How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

In order to grow as a person, attract worth girls, and climb up the career ladder, you should develop. Upgrading the mind requires usually perseverance, learning many scientific theories, guidelines, and laws. However, the scientists have found the most unexpected ways that can help you answer the question, “How to become more intelligent?”

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

1. Good sleep

Sleep has an important influence not only on the functioning of the body during the day but also on the ability to learn. Sleep helps preserve and “sort through” all the knowledge that has been received during the day. There was conducted an interesting memory test where all the volunteers were divided into 2 groups. Two hours before the test, one group was asleep, and another one didn’t have such opportunity. Those who had slept before the test showed the result on average 20% better than the members of the group who had not slept at all. Good sleep is one of the steps to become intelligent.

2. Chewing gum

It turns out that a chewing gum can increase cognitive abilities within a short period of time. This was proved by a test, in which 160 volunteers participated. Those who were chewing a chewing gum, fulfilled, on average, several additional tasks in comparison to those who did that test without a chewing gum in their mouths. The improved efficiency of the brain’s work is caused by the fact that a chewing gum gives an additional stimulus to the brain’s work, awakening it and allowing to focus more on the task at hand. What to do to become intelligent? Use a chewing gum when you need to focus on an important task.

3. Listening to music while studying

Listening to music, especially classical music, can make you more intelligent. For example, Beethoven’s works will help you learn more. Classical music with 60-70 beats per minute helps completely relax when the mind is calm and receptive. Imagination is stimulated at this moment, and the concentration of attention improves, this state is close to meditation.

4. Sadness

How to become highly intelligent? There is a direct connection between sadness and mental development. When a person is sad, their feelings become aggravated, and the brain begins to process the information with full attention to details that are especially important. In a state of sadness, the brain is not inclined to think in stereotypes, and it avoids the typical mistakes.

5. Writing by hand

Despite the era of computers and smartphones, the records that are made by your own hand on paper will never lose relevance. Besides, this action has a beneficial effect on the brain activity. Students who are writing down the lectures on paper, do not always have time to record all the words of the lecturer, so they have to shorten, replace words with pictures or other symbols. With further study of the records, the brain begins to analyze and decipher the material, this leads to better memorization. This method affects the brain more positively than recording lectures on a laptop, although it is less practical.

6. Writing by another hand (advice from meetwife.com)

How to become intelligent? The easiest way that you can use, is to change your hand. It may sound funny, but it’s about doing the most common activities with another active limb. For example, if you are a right-handed person, make it habit to use your left hand in everyday life, for example, to open the front door, to type the text, to use a computer mouse.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

There’s a right way to learn

Want to be more successful? Actually, that’s not ambitious enough — want to be the best?

I do. So I called my friend Daniel Coyle, author of the best books on getting better at anything: The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent.

Dan knows that the “10,000 hour rule” is nice, but you need to align your effort with the way your brain was designed to learn.

Hours are vital but you can get to mastery faster — much faster — by practicing the right way.

So how can you and I do that? Here are seven steps experts use:

1) Be uncomfortable

You learn best when you’re reaching. “Flow” is great. But flow is not the best way to learn.

You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability. It needs to be hard. That’s how your brain grows.

We learn when we’re in our discomfort zone. When you’re struggling, that’s when you’re getting smarter. The more time you spend there, the faster you learn. It’s better to spend a very, very high quality ten minutes, or even ten seconds, than it is to spend a mediocre hour. You want to practice where you are on the edge of your ability, reaching over and over again, making mistakes, failing, realizing those mistakes and reaching again.

More on the best way for you to practice here.

2) Stop reading. Start doing.

Keep the “Rule of Two-Thirds” in mind. Spend only one third of your time studying.

The other two-thirds of your time you want to be doing the activity. Practicing. Testing yourself.

Get your nose out of that book. Avoid the classroom. Whatever it is you want to be the best at, be doing it.

The closer your practice is to the real thing, the faster you learn.

Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it. There’s a rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.

More on how to shift from reading to doing here.

3) The sweet spot

You want to be successful 60 to 80 percent of the time when training. That’s the sweet spot for improvement.

When learning is too hard, we quit. When it’s too easy… well, we quit then too.

Always be upping the challenge to stay in that 60 to 80 percent zone.

