Is AI making you think more about your own cognitive limitations? Me too. The more AI tools that pop up automating things previously thought to be non automatable, the more importance I’m putting on my own abilities to think quickly and creatively and maintain focus and motivation. This article gives you things you can do right now at no cost to get the most out of your brain and give you the best change to remain competitive. We’re diving deep into the best ways to boost your cognitive function. Trust me, after this, you’ll be thinking like Sherlock Holmes, only without the deerstalker cap—unless that’s your thing.
Get rid of that brain fog and wake up raring to go.
So, let’s get into it.
Exercise Your Way to Brilliance
Let’s kick this off with a game-changer: physical exercise. I know, I know. You’ve heard it a million times, but there’s a reason for that. Studies show that regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of new neurons, and even improves memory. So, whether it’s a morning jog, yoga, or pumping iron at the gym, get your heart rate up and your brain will thank you.
“What you eat, you become.” There’s a pinch of wisdom in this age-old saying. Foods rich in antioxidants, good fats, and essential vitamins and minerals provide energy and fortify against brain diseases. Incorporate things like blueberries, fish, turmeric, and dark chocolate (yes, chocolate!) into your diet. These food items are like the special power-ups in a video game; they level you up in the cognition department.
The Magic of Mindfulness
In our bustling lives, stress is the Joker to your Batman. This villain saps cognitive resources like there’s no tomorrow. Enter mindfulness and meditation—your utility belt against stress. Just 20 minutes a day can help improve your attention span, mental clarity, and emotional well-being. It’s like daily maintenance for your brain.
Train That Brain
If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. Challenge your cognitive faculties by learning a new skill, language, or taking on puzzles and games. The cognitive load and mental stretching fortify your brain’s ability to solve problems, boosting your day-to-day efficiency. Websites like Lumosity and apps like Peak offer a buffet of brain-training games.
Sleep—The Unsung Hero
You snooze, you win! Quality sleep is crucial for cognitive function, as it’s when your brain sorts and stores new information, removes toxic waste, and rejuvenates cells. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. You’ll wake up feeling like you’ve just had a mental tune-up. There is an incredibly insightful Masterclass by Matthew Walker – you can watch it here. I guarantee you’ll want to get more sleep after watching this.
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Let’s face it, we’re slaves to our screens. But excessive screen time is associated with decreased cognitive function. Every single TikTok or Instagram Reel or YouTube video you watch is something that your brain is dealing with. It is deciding whether to retain this information or not. Sometimes retaining it for no reason useful to you. This is where ‘digital detox’ steps in. Take time away from your screens daily, and engage in activities that stimulate your other senses. When you do consume content, be very intentional with it. The result? A sharper, more focused you.
Social Butterfly Effect
Believe it or not, your social life – or lack thereof – plays a significant role in cognitive function. Regular interaction with people boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. So, let your hair down and go hang out with friends. In essence, your Friday night outing could be a ‘cognitive enhancer.’ Head to Meetup.com to find events happening near you.
The Power of Routine
Structure leads to clarity. Having a daily routine helps streamline tasks, eliminating unnecessary decisions, thus freeing up mental space. It’s like decluttering your desk but in your brain. Start by noticing things in your daily routine that serve no purpose e.g. clothes that don’t fit but take up brain function when choosing clothes. Notice tasks that you do very regularly, then search online for ways to streamline the process. Here is some inspiration:
- Morning Routine: Simplify your morning routine by laying out clothes, preparing breakfast, and organizing essentials the night before. Have fewer combinations of clothes, and more that can be mixed and matched. Reduce the need to make that decision every morning of what to wear. Steve Jobs is a great example of this, he had tons of sets of the same outfit.
- Digital Organisation: Use digital tools to manage tasks, appointments, and reminders to reduce clutter and keep track of your schedule.
- Keep things where they belong: My pocket contents including my keys go in the same place EVERY day. I always know where they are. Make a home for things that don’t have a home. Ideally accessible but out of sight.
- Meal Planning: Plan meals for the week ahead, create shopping lists, and batch-cook to save time and reduce daily decisions.
