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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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        Last Updated on October 17, 2018

        7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

        7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

        How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

        If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

        Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

        So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

        1. Meditate

        We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

        Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

        Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

        Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

        Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

        If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

        And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

        2. Get plenty of sleep

        If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

        If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

        How much sleep should you be getting?

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        Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

        Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

        Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

        Yes, there are.

        Try these three things:

        • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
        • Don’t eat too late
        • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

        Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

        However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

        3. Challenge your brain

        When was the last time you challenged your brain?

        I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

        To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

        Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

        There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

        • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
        • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
        • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

        If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

        Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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        4. Take more breaks

        When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

        At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

        However, I was wrong.

        Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

        Let me explain.

        Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

        Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

        It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

        It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

        What’s the answer?

        Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

        If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

        5. Learn a new skill

        I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

        “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

        From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

        Let me give you an example of this:

        Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

        Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

        The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

        Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

        Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

        6. Start working out

        If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

        Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

        Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

        “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

        Not a problem.

        A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

        Interested in getting started?

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        Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

        • Join a gym
        • Join a sports team
        • Buy a bike
        • Take up hiking
        • Dance to your favorite music

        7. Eat healthier foods

        I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

        This applies to your brain too.

        The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

        Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

        Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

        Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

        • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
        • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
        • Nuts – improves memory
        • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
        • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

        Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

        Final thoughts

        I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

        You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

        But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

        Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

        Reference

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