Like any muscle, the brain has to be flexed and trained. And a sharp mind can help you in your career. There are things you can do to keep your brain strong and nimble.
“Keeping your brain at peak performance is your greatest asset when it comes to keeping your job (or moving on to something better). Strong brain skills will help you compete against the younger minds coming out of college. They may be eager and fresh-faced, but you’re a seasoned pro with the knowledge of past failures and successes, client relationships, company loyalty and a highly trained brain!” points out Tanya Mitchell, VP of Research & Development for LearningRx, a personal brain training company, and co-author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside.”
She continues, “Consider any improvements to your brain to be an investment in your future; not just in the workplace, but also in retirement. You’ll be glad you kept your mind sharp when you’re sitting on the beach in Maui doing a crossword puzzle.”
“If you don’t realize your brain can change (for better or worse!), you’re bound to damage it or at the very least, not help it live up to its full potential,” warns Mitchell. “Much like the rest of your body, your brain needs healthy foods and physical exercise to function at its peak. It also needs mental exercise (e.g., learning a new language, brain games, social activity) and one-on-one brain training to perform at its peak.”
Simple things such as multitasking, teamwork and decision-making can exercise your brain. Here are a few others:
Try a few word games–you may actually come up with a new invention in the process. One exercise to do is “benefit word mashing,” says Bryan Mattimore, co-founder of Growth Engine Innovation Agency and author of “21 Days to a Big Idea”, which is a 21-day program of creativity exercises for the brain. He explains, ”Put benefit-oriented words in front of other words to create new inventions. Example: Put the word ‘smart’ in front of virtually any other word/noun. Smart basketball, Smart lock, Smart fork… All are new inventions currently on the market,” says Mattimore.
Skip the lists. “Use mnemonics instead of lists. Using mnemonics (triggers to aid memory using visual imagery or sounds, such as rhyming) is a great way to boost your brain while developing a system to remember things when you just can’t get to a piece of paper,” advises Mitchell. She explains how it works. “Here’s one example of a number system: 1=tree (think of the one trunk), 2=legs (think two legs), 3=stool (three legs), 4=truck (4 tires) and 5=glove (5 fingers). Link the items that you need to remember to your memory objects. If you’re upstairs and realize you need to buy toilet paper, envision yourself wrapping a tree in toilet paper. While you’re emptying your trash, you run out of bags, so you visualize yourself hopping around on two legs in the garbage bag. When you get to the grocery store, just remember your number system and what you linked to them,” Says Mitchell.
Challenge yourself. “Put a challenge on a whiteboard in your home or office, and then as a daily mental discipline/brain exercise, add facts, questions and ideas relevant to the challenge. Do it for seven days. This technique leverages ‘soak time’… the subconscious brain’s ability to discover patterns/make connections over time,” says Mattimore.
Read with an inquiring mind. Don’t just read to read, read with a purpose. “Read with an entrepreneurial eye: look for five things when reading articles and magazines: 1) a problem, 2) a new technology that could be adapted to create a new invention, 3) a way to save people or companies time or 4) money, and 5) ways to help people self-actualize/grow,” suggests Mattimore.
Time yourself. “Add a timer to activities to increase processing speed. Time yourself paying bills, reading, doing Sudokus or doing a crossword puzzle,” says Mitchell. It will get your mind working faster and faster.
Exercising your mind will only result in positives for your career. “And career advancement can enable a person to become known as an ‘idea person’ and ultimately a true innovator,” concludes Mattimore. “These daily mental exercises don’t take a lot of time, but can have a profound effect on all aspects of one’s life: self-confidence, financial success and happiness.”