- Commute: Consider remote working options or flexible hours to avoid rush hour traffic and lengthy commutes.
- Email Management: Set specific times to check and respond to emails to avoid constant distractions throughout the day.
- Fitness Routine: Opt for efficient workouts, like High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), to maximise benefits in less time.
- Automate Payments: Set up automatic bill payments to avoid manual processing and late fees.
- Delegate Tasks: Assign household chores or work tasks to family members or colleagues if possible.
- Minimalist Workspace: Keep your workspace clutter-free by organising items and only keeping essentials within reach.
- Batch Tasks: Group similar tasks together and complete them in batches to reduce context-switching.
- Limit Social Media: Set designated times for checking social media to prevent excessive time wastage.
- Pre-pack Essentials: Prepare your bag, work items, and essentials the night before to avoid last-minute rushes in the morning.
- Use Templates: Create standard templates for emails, reports, and documents to expedite writing tasks.
- Use Bookmarks: Visit a website regularly? Bookmark it. Keep your browser bookmarks very organised. Create a personal and work Chrome profile so that your bookmarks are relevant for what you’re doing.
- Power Up Your Spreadsheets: Learn formulas and conditional formatting. Get the help from ChatGPT for this – it’s super powerful.
- QR Codes / NFC Tags: Use QR codes or NFC tags for your Wifi password (generated online here) or for websites that guests or new people need to access regularly.
- Single-tasking: Focus on one task at a time rather than attempting to multitask, which can decrease efficiency.
- Evening Routine: Wind down with a consistent evening routine, including relaxation techniques, reading, or journaling, to improve sleep quality.
- Notice Annoyances: Whenever I get annoyed with ANYTHING in the house, it serves as a prompt that it can be done better. I’ll note it down and research ways to streamline or automate it, so that my routine can become more predictable and stress free.
Streamlining these aspects of your daily routine can help you save time, reduce stress, and improve overall productivity. Start small – like setting a regular sleep schedule – and then integrate other activities. Make sure you have worked and set your goals too – this means you always know what you’re aiming for. Rob Moore has written a book about Routine = Rewards. Highly recommended.
Creative activities like painting, writing, and even cooking can ignite the brain’s reward pathways, releasing dopamine. This ‘happy hormone’ improves mood and cognitive function. Think of it as the sprinkles on a cupcake. They’re not necessary, but they sure make everything better!
Limit Sugar and Processed Foods
A diet high in sugar and processed foods can lead to impaired cognitive function and even reduce the brain’s capacity for memory and learning. Cut down on the fizzy drinks and fast food; your brain will appreciate it.
The essence of life – water. Even mild dehydration can impair a range of cognitive functions, including attention, memory, and mood. Aim for at least 8 cups a day to keep your brain hydrated and in tip-top shape. Down a litre of water as soon as you wake up. It’ll help rehydrate after not drinking anything for 12 hours.
Supplements, Nootropics and Adaptogens
In the fascinating world of brain optimization, nootropics and adaptogens are getting considerable attention. Nootropics, often referred to as ‘smart drugs,’ aim to elevate your existing cognitive functions such as memory, creativity, and motivation. These range from pharmaceutical options like modafinil to over-the-counter substances like caffeine. On the other side of the spectrum, adaptogens like ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea are your go-to for stress management. They act like the body’s natural shock absorbers, helping to regulate cortisol levels and maintain a balanced stress response.
Combining nootropics with adaptogens can be like giving your brain a superhero cape. While nootropics offer that cognitive edge, adaptogens ensure that stress doesn’t pull you back down. The blend could act as an all-in-one cognitive and stress management powerhouse, but caution is advised. Always consult professionals and do thorough research before diving into this mix, as misuse can lead to adverse health issues. Together, these compounds can add an extra layer to a balanced lifestyle geared toward peak cognitive performance.
So there you have it – a comprehensive roadmap to becoming a cognitive ninja. I get it; no one can do all of these things 24/7. But even incorporating a few of these habits into your daily routine can supercharge your brain function. Your future genius self will thank you. Cheers to a smarter, sharper you!