To run a successful business, your mental fitness is just as important as your bottom line or your marketing plan. It takes work to stay sharp, but learning how to get smarter will make you a more agile, creative business leader. Intelligence is a use-it-or-lose-it commodity, so exercising your brain needs to be an ongoing effort.
“You can’t just play a brain-training game for ten minutes and think you’ll be sharper for the rest of your life,” says cognitive psychologist Susanne Jaeggi. “It takes dedication and practice to get smarter.”
You may already know about the most effective strategies for improving your brainpower: Exercise, low stress, and continued learning. But it’s hard to commit to doing them when your business takes up all your time.
Here are three strategies to work brain-boosting activities into your busy schedule:
1. Get a treadmill desk
For many entrepreneurs, busy workdays get in the way of workouts. Instead of trying to juggle both, merge them. Take calls or answer emails at a treadmill desk, bike to off-site meetings, or do jumping jacks while you brainstorm. Not only will you have more energy, your brain will function better — now and in the future.
2. Learn a language on your commute
To get smarter, tax your brain with a challenging task like learning a new language. Work it into a busy schedule by practising on your commute. (Try Babbel, a free language-learning app for iOS and Android.)
If languages aren’t your thing, learn to play chess or a musical instrument, or do a daily crossword. “Any activity that demands high mental capacity will help you improve your general cognitive ability,” says Jaeggi.
According to Jaeggi’s research, you need to practice these activities for at least one month, 20 to 25 minutes a day, in order to see any real benefit. Just like going to the gym, the longer you train, the better the outcome.
3. Meditate whenever you have to wait
Stress is the biggest obstacle to maintaining good brain function. Cortisol, the hormone you release when you’re stressed out, impairs your memory and brain function. Mindfulness, or meditation, helps lower stress, keeping your brain sharp.
Meditate while you wait for water to boil, for a train to arrive, for a meeting to start, or for a doctor to finally see you. It doesn’t require silence or solitude – just mindful attention.