How to think better? 7 surprising tips

How memory is born

In her TEDx lecture, senior researcher Professor Sandra Bond Chapman presented seven tips that can jumpstart and increase brain activity. While some of the tips defy conventional beliefs, it is worth paying attention to them, as they can improve the quality of life.

Seven tips for optimizing brain function:

Single Task

Our brains are only built to do one task at a given moment. Despite this, in the modern lifestyle we tend to execute several tasks at once — we think it’s necessary and even good for us. In practice, what actually happens when we “multitask” is that we keep jumping from one stage to another. These sharp transitions require effort and energy, as we have to remember each of the tasks, what exactly we did, at what stage we stopped, etc. For the brain, these efforts come at the cost of other high-level thinking, for example, at the expense of the attention required to make a decision at that moment. In fact, working on many tasks simultaneously reduces our mental abilities. At the bottom line, if you work on one assignment at a time, you will likely feel an immediate increase in your efficiency and mental output.

Inhibit Information

In the world we live in, the amount of information we have access to at any given moment is enormous. In fact, the amount of information accessible to us today is 200 times greater than the amount we had 20 years ago. In the past, the assumption was that the more information we remember, the more knowledgeable and wise we would become. In our modern world, which includes a huge surplus of information, wisdom is not solely expressed in the ability to absorb information. One of the most important abilities is that of separating the wheat from the chaff — the important from the unimportant, to focus on what really matters.

Bottom line is that when you’re facing a task, make sure that the goal is clear to you, as focusing on that goal will determine your progress. The better we become at focusing on our tasks by relating only to the relevant information and ignoring unnecessary information — the better our performance will be.

Detox Distractions

Technology can be a great thing. The problem with technology begins when we let it manage us instead of assisting us with our needs. Many of us have become addicted to technology, and let’s face it — most of us can’t not be connected to our cell phones. Studies have found that we can’t work more than three minutes without a text message or a phone call interrupting us. Going back to the first tip, our brains are built to do one task at a time. This means that the ability to neutralize external diversions is necessary for maintaining a continuum of work and concentration. Bottom line, the fewer temptations and distractions around us, the deeper and more efficient our thinking will be.

Big Idea Thinking

When we learn new information, we usually want to combine it with knowledge that we already have.

Combining different areas of knowledge enables the creation of new insights by connecting the different concepts. This process requires “high order thinking” , finding common ground and drawing conclusions. Knowledge that has been “high-thinking” will be processed more deeply and better remembered. After reading something new like a story, we need to connect what we learned from the text to our own world of information, and to what we already know at that subject. This requires conscious deep thinking. This method of thinking will work to determine whether we remember what we read or not.

Calibrate Mental Effort

It is important to invest the amount of thought and energy that is required for each task we complete. We tend to waste time by not investing enough thought on the most important issues, when we could be acting faster and making faster decisions. At its core, it’s best to do the “heavy thinking” on the important and complex issues when the brain is at its best. For most people, this would mean in the first two hours of the day.

Innovate

Our brains are “wired to be inspired”. By this we mean that, from young age to older age, our brains are wired to respond very well to innovations. The brain doesn’t like boredom. The brain very quickly learns how to respond to new situations and adapt to them. If we are constantly innovating, deliberately changing the way in which we think, and acting or conversing in different ways than we are used to, we will be awakening our brains. 

Motivate

Researchers have long realized that motivation trumps talent. When we experience motivation, a certain substance (dopamine) is secreted in the brain in greater quantities, which increases our learning speed. When people feel that they are not fulfilling their potential, many times the reason is a lack of motivation. Some will argue that this is not something in our control: how can we “trigger” motivation? Well, it’s easier to have motivation when we’re working on something we love and believe in, yet motivation can also be stimulated when we do something that doesn’t quite excite us. Bottom line, if we come up with ideas for new ways to get the job done and put our own creative thoughts into it, we can increase our motivation. Motivation is what helps us make the impossible possible.

According to Prof. Chapman, each of us has a huge responsibility to ourselves, because everyone is the driver and technician of their own brain. Her dream is that everyone will prioritize their brain care, thereby helping themselves to reach their maximum potential at any age and at any stage. According to Chapman, if we adopt her tips, we will help to preserve our brain health and will be able to function optimally.

Prof. Chapman– TEDx: Click here

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