this app if you are interested in learning Chinese.

        Brain training is powerful

        Brain training is a powerful (yet simple) way to improve your brain power, IQ, creative thinking, and critical thinking skills.

        As Marilyn vos Savan said,

        “The mind can stretch. It can be strengthened, toned, and conditioned to perform miracles for you.” – Marilyn vos Savant

        By using these 10 easy brain training hacks, you will find that you have the basic building blocks to increase your brain power.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

        How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

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        Last Updated on March 15, 2019

        How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

        How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

        When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

        Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

        In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

        What Makes a Leader Fail?

        A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

        If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

        And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

        What Is Effective Leadership?

        Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

        Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

        Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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        “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

        How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

        To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

        1. Courage

        The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

        “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

        Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

        For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

        In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

        It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

        Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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        2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

        If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

        The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

        To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

        3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

        Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

        Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

        4. Likability

        Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

        When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

        Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

        So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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        5. Vulnerability

        Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

        When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

        6. Authenticity

        Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

        Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

        7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

        Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

        Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

        Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

        Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

        As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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        “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

        8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

        Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

        This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

        9. A Passion for Continual Learning

        Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

        These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

        Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

        The Bottom Line

        No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

        Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

        More Resources About Effective Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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