You don’t want to be succeeding 40 percent of the time. That’s flailing around. You don’t want to be succeeding 95 percent of the time. That’s too easy. You want to constantly be toggling, adjusting the environment so that you’re succeeding 60 to 80 percent of the time.

More on how to find your sweet spot for learning here.

4) Commit to the long term

Asking someone “How long are you going to be doing this?” was the best predictor of how skilled that person would end up being.

Merely committing to the long haul had huge effects.

The question that ended up being the most predictive of skill was “How long are you going to be doing this?” Commitment was the difference maker. The people who combined commitment with a little bit of practice, their skills went off the charts.

Commit to the long haul. Don’t give up. Even works for mice:

More on how long term commitment can take you to the next level here.

5) Find a role model

Watching the best people work is one of the most powerful things you can do.

It’s motivating, inspiring and it’s how you were built to learn. Study the best to be the best.

When we stare at someone we want to become and we have a really clear idea of where we want to be, it unlocks a tremendous amount of energy. We’re social creatures, and when we get the idea that we want to join some enchanted circle up above us, that is what really lights up motivation. “Look, they did it. I can do it.” It sounds very basic, but spending time staring at the best can be one of the most powerful things you do.

More on finding the best mentor for you here.

6) Naps are steroids for your brain

Napping isn’t for the lazy. It’s one of the habits of the most successful people in any field.

Sleep is essential to learning. Naps are a tool that will make you the best.

Napping is a high performance activity. If you looked into the habits of highly successful people you would see a lot of naps, a lot of recovery. It’s sort of our brains’ janitorial service. It helps us clean out the stuff we don’t want. It also helps us work on ideas while we’re asleep. Top performers use sleep as a tool.

More on how astronauts use sleep to increase performance here.

7) Keep a notebook

Eminem keeps a journal. Peyton Manning keeps a journal.

Top performers track their progress, set goals, reflect, and learn from their mistakes.

Most people who are taking an ownership role in their talent development use this magical tool called a notebook. Keep a performance journal. If you want to get better, you need a map, and that journal is that map. You can write down what you did today, what you tried to do, where you made mistakes. It’s a place to reflect. It’s a place to capture information. It’s a place to be able to track your progress. It’s one of the most underused yet powerful tools that I could imagine anybody using.

More on how to use a notebook to be your best here.

If you only remember two words From this…

Dan says the two key words are “Reach” and “Stare.”

Reach: Always push yourself to the edge of your ability.

Stare: Look at those better than you and emulate them.

I would say, “Reach. Get out on the edge of your ability. Get into your discomfort zone and reach past that.” And I would say, “Stare. Find somebody you want to be in two years, three years, five years, and stare at that person. See what they’re doing. See exactly what they’re doing, and steal that. Steal from them.”

Sum up

Sadly, you weren’t born an expert.

But you can become one with practice and time. Start now. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve:

I’ll be sending out more tips from Dan in my weekly email.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

More from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

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21 Tips to Become the Most Productive Person You Know

How to become smarter 21 things you can do dailyI wanted to help you create explosive productivity so you get big things done (and make your life matter).

Here are 21 tips to get you to your best productivity.

#1. Check email in the afternoon so you protect the peak energy hours of your mornings for your best work.

#2. Stop waiting for perfect conditions to launch a great project. Immediate action fuels a positive feedback loop that drives even more action.

#3. Remember that big, brave goals release energy. So set them clearly and then revisit them every morning for 5 minutes.

#4. Mess creates stress (I learned this from tennis icon Andre Agassi who said he wouldn’t let anyone touch his tennis bag because if it got disorganized, he’d get distracted). So clean out the clutter in your office to get more done.

#5. Sell your TV. You’re just watching other people get successful versus doing the things that will get you to your dreams.

#6. Say goodbye to the energy vampires in your life (the negative souls who steal your enthusiasm).

#7. Run routines. When I studied the creative lives of massively productive people like Stephen King, John Grisham and Thomas Edison, I discovered they follow strict daily routines. (i.e., when they would get up, when they would start work, when they would exercise and when they would relax). Peak productivity’s not about luck. It’s about devotion.

#8. Get up at 5 am. Win the battle of the bed. Put mind over mattress. This habit alone will strengthen your willpower so it serves you more dutifully in the key areas of your life.

