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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

Have you ever relied on a mental grocery list, only to forget one or two items after you’ve left the supermarket? Or what about an idea or thought that came to mind while you were making your way to work, and you tell yourself you’ll write it down once you reach the office, only to forget about it soon after?

Our memory, no matter our age, will fail us every now and then. Whether it’s trying to recall something quickly, or remember something long term, we will encounter memory blanks or slips.

Sometimes, when we have too much information to absorb, we go through what is called memory overload, and that also causes our minds to go into a blank, or we’re simply not able to grasp more information. That’s why your teachers will advise against cramming for exams at the last minute!

So how to increase brain power, improve your memory and become smarter? I’ll reveal the secret to this in a minute.

The Harsh Truth About the Human Brain

If you’re looking for ways on how to train your brain to boost memory, this is something you should know:

The reality is, our human mind was never made to memorize, store or recall a ton of information.

Back in the Stone Age, our brain was designed to process the environment around us and to anticipate danger around us. It was all about survival then: hunting for food, finding for shelter and safety away from harm and danger.

Over time, with developments and discoveries, our brains had to develop and get accustomed to what is around us. The amount of information we now have access to has grown exponentially over the Ages.

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Now, in the Age of Information, the cost of getting new info is so low that it happens right at your fingertips–resulting in information explosion!

Since we have the capability of info at our fingertips, the amount of information we have to process is ever-increasing. As technology has advanced, we now have to perform more complicated tasks, which require us to quickly retrieve information from our memory (writing, operating a relatively complicated tool, delayed information such as trading goods, signing contracts, etc.).

These days, our brains are less like survival organs and more like pattern recognition machines. They are now required to process enormous amounts of information, to make decisions, and to make connections amongst a myriad of information.

The Brain’s New Challenge

With this change comes new limitations to our brains. Because we have limited brain capacity, the amount of information grows so much that everything just passes through our mind without solid retention (Information overload), and we can’t tell what is useful or not.

We’re facing an unprecedented number of tasks to handle on a daily basis–resulting in mental energy that has to be distributed among many different things at once.

When it comes to memorizing, decision making or learning a new skill, which is more valuable to you? Which skills would you rather improve and build on?

How to Upgrade Your Brain

Here is where I’m going to help you to upgrade your brain. Yes, that’s right.

Like a personal assistant or secretary, I’m going to show you how you can boost brain power and give your brain an aid that will help you to effortlessly sort through all the information that comes to you on a daily basis.

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This brilliant aid is called the Digital Brain.

In contrast to a human brain, computers are great at storing information. It’s reliable (thanks to cloud computing), accurate, and extremely detailed.

From a computing perspective, memory involves three key elements:

  1. Recording — storing the information
  2. Organization — archiving it in a logical manner
  3. Recall — retrieving it again when you need it

Like a computer, having a Digital Brain will work in the same way as this memory framework to manage how information flows into and out of your brain.

Here’s an example:

When setting up a new account on a website, due to strict security settings, many sites require you to come up with complicated passwords with special characters that you don’t usually use.

As a result, you now have to memorize this new password (Record), associate it with the other passwords that’s stored in your brain (Organize), and enter that password the next time you log in (Recall).

Even in this simple example, there are several parts in the process which will make it all too easy to forget. Because this new password is unique, we have a hard time recognizing it with our regular patterns. And if we don’t use the password everyday, it’s easy to forget it after a few days. One day you’ll try to recall the password but enter the incorrect one over and over again.

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Sound familiar? It’s one of the most common things that happen.

Is it because the information is complicated? Nope. A password is just a bunch of characters, numbers, and symbols.

It happens because our brains are not made to memorize. With a Digital Brain, you can delegate it to do the heavy lifting.  

Making Room for Learning and Creativity

Many people get confused with storing versus learning in this Digital Age.

Learning requires spaced repetition, applying different learning models and then applying those skills. Whereas storing means having information in a ‘library’.

When you go to a library, you borrow a book to find a specific piece of information. When you’re done with it, you put it back. With a Digital Brain, this becomes your personal library of knowledge.

With your brain now freed up from having to store information, it can focus on more crucial aspects like learning, decision making, problem solving and making meaning out of all the incoming information.

Wouldn’t this be much easier for you to get things done on a daily basis? Whether it be something as trivial as getting your groceries, or something more complex like planning out what’s needed for a project you’re working on. Your Digital Brain will help you effortlessly organize it.

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Here at Lifehack, we’ll teach you how to set up a system to record, organize and recall information effortlessly. You’ll also learn how to build a habit to rely on your Digital Brain like second nature, all in a step by step manner.

A Digital Brain for Everyone (No Matter How Old You Are)

I’m sure some of you might be wondering if this is really for you. You may be well into your 50’s or 60’s, and going digital isn’t something you’re keen to keep up with.

Well, the good news is that having a Digital Brain isn’t reserved for Millennials or the younger generation. There are many layers to the Digital Brain, and the interesting thing is that it’s constantly upgrading according to new advances in technology.

So, you get to pick how much of a Digital Brain you want to adopt into your existing lifestyle. Age need not be a barrier when it comes to adopting a Digital Brain! 

At Lifehack, we’ll go over how to make the most of your Digital Brain to think smarter and learn faster. Learn more in our FREE webinar: Spark Your Learning Genius (Fast Track Class)

More to Increase Your Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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