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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

        10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!) Creative Brain Test: 10 Best Ways To Test Your Creative Intelligence How to Be a Maverick and Develop a Maverick Mindset Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

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        Published on January 16, 2019

        How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

        How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

        We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

        You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

        You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

        That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

        Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

        1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

        Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

        We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

        To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

        At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

        The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

        2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

        Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

        The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

        In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

        It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

        It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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        So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

        • Are you a great strategist?
        • Are you an effective planner?
        • Is Project Management your strength?
        • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
        • Are you the ideas person?
        • Is Implementation your strength?

        Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

        3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

        One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

        Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

        Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

        Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

        4. Take Time for Planning

        “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

        One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

        You can take the time to think about:

        • What’s the purpose of the project?
        • How Important is it?
        • When does it need to be delivered by?
        • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
        • What are the KPIs?
        • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
        • Who is working on this project?
        • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
        • What tolerances can I add in?
        • What are the review stages?
        • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

        Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

        5. Focus on Priorities

        Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

        Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

        One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

        1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
        2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
        3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
        4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

        James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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          The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

          If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

          If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

          6. Take Time Out

          To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

          If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

          Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

          In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

          Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

          7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

          Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

          I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

          Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

          If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

          8. Stop Multitasking

          Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

          So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

          When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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          If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

          9. Work in Blocks of Time

          To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

          I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

          Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

          Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

          Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

          Then take another 10-minute break.

          Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

          By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

          10. Get Rid of Distractions

          Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

          “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

          Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

          If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

          11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

          You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

          Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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          Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

          12. Take a Time Audit

          Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

          Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

          You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

          Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

          Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

          At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

          If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

          13. Protect Your Confidence

          It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

          When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

          Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

          When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

          Final Words

          A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

          The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

          If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

          Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

          Reference

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