#9. Don’t do so many meetings. (I’ve trained the employees of our FORTUNE 500 clients on exactly how to do this – including having the few meetings they now do standing up – and it’s created breakthrough results for them).

#10. Don’t say yes to every request. Most of us have a deep need to be liked. That translates into us saying yes to everything – which is the end of your elite productivity.

#11. Outsource everything you can’t be BIW (Best in the World) at. Focus only on activities within what I call “Your Picasso Zone”.

#12. Stop multi-tasking. New research confirms that all the distractions invading our lives are rewiring the way our brains work (and drop our IQ by 5 points!). Be one of the rare-air few who develops the mental and physical discipline to have a mono-maniacal focus on one thing for many hours. (It’s all about practice).

#13. Get fit like Madonna. Getting to your absolute best physical condition will create explosive energy, renew your focus and multiply your creativity.

#14. Workout 2X a day. This is just one of the little-known productivity tactics that I’ll walk you through in my new online training program YOUR PRODUCTIVITY UNLEASHED (details at the end of this post) but here’s the key: exercise is one of the greatest productivity tools in the world. So do 20 minutes first thing in the morning and then another workout around 6 or 7 pm to set you up for wow in the evening.

#15. Drink more water. When you’re dehydrated, you’ll have far less energy. And get less done.

#16. Work in 90 minute blocks with 10 minute intervals to recover and refuel (another game-changing move I personally use to do my best work).

#17. Write a Stop Doing List. Every productive person obsessively sets To Do Lists. But those who play at world-class also record what they commit to stop doing. Steve Jobs said that what made Apple Apple was not so much what they chose to build but all the projects they chose to ignore.

#18. Use your commute time. If you’re commuting 30 minutes each way every day – get this: at the end of a year, you’ve spent 6 weeks of 8 hour days in your car. I encourage you to use that time to listen to fantastic books on audio + excellent podcasts and valuable learning programs. Remember, the fastest way to double your income is to triple your rate of learning.

#19. Be a contrarian. Why buy your groceries at the time the store is busiest? Why go to movies on the most popular nights? Why hit the gym when the gym’s completely full? Do things at off-peak hours and you’ll save so many of them.

#20. Get things right the first time. Most people are wildly distracted these days. And so they make mistakes. To unleash your productivity, become one of the special performers who have the mindset of doing what it takes to get it flawless first. This saves you days of having to fix problems.

#21. Get lost. Don’t be so available to everyone. I often spend hours at a time in the cafeteria of a university close to our headquarters. I turn off my devices and think, create, plan and write. Zero interruptions. Pure focus. Massive results.

I truly hope these 21 productivity tips have been valuable to you. And that I’ve been of service. Your productivity is your life made visible. Please protect it.

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Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

We all want to be our best, but many people wonder if it’s actually possible to become a better person once you’re an adult. The answer is a resounding yes. There are always ways to improve yourself. This answer leads to more questions, however.

What is the best way to become a better person? What is the easiest approach? And what are the most important aspects of self to work on? Taking into account your own wellbeing as well as the best interests of others, here are some of the most important ways to become a better person.

Let Go of Anger

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KOLOstock / Getty Images

We all experience anger in our lives. Uncontrolled anger, however, can create problems in our relationships and even with our health.   All of this can lead to more stress and additional problems, complicating life and keeping us from being our best selves. That’s why learning to manage and eventually let go of anger is so important to becoming a better person.

Letting go of anger isn’t always easy. But the first step is learning more about recognizing anger and knowing what to do when you feel angry in your life.  

Recognizing anger is often simple if you make an effort to notice when you feel upset and decide to manage this feeling rather than denying it or lashing out at others as a way of coping. Focus on noticing when you feel angry and why, and know that there is a difference between feeling angry and acting on that anger. Then, know your options.

You can change your beliefs about what is making you angry. This can work by learning more about the situation, or even reminding yourself there may be things you don’t know yet.

Remind yourself that maybe that person who cut you off in traffic was distracted by something challenging in their own life. If a friend seems to be rude to you, inquire about how their day is going and find out if there’s more that you don’t know.

You can also focus on what your “anger triggers” are, and eliminate them as possible. For example, if you find yourself becoming frustrated and angry when you have to rush, work on making more space in your schedule (even if it means saying “no” a little more), and try to eliminate that trigger. If a certain person makes you angry, try to limit their role in your life, if it doesn’t work to talk things out with them first.

