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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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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

    58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

    Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

    Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

    1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

    The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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    Encourage Your Employees

    When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

    Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

    Offer Rewards

    Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

    The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

    Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

    Give Autonomy

    Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

    Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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    Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

    2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

    I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

    Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

    For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

    We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

    Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

    A To Do Scheduling System

    Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

    The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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    Ask If They like What They’re Doing

    If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

    Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More Resources About Team Management

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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