Intelligence is a work in progress. Everything a smart person knows, they learned from somewhere at one point or another.
Getting smarter doesn’t necessarily mean a huge commitment of time and energy every day.
If you can consistently train your brain to adapt to new situations and information — you will get smarter with time.
The good news is, you don’t have to spend a lot of time every day to become wiser, intelligent or smarter than you were yesterday. You can invest just 5 or ten minutes every day to do more of what helps you upgrade your mental models, perceptions and knowledge.
Work on your personal priorities
In ten minutes, you could decide what to do next week. Track what have you learnt so far to avoid getting complacent and help learn new things.
Planning in a few fun anchor events gives you something to look forward to. Make a list of things you want to learn in the upcoming days.
Don’t over-plan and under-act though. A decision alone changes nothing. Action is the greatest gift that only you can give to yourself, so get started.
Reading puts your brain to work
Opinions vary on what’s the best brain-boosting reading material, with suggestions ranging from developing a daily reading habit to picking up a variety of fiction and nonfiction books.
Charlie Munger once said, “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you”
Embrace life long learning
Smart people are passionate about new knowledge. They never stop learning.
Learning is best when you connect it to things that you’ve already learned. The more you know the more you can connect.
Use the Feynman Technique to make sure you understand things better. This is perhaps the single most effective studying tool that you can use to focus.
Don’t stop looking for answers. If something doesn’t make sense to you, look for ways to expand your knowledge so that you do understand it.
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It pays to have a knowledge source from where you can learn something new daily. Use Pocket to save insightful pieces you come across for later reading. Try reading a few of your saved articles every night before you sleep.
TED Talks is also a good place to spend 10 minutes every day listening to some of the smartest people today.
Give yourself something to pursue
Do something. Create something of value. Share your works. Start a passion project. You will learn more in the process even if you fail. You will be a better person than you were before you gave it a shot.
No matter what you do: create value.
Every online break doesn’t have to be about checking social feeds.
Replace an hour of social browsing with something more mentally nourishing. Challenge yourself to do something original.
As Einstein noted, ‘I’m not smart, I’m just passionately curious…’. All smart people are passionate about their personal pursuits. They find meaning in the work they do.
There’s always something exciting going on in their lives. Find out what brings out the best in you and make time to create it.
Start reflecting in writing
Write down what you learn. It doesn’t have to be pretty or long, but taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writing about what you learned is sure to boost your brainpower.
Write a few hundred words a day on things that you learned. Always take notes. Records brilliant thoughts you get through the day for later use.
Be willing to try new things — even if they don’t seem immediately useful or productive. You never know what will be useful ahead of time.
You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
Share what you learn
One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. If you really want to learn something, find a way to teach it to others.
Share your thoughts with others via a blog, podcast or vlog. Answer a question on Quora. Teach what you know on Udemy.
Explain what you learn to others.
Einstein said if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Try to explain something simply to someone every day, it will help you to understand it better yourself.
“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks,” says Mortimer Adler
When you share, you remember better. It challenges your understanding and forces you to think.
Publish what you learn. It will help you organize your thoughts.
Take time to sit in silence
Take purposeful breaks.
Giving yourself space for your brain to process what it’s learned.
A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and that skipping breaks can lead to stress, exhaustion, and creative block.
Idleness is not a vice, it is indispensable for making those unexpected connections in the brain you crave and necessary to getting creative work done.
Spend some time to think
There is one activity that will have a tremendously beneficial impact on your results: thinking.
Unless you schedule time to think, to really do nothing else but think, you won’t do it.
Don’t just read for other people’s opinions, read for facts and then think. This requires time and effort. You’ll have to learn how to focus.
That space needs to be free from distractions. Your mind is a novelty-seeking device. It evolved to pay attention to things that are new and interesting.
Evaluate your ideas. Ponder them. Thinking is asking yourself questions about ideas.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, for instance, makes his executives spend 10 percent of their day, or four hours per week, just thinking. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking time per day.
Increase mental intensity
Developing mental strength is a work in progress.
Mental strength requires that you continue building new neural pathways by learning new things.
Mental strength involves more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment. Force yourself to use your brain more.
The more regularly you pick up a new skill, or study a new subject, entertain a different thought pattern, the stronger your mind becomes. Try to pick up one new thing every week, then continue working on it as you learn new things.
Truly smart people have the ability to inhabit a different perspective and still function at their best.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function .” F. Scott Fitzgerald said that in 1936.
Abraham Lincoln would sometimes argue with a friend from one perspective, and then they would switch and argue from the opposite perspective.
Exercise your mental muscles regularly.
Awareness is a powerful tool.
The power of being self-aware is that it helps you become conscious of your own habits and decide if you need to change them.
Self-awareness keeps you in touch with your emotions and the underlying feelings that influence your actions and thoughts.
Self-awareness is a tremendous tool for helping us understand ourselves and be at peace with who we are. It leads to self-confidence by building on the knowledge of who you are.
Create a daily habit of self-reflection. Observe your mind when you are immersed in emotion.
Compete with yourself
Get one percent better every day.
Focus on tiny consistent improvements every day.
Learn to beat your expectations of yourself. You will learn how to handle your limits and challenges in the process.
If everything is too good, you’re probably stuck not being awesome.
Calvin Coolidge says “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” If you want long-term success, stop avoiding what’s hard.