It’s also important to learn to let go of grudges and residual anger from each day. Don’t wake up holding a grudge from the night before if you can help it. Focus on forgiveness, even if it means you don’t let someone who wronged you continue to have an important role in your life. When you stay in the present moment as much as possible, this becomes easier.

Practicing stress relievers like meditation can also help you to let go of anger.   Focus on releasing the hold that the past may have on you. Put your attention to the current moment and it becomes easier to avoid rumination and stay in a good place.

Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and clinical development specialist.

While you might know that you need to exercise your body, did you know that it might also be important to exercise your mind? You’ve probably heard the old adage “use it or lose it.” Many researchers do believe that this maxim applies to your brain health.

Brain training is all the rage these days, often touted as a way to sharpen your mind and even boost intelligence. While many cognitive scientists suggest that the claims surrounding brain training are both exaggerated and misleading, there is an abundance of research suggesting that certain types of activities can be beneficial for your brain’s health.  

Take Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

If you want to take care of your mind, you need to start by taking care of your body.

Research has time and time again shown that people who engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and proper nutrition are less susceptible to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process.

Studies from 2006 even suggest that exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from shrinkage as it ages.   Research on mice in 2013 has even revealed that exercise can increase neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, in the brain’s hippocampus.  

One study published in 2013 looked at healthy behaviors in nearly 2,300 men over the course of thirty years. Researchers looked at the participants’ behaviors and cognitive abilities starting in middle age tracked their progress throughout old age.  

The researchers found that men who practiced certain healthy behaviors were around 60% less likely to experience cognitive impairment and dementia as they age.

These healthy behaviors included not smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, regularly exercising, consuming lots of vegetables and fruits, and consuming a low to moderate amount of alcohol.  

So if you want to build a better mind, start by working on your physical health first. Go for a walk, start incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, and try to give up any bad habits like excessive alcohol consumption or tobacco use. Some of these might be more difficult than others, but your brain will thank you for years to come.

Draw a Map of Your Town From Memory

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

While you might feel like you can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with your eyes closed, try challenging your brain by actually drawing a map of your town or neighborhood from memory. No cheating! Try to include major streets, major side streets, and local landmarks.

Once you are done, compare your memory map to a real map of the area. How did you do? Are you surprised by some of the things that you missed? If you found this activity too easy, try drawing a less familiar area from memory, such as a map of the entire United States or Europe, and try to label every state or country.

Navigating your way to the supermarket or doctor’s office might seem simple and almost automatic when you are behind the wheel of your car. However, forcing yourself to remember the layout of your neighborhood as well as draw and label it helps activate a variety of areas of your brain.

Learn Something New

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

This brain exercise requires a bit of commitment, but it is also one that just might give you the most bang for your buck. Learning something new is one way to keep your brain on its toes and continually introduce new challenges.

In one study, researchers assigned older adults to learn a variety of new skills ranging from digital photography to quilting. They then did memory tests and compared the experimental groups to control groups. Those in the control groups had engaged in activities that were fun but not mentally challenging such as watching movies and listening to the radio.  

The researchers found that only those participants who had learned a new skill experienced improvement on the memory tests.

They also discovered that these memory improvements were still present when tested again a year later.

Some things you might want to try include learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument or learning a new hobby. Not only will you be stretching your mind, but you will also be continually learning something new as you keep expanding your skills and becoming more accomplished.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

There’s a right way to learn

Want to be more successful? Actually, that’s not ambitious enough — want to be the best?

I do. So I called my friend Daniel Coyle, author of the best books on getting better at anything: The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent.

Dan knows that the “10,000 hour rule” is nice, but you need to align your effort with the way your brain was designed to learn.

Hours are vital but you can get to mastery faster — much faster — by practicing the right way.

So how can you and I do that? Here are seven steps experts use:

1) Be uncomfortable

You learn best when you’re reaching. “Flow” is great. But flow is not the best way to learn.

You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability. It needs to be hard. That’s how your brain grows.

We learn when we’re in our discomfort zone. When you’re struggling, that’s when you’re getting smarter. The more time you spend there, the faster you learn. It’s better to spend a very, very high quality ten minutes, or even ten seconds, than it is to spend a mediocre hour. You want to practice where you are on the edge of your ability, reaching over and over again, making mistakes, failing, realizing those mistakes and reaching again.

