You probably spend at least a couple of hours each week training your body--doing cardio, weight training, or even just walking. You're training your muscles to stay pliant and strong, your joints to stay fluid, and your body's physical systems to run optimally.
But how much time do you spend training your brain?
Brain training isn't a new concept. It can help us retain information, recall facts more quickly, and sharpen our focus. Even a brief course of brain exercises can help older adults improve reasoning skills and processing speed for 10 years after the training ends, according to a recent federally sponsored study on cognitive training.
Here's the thing, though: You need another thing to do like you need another hole in your head.
We're busy--we're entrepreneurs. We're exercising our brains all day long!
Even so, adding just a few deliberate brain exercises to your daily routine can help you reap the benefits of brain training, and it doesn't have to be another item on your daily to-do list.
Here are seven simple daily habits you can work into your routine to sharpen your intelligence:
1. Follow ideas through to various outcomes.
Entrepreneurs are often plagued with more ideas than time to deal with them in. Make it a habit to do idea exercises--come up with three possible outcomes for your next idea, even if there's only one way you expect it to turn out. Visualize your idea in different ways. Make it a habit to consider more alternatives.
2. Add 10-20 minutes of aerobic exercise to your day.
Aerobic activity slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer's in half and your risk of general dementia by 60 percent, according to John Medina, PhD, director of the Seattle Pacific University Brain Center for Applied Learning Research. (See AARP.org.)
Hopefully, you're exercising already for the physical benefits, but if not, the fact it can keep you sharp and even enhance your creativity should be great motivators!
3. Engage in stimulating conversation.
In real life--outside the computer or mobile phone screen. The art of conversation requires that we think on our feet, and conversing with someone smarter than you can be a fantastic exercise in quick thinking as well as an opportunity to learn something new. Seek out interesting people and engage them in conversation, however brief.
4. Take online courses.
You can learn just about anything online--even on a mobile device. Commit to learning something new every day, whether it's during your transit to work, on your lunch break, or in the five spare minutes you have between meetings. Better yet, make it something super useful, like coding.
5. Give your brain a break.
You can't be "on" all the time. Make productivity apps a part of your daily routine, to automate redundant tasks that take up your time and brain space.
6. Practice a hobby.
Make sure you're doing something you love every day. If your brain is constantly bogged down in work, it has no time or space to explore creative, fun ideas and concepts. In fact, some hobbies--like playing video games or practicing a musical instrument--can help sharpen your intelligence as well!
7. Look, Listen, Learn.
Try working a variety of media types into your day. Read reports, listen to podcasts, watch video clips where you can, and use gamified apps or sites when possible. Switch it up so you're using more of your senses to take in information, and staying more engaged to retain more of it. If you're finding yourself bored with reading or bogged down in audio files, take a break and try a new media type.
Do you have a favorite strategy you use to stay sharp? Share yours in the comments.