1) Get rid of the distractions
You can’t multitask.
To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.
All those buzzing text messages and email chimes can reduce mental ability by an average of 10 IQ points. For men, it’s about three times the effect of smoking marijuana.
A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test. It was five points for women, and fifteen points for men. This effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep. For men, it’s around three times more than the effect of smoking cannabis. While this fact might make an interesting dinner party topic, it’s really not that amusing that one of the most common “productivity tools” can make one as dumb as a stoner… when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an eight-year-old.
2) Get your sleep
If you’ve missed sleep, you’ve reduced your intelligence.
Take an A student used to scoring in the top 10 percent of virtually anything she does. One study showed that if she gets just under seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and about 40 minutes more on weekends, she will begin to score in the bottom 9 percent of non-sleep-deprived individuals.
Think you’re just fine cheating yourself on sleep? Of course you do. But you’re wrong.
…after just a few days, the four and six-hour group reported that, yes, they were slightly sleepy. But they insisted they had adjusted to their new state. Even 14 days into the study, they said sleepiness was not affecting them. In fact, their performance had tanked. In other words, the sleep-deprived among us are lousy judges of our own sleep needs. We are not nearly as sharp as we think we are.
What if you can’t get a good night’s sleep but need to learn new info? Even naps can help:
If you can’t get in a full night’s sleep, you can still improve the ability of your brain to synthesize new information by taking a nap. In a study funded by NASA, David Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of researchers found that letting astronauts sleep for as little as fifteen minutes markedly improved their cognitive performance, even when the nap didn’t lead to an increase in alertness or the ability to pay more attention to a boring task. Researchers at the City University of New York, meanwhile, found that naps helped the brain better assess and make connections between objects.
3) Performance enhancing drugs for your brain
No, they’re not anabolic steroids. It’s caffeine, sugar and nicotine. Coffee and cigarettes make you smarter.
Studies show that caffeine increases the speed at which we process sensory information. And with luscious caffeine jouncing happily through our system, we make faster decisions based on these stimuli. In other words, we see faster and we act faster.
Cigarettes make us smarter too. Or at least their nicotine component does: It’s been shown to boost short-term working memory and executive function. Nicotine patches have also been shown to combat some of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Via Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by the excellent Vaughan Bell:
Increasing glucose and oxygen supplies to the brain seems to allow information to be more accurately and fully committed to memory – in other words, you learn better… light exercise or even deliberately increasing breathing rate by a small amount will increase blood oxygen levels… A well-timed sugary drink, thirty minutes to an hour before you have to remember or take notice of something particularly well should improve how well you remember it.
4) Keep Learning
You always hear that doing puzzles can help stave off dementia. In reality, those aren’t nearly enough to keep your brain sharp. But the principle holds.
Want to keep your mind powerful? Do something that really forces you to stretch yourself:
- Numerous studies have shown learning another language is good for your brain.
- There’s a lot of evidence that learning to play music can make you smarter. (Listening to classical music might increase your IQ as well.)
- Or learn a new skill.
5) Believe in yourself
Want to be smarter? The first step is to believe that you can become smarter:
Those students who learned about IQ’s malleability improved their grades more than did students who did not receive this message, and also saw academics as more important than did students in the control group.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and you’ll perform better:
…Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) did the same study in a classroom, telling elementary school teachers that they had certain students in their class who were “academic spurters.” In fact, these students were selected at random. Absolutely nothing else was done by the researchers to single out these children. Yet by the end of the school year, 30 percent of the the children arbitrarily named as spurters had gained an average of 22 IQ points, and almost all had gained at least 10 IQ points.
Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.