More on the best way for you to practice here.

2) Stop reading. Start doing.

Keep the “Rule of Two-Thirds” in mind. Spend only one third of your time studying.

The other two-thirds of your time you want to be doing the activity. Practicing. Testing yourself.

Get your nose out of that book. Avoid the classroom. Whatever it is you want to be the best at, be doing it.

The closer your practice is to the real thing, the faster you learn.

Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it. There’s a rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.

More on how to shift from reading to doing here.

3) The sweet spot

You want to be successful 60 to 80 percent of the time when training. That’s the sweet spot for improvement.

When learning is too hard, we quit. When it’s too easy… well, we quit then too.

Always be upping the challenge to stay in that 60 to 80 percent zone.

You don’t want to be succeeding 40 percent of the time. That’s flailing around. You don’t want to be succeeding 95 percent of the time. That’s too easy. You want to constantly be toggling, adjusting the environment so that you’re succeeding 60 to 80 percent of the time.

More on how to find your sweet spot for learning here.

4) Commit to the long term

Asking someone “How long are you going to be doing this?” was the best predictor of how skilled that person would end up being.

Merely committing to the long haul had huge effects.

The question that ended up being the most predictive of skill was “How long are you going to be doing this?” Commitment was the difference maker. The people who combined commitment with a little bit of practice, their skills went off the charts.

Commit to the long haul. Don’t give up. Even works for mice:

More on how long term commitment can take you to the next level here.

5) Find a role model

Watching the best people work is one of the most powerful things you can do.

It’s motivating, inspiring and it’s how you were built to learn. Study the best to be the best.

When we stare at someone we want to become and we have a really clear idea of where we want to be, it unlocks a tremendous amount of energy. We’re social creatures, and when we get the idea that we want to join some enchanted circle up above us, that is what really lights up motivation. “Look, they did it. I can do it.” It sounds very basic, but spending time staring at the best can be one of the most powerful things you do.

More on finding the best mentor for you here.

6) Naps are steroids for your brain

Napping isn’t for the lazy. It’s one of the habits of the most successful people in any field.

Sleep is essential to learning. Naps are a tool that will make you the best.

Napping is a high performance activity. If you looked into the habits of highly successful people you would see a lot of naps, a lot of recovery. It’s sort of our brains’ janitorial service. It helps us clean out the stuff we don’t want. It also helps us work on ideas while we’re asleep. Top performers use sleep as a tool.

More on how astronauts use sleep to increase performance here.

7) Keep a notebook

Eminem keeps a journal. Peyton Manning keeps a journal.

Top performers track their progress, set goals, reflect, and learn from their mistakes.

Most people who are taking an ownership role in their talent development use this magical tool called a notebook. Keep a performance journal. If you want to get better, you need a map, and that journal is that map. You can write down what you did today, what you tried to do, where you made mistakes. It’s a place to reflect. It’s a place to capture information. It’s a place to be able to track your progress. It’s one of the most underused yet powerful tools that I could imagine anybody using.

More on how to use a notebook to be your best here.

If you only remember two words From this…

Dan says the two key words are “Reach” and “Stare.”

Reach: Always push yourself to the edge of your ability.

Stare: Look at those better than you and emulate them.

I would say, “Reach. Get out on the edge of your ability. Get into your discomfort zone and reach past that.” And I would say, “Stare. Find somebody you want to be in two years, three years, five years, and stare at that person. See what they’re doing. See exactly what they’re doing, and steal that. Steal from them.”

Sum up

Sadly, you weren’t born an expert.

But you can become one with practice and time. Start now. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve:

I’ll be sending out more tips from Dan in my weekly email.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

More from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Truly knowledgeable people are a delight to come across. They make excellent conversationalists and give the impression that they are very well-rounded. This is important if you wish to become more likable or are trying to widen your networking circle.

6 ways to become more knowledgeable

  1. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with people smarter than you
  2. Read a newspaper every day
  3. Listen to an episode of an audiobook or podcast every day
  4. Make use of idle time
  5. Visit any exhibitions happening in your area
  6. Take a class on a subject completely new to you

1. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with people smarter than you

Many people begin to get uncomfortable when realizing they don’t understand or aren’t familiar with a topic someone is talking about. They might try to change the subject or worse, make an excuse to walk away.

