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17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter

17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter

Intelligence is flexible and there are a lot of things to give it a daily boost. For smart thinking your mind needs 3 things:

  1. To be trained in thinking processes
  2. To have plenty of information
  3. To focus on a problem or idea

For example, Thomas Edison was able to think of his light bulb because:

  1. He was a trained logical thinker
  2. He knew a lot about electrical engineering
  3. He focused on solving a problem

Here are a bunch of things to do every day to help your mind to think smart.

Since you’ve been asleep for hours, your body has not gotten water for 6-9 hours. Water is needed for the filtration of waste products and fluid balance. Two big glasses of water offset the fluid deficit you had from sleeping. Studies on kids (study 1, study 2) show that drinking more water increases their ability to complete mental tasks. Make sure your brain is not dehydrated at the beginning of the day already.

Reading books is great, but breakfast is far more suitable for something shorter. Instead of reading news articles that have little impact on your life/intelligence, read best selling book summaries. You can find summaries by:

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  • Googling your book title + summary, for example “7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary”
  • Use a summary subscription like Blinkist or getAbstract

Even if you spend only 10 minutes on your bike like I do, load your phone up with intellectually stimulating audio. Good sources could be:

  • TED talks (their app lets you pre-download audio so you don’t eat your mobile data)
  • Blinkist has some of their summaries in audio form
  • Audiobooks you purchased
  • Podcast of your favorite authors

Where caffeine makes many people anxious, green tea (especially Matcha tea) contains l-theanine. This aminoacid causes an increase in alpha brain waves in the brain. In practice this means that where coffee can induce anxiety, high quality green teas cause a relaxed focus without inducing sleepiness. This is also why l-theanine is available as a supplement to aid in relaxation and increasing cardiovascular health.

Napping helps your mind refresh. It’s been shown that napping during learning increases learning speed. Your mind has a rhythm that determines when it gets sleepy and when it needs sleep:

Daily-Rhythm-Sleep-Wake-Cycle

    As you can see on average people feel more sleepy than usual between noon and 4 PM. This is a perfect time to have a nap, and will increase your alertness and productivity for the rest of the day. Personally I’ve has good results with post-workday naps too (around 6 PM).

    In fact, if you can cut it altogether. But if you can’t for whatever reason, just make sure not to have it during times where you need to focus. Sugar highs and the following lows are not good to keep your brain functioning smartly. What does work very well are fatty acids. Try to switch any sweet stuff during lunch for something more substantial like fish or eggs.

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    The brain adapts to the information you throw at it. If you bombard it work non-stimulating and fast switching information your focus will get destroyed. Keep your brain functioning on a higher level by throwing stimulating things at it. If you feel the need to procrastinate, set a timer  and don’t get lost in mindlessly scrolling.

    Watching tv is a passive activity. Your brain is consuming information, but not processing or interacting with it. Substitute or supplement this entertainment with gaming. A 2014 study showed that even a simple game like Super Mario has visible impact on brain plasticity (flexibility). Another piece of research covered by Forbes shows the same. Actively engage your brain where you can, instead of letting it slumber passively.

    Similar to playing games instead of watching tv, reading a book is an active exercise for the brain. Where watching video entertainment is a passive consumption of information, reading a book requires your brain to actively construct mental images of what you are reading.

    Programming is a great way to learn to think logically and in patterns. Coding used to be hard to learn but with free websites like Codeacademy and free/paid platforms like Udemy it is easy and fun to learn. Consider it the next level of puzzles. As an added advantage learning to code in your free time increases your employability in the job market.

    Preparing dinner is a great time to catch up on some cutting edge developments in Technology, Education and Design (ted.com). It turns what would otherwise be downtime into a fascinating and stimulating block of time. It’s like watching the news, only you are watching the world’s most inspiring individuals talk about their work.

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    The body and the mind are strongly connected. Physical fitness helps the brain function well. You don’t however have to go to the gym every day to benefit from this (though you can of course). Doing some push-ups throughout the day and walking or skipping up some stairs has a great impact already. Try to do something physical every hour or so, even if it’s just getting up, stretching a little and tensing all your muscles as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds.

    Habits are socially contagious. It is a well known fact in science that obesity for example spreads through social networks (link to research). The habits and thinking patterns of those you spend time with rub off on you. Expose yourself to people who are smarter than you in order to benefit from them.

    Get into (friendly) discussions with people who disagree with you on any topic. Arguing with them allows you to either:

    • Sharpen your arguments
    • Be convinced that you are wrong

    In both cases you win. In the first you convince the other person by out reasoning them, and I the second false logic you previously had is not eliminated.

    Walking through nature has a number of benefits:

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    • There is more oxygen since plants produce it
    • The human mind calms down when surrounded by plants
    • Walking helps your blood circulation

    Having a walk in a park at lunch time can greatly help you work smartly for the rest of the day.

    Great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci always carries a notepad. They used it to jot down ideas, sketches and questions they had for later review. Having a little book on you and writing down interesting things can greatly help you train your curiosity and logical thinking.

    By planning tomorrow the day before you begin the day with a plan. This allows you to work much more productively. Many people are busy all day, but not actually productive. A great part of being smart is knowing that hard work is inferior to smart work. Pick your battles in advance.

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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