8 Little-Known Ways to Think More Effectively

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.”

- Sigmund Freud

Solving a puzzleWhether you’re having trouble concentrating at work or you just need an extra mental kick to make it through your finals, there are some easy tricks that can improve your memory, concentration and focus.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are or how much experience you’ve had — you can still improve and expand your mind. Optimizing your brain’s function is essential to being the best you can be, whether at work, in leisure, or in your relationships.

Studies of students’ IQ levels show they rise and fall throughout the day depending on a variety of factors and events. Are you operating at your peak? Here are some powerful ways to shift your brain into a higher gear.

1. Do two things at once.

One of the simplest ways to learn how to do two things at once without dividing your attention is to put two TVs next to each other, switch them to different channels, and try to listen to both at once. See how much information you can swallow from each and try not to miss a thing.

Once you’re able to do this well, you can use the TVs to learn how to resist distractions. So, instead of trying to take in everything from both TVs, concentrate on one programme and ignore the other. It’ll be hard at first, but be determined. When you think you’ve mastered it, lower the volume on the set you’re watching and raise it on the one you’re not. If it doesn’t drive you crazy first, this technique is guaranteed to teach you how to pay attention effectively.

2. Become an expert.

A little expertise is a good thing. What you should know is that those who come out on top at work go home and revise. They wouldn’t admit it, but they do. So do your homework. Spend twenty minutes going over some aspect of your job — or, if you’re angling for a move, someone else’s. It takes very little effort to get a leg up on other blokes who don’t take the time to increase their worth as an employee.

3. Speed read.

Most of us read at a snail’s pace — or 256 words per minute — about one-fifth of our potential. Following a few tips, you can get yourself to between 1000-1500 words per minute within four weeks. It’s just a matter of conditioning. Here’s how:

  • Preview what you’re going to read. Look at the titles, subheads or anything that’s in italics or boldfaced. The writer is doing this because he wants you to remember it. It helps you subconsciously pick up on ideas, concepts and other essential information.
  • Use your hand as a pacer to underline what you’re reading and to keep you moving quickly through the text. It’s a concentration tool. It keeps you focused on what you’re reading, which means you’ll retain more.
  • Read groups of words. Words are meant to trigger thoughts. Hearing everything in your head — as opposed to just seeing it — can literally slow your thinking. We’re instructed that in order to comprehend what we read we have to read everything word for word. It’s not necessary. You can read groups of words and get just as much out of it, in less time, without sacrificing tone or style. Start reading words in groups of twos and threes, and increase the number as your skill improves.
  • Read vertically. Left-to-right progression wastes a lot of time and causes you to read everything, most of which isn’t all that necessary. By keeping your left-to-right eye movement at a minimum as you go down the page, your eye can take in segments of up to 3600 words a minute.
  • 4. Grow a big brain by playing.

    Thrashing the kids at FIFA or dishing out the carnage on Halo may not seem like the highest of intellectual pursuits, but playing computer games will not only help you de-stress, it’ll improve your digital dexterity and mental reaction.

    5. Write right.

    To get your point across better on paper, have a dialogue with yourself. Read everything you write out loud. Does it sound natural and unforced? Are there a lot of little pet ideas and clever phrases that you’ve allowed to get in the way of the main idea? Writing is speaking in slow motion. You have plenty of time to get it right. If you read aloud what you write, not only will your level of erudition improve, but your sentences and paragraphs will be better formed — and so will your ideas.

    6. Fresh thinking and bright ideas.

    If Kit-Kat is your idea of a break, then you could be seriously hampering your march towards genius. Too much stress can seriously cripple brain-building. Book a holiday, turn your cell phone off, get away from the grind and let inspiration take you.

    Sunlight and fresh air will do your cogitative faculties no end of good. Improving the oxygen supply to your brain will keep the grey matter happy, while sunlight not only supplies your body with vitamin D (needed for strong bones), it also helps combat attacks of mind-eroding depression.

    7. Listen up.

    Recently, scientists at the University of California plugged 37 college students into a recording of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D-major, then gave them an IQ test measuring abstract reasoning. Results: the students scored seven to ten points higher than those who listened to nothing. Listening to a complex and highly patterned piece of music acts as a “warm-up” for the mind, which could be good for high-level mathematics, navigation, architecture or playing Sudoku.

    8. Sleep to gain greater intelligence.

    Amazing things can happen while you slumber. Sleep allows the more intuitive right side of the brain to work on whatever problems have been troubling your more logical left side during the day.

    Experts on napping from Germany’s University of Lubeck proved that “sleeping” on a big decision is important because sleep provides us with moments of insight — the sudden acquisition of explicit knowledge. Subjects were given a series of stimulus-response sequences, all of which followed a hidden abstract rule. More than twice as many of those who then slept for eight hours before returning to the test had attained insight into the hidden rule.

    An adage claims that wisdom is a primary benefit of getting older. While experience may provide some wisdom, without fine-tuning your brain now and again, it’ll become incrementally more difficult for you to sort out that wisdom.

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