The next time this happens, try to continue the conversation instead. Ask questions about things you’re unfamiliar with and respond with your own opinions when you can. There is no shame in showing you’re interested in learning something new.

2. Read a newspaper every day

Coming off as someone who has kept up with the daily news is a clear indication of intelligence. It has and always will be important to be aware of what’s going on around you.

If you don’t like reading the old school physical newspapers, try to subscribe to an online version. There are plenty of online portals that give you quality news for a reasonable subscription fee.

Many even send daily digests straight to your inbox!

3. Listen to an episode of an audiobook or podcast every day

With there being such a large range of audiobooks and podcasts available for free online, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Do some research on featuring topics that might interest you and try to listen to an episode each day. It’s a great way to spend any free time you have and will end up making you a little bit smarter!

Amazon Audible has a large collection of audiobook categories for you to select from. Now you get to enjoy listening to your favorite audiobooks anytime, anywhere.

4. Make use of idle time

An idle mind is the devil’s playground. When you find yourself in a situation where your mind’s not at work (such as in a waiting room, during lunch break or while on commute), try doing something to occupy yourself.

Take the time to do some reading or listen to an audio book or podcast. Put your smartphone to good use by downloading some insightful articles that you’ll read when you have time. It’s better food for the brain than spending that time just watching people around you.

5. Visit any exhibitions happening in your area

You know all those posters you see on your office or apartment building that advertise a cool event coming up? Next time you walk by one, try to actually pay attention.

These little events or exhibitions are often a great way to learn new things and meet new people. The more obscure the event, the better. You’ll end up coming out of it having picked up quirky bits of information that will make you an undeniably more interesting person.

6. Take a class on a subject completely new to you

If it’s been years since you graduated, it’s likely you haven’t experienced what it’s like to be a student recently. Sometimes, the best way to learn is to just sit down with a class and listen to an expert who knows best.

Research on centers in your area that offer classes on topics you want to learn more about. They are often not too expensive and will give you a unique opportunity to delve into a new subject.

At the same time, do check out Essay Writing by Essayservice for your online writing services needs.

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How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

​The Spruce / Ruthie Darling

Habits are powerful, but they’re not easy to form—particularly good habits. Creating a schedule for your daily tasks and activities that you’re able to stick to will help you to form good habits and break bad ones for a more productive, happier life.

Setting up a solid daily routine is a little bit art and a little bit of science. The science is figuring out what you need to get done, while the art is figuring out when to do it.

Make a List

First, write down everything you need to get done daily, both in your home life and at work. Don’t worry about how you organize this list; this is a brain dump, not a to-do list. Take 30 minutes with a notebook to jot down everything you do each day, as well as everything you should get done.

If you feel like it’s too hard to remember all the tasks in one sitting, carry around a notebook and take notes throughout the day. In the beginning, no task is too small—if you want to work “brush teeth” into your routine, put it on the list.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

Structure Your Day

Early birds get things done most effectively before lunchtime, while night owls tend to get their creative burst of energy in the evenings. Think about when you work best, and group your tasks into the time of day that makes the most sense for when you will best complete them.

  • Mornings: Mornings are often about getting out the door, which can be its challenge. Group all your early tasks here, like feeding and walking pets, unloading the first load of dishes for the day, and putting dinner in the slow cooker. Once the morning rush is over, reserve the mornings for the tasks that require the most critical thinking and troubleshooting. There’s a common saying, “Eat the frog,” which refers to getting the task that you want to do least done first thing in the day, so it’s not looming over you.
  • Midday: This is a tricky time of day because your energy levels—and perhaps the caffeine from your morning coffee—have likely dissipated. However, this means you might be primed to do the boring, routine stuff that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. Use this time for tasks like answering emails, setting appointments, and running errands. If you are based at home during the day, use this time for routine cleaning, like emptying the dishwasher and scrubbing the bathrooms.
  • Evening: Evenings work best when they’re set aside for planning and preparation for the next day. Layout your clothes, pack lunches, and declutter the rooms where items tend to pile up, like the kitchen. If you follow the weekly organizing routine, you’ll be picking up one room a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

Get Specific (Optional)

Within these loose outlines of each part of your day, you can get as specific as you want. For example, you might want to write out a routine for your morning that looks something like this:

