When you’re in school or starting a new job, you’re constantly learning. But a few years in the same position can lead your brain to perform on autopilot — not good for your personal growth or your career.
The good news is there are many ways to keep your mind sharp and continually broaden your horizons. Try one of these seven tips to sharpen your mind:
1. Vary tasks. Different activities trigger different parts of the brain. For instance, using a new skill activates the short-term memory area of your mind, since you just learned the task recently. Using a skill learned longer ago triggers your long-term memory center, since you’re remembering rather than focusing on the present. Mixing up activities helps your brain remain flexible and challenged.
2. Change social groups. Networking experts recommend mingling with people outside of your profession, but it does more than just facilitate ideas and partnerships. Interacting with other cultures forces you to understand the assumptions, biases and blind spots prevalent in your thinking since you’re interacting with people who don’t share your worldview. The beauty is the new perspectives help you discover new solutions and opportunities in your own life and career.
3. Discover your peak hours. One of the worst habits is to work continuously all hours of the day. Instead, figure out what times are your most productive and schedule the crucial discussions or work in those moments. Research shows certain times of day are best for specific tasks. Save your heavy lifting for your peak hours.
4. Change routine. Your routines stem from different parts of your brain: Long- running patterns lean on the memory part of your mind, while new activities stimulate your active learning center. If you have a day when you feel like you’re on “autopilot” or you don’t remember specifics about parts of your day, you need to mix up your routines. Take a different way to work, have lunch at a later or earlier time, or spend time with colleagues outside your normal group. Changing one routine a week may be enough to jumpstart your mind and expand your creativity.
5. Take breaks. The most productive people have one thing in common: They all stop. Breaking up your day between tasks allows your mind to rest, change gears and become even sharper than before. The ideal method is taking a light, 20-minute nap during the day. This might work great for home-based workers, but if you’re in a more traditional work environment, a brief coffee break or stretch can be equally effective.
6. Walk. Research shows a walk can reset your brain and reenergize it to be stronger throughout the day. It also helps prevent physical fatigue, particularly if you spend 8 hours or more sitting at the job. It doesn’t have to be outside, either: A walk around your office environment can help jog your mind, too.
7. Monotask. Multitasking can significantly hamper your productivity since it spreads your focus thin and slows your progress down on all the tasks at hand. A better approach is monotasking, or putting all your energy into one main goal at a time. Monotasking makes you feel more accomplished, increases your vitality throughout the day, and helps you avoid having a to-do list with a bunch of half-completed items.