  • 6 a.m.: Wake up, brush teeth, and shower
  • 6:30 a.m.: Breakfast
  • 7 a.m.: Leave the house
  • 7:15 a.m.: Drop off the kids at school
  • 7:30: Arrive at the office

That’s a very detailed schedule, but some people might feel more comfortable with that—at least until they get the hang of the routine.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

Schedule in Time for Flexibility

Life gets in the way of even the most detailed of routines. The point is to harness your most productive times to use for your most challenging tasks, and your least productive times to do the more mundane tasks. There might be times when you have to go to a doctor’s appointment during the hours you usually set aside for work, or your evening is taken up by a social gathering—a daily routine will keep things flowing smoothly, despite hiccups.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

Test Drive Your New Routine

Take your new routine for a test drive for 30 days. How does it feel? Did you schedule your tasks at activities at times that make sense? Do you need to adjust things? Tweak anything that is not working on a case-by-case basis, and then assess after 30 days to see how your new routine is working for you.

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

Creating a daily routine seems daunting at first, but you will soon reap the rewards when your productivity soars, morning meltdowns are reduced, and you find you actually have pockets of free time throughout the day or week. Even better? Nothing is written in stone so if your daily routine doesn’t work perfectly at first, simply make some tweaks until you find the ideal schedule.

Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and clinical development specialist.

While you might know that you need to exercise your body, did you know that it might also be important to exercise your mind? You’ve probably heard the old adage “use it or lose it.” Many researchers do believe that this maxim applies to your brain health.

Brain training is all the rage these days, often touted as a way to sharpen your mind and even boost intelligence. While many cognitive scientists suggest that the claims surrounding brain training are both exaggerated and misleading, there is an abundance of research suggesting that certain types of activities can be beneficial for your brain’s health.  

Take Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

If you want to take care of your mind, you need to start by taking care of your body.

Research has time and time again shown that people who engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and proper nutrition are less susceptible to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process.

Studies from 2006 even suggest that exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from shrinkage as it ages.   Research on mice in 2013 has even revealed that exercise can increase neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, in the brain’s hippocampus.  

One study published in 2013 looked at healthy behaviors in nearly 2,300 men over the course of thirty years. Researchers looked at the participants’ behaviors and cognitive abilities starting in middle age tracked their progress throughout old age.  

The researchers found that men who practiced certain healthy behaviors were around 60% less likely to experience cognitive impairment and dementia as they age.

These healthy behaviors included not smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, regularly exercising, consuming lots of vegetables and fruits, and consuming a low to moderate amount of alcohol.  

So if you want to build a better mind, start by working on your physical health first. Go for a walk, start incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, and try to give up any bad habits like excessive alcohol consumption or tobacco use. Some of these might be more difficult than others, but your brain will thank you for years to come.

Draw a Map of Your Town From Memory

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

While you might feel like you can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with your eyes closed, try challenging your brain by actually drawing a map of your town or neighborhood from memory. No cheating! Try to include major streets, major side streets, and local landmarks.

Once you are done, compare your memory map to a real map of the area. How did you do? Are you surprised by some of the things that you missed? If you found this activity too easy, try drawing a less familiar area from memory, such as a map of the entire United States or Europe, and try to label every state or country.

Navigating your way to the supermarket or doctor’s office might seem simple and almost automatic when you are behind the wheel of your car. However, forcing yourself to remember the layout of your neighborhood as well as draw and label it helps activate a variety of areas of your brain.

Learn Something New

How to become smarter 21 things you can do daily

This brain exercise requires a bit of commitment, but it is also one that just might give you the most bang for your buck. Learning something new is one way to keep your brain on its toes and continually introduce new challenges.

In one study, researchers assigned older adults to learn a variety of new skills ranging from digital photography to quilting. They then did memory tests and compared the experimental groups to control groups. Those in the control groups had engaged in activities that were fun but not mentally challenging such as watching movies and listening to the radio.  

The researchers found that only those participants who had learned a new skill experienced improvement on the memory tests.

They also discovered that these memory improvements were still present when tested again a year later.

Some things you might want to try include learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument or learning a new hobby. Not only will you be stretching your mind, but you will also be continually learning something new as you keep expanding your skills and becoming more accomplished.