5 ways leaders can keep their minds sharp

5 ways leaders can keep their minds sharp

A trained brain is a young brain. Enhance your workplace productivity with these cognitive strategies.

It’s a cutthroat world out there, and leader needs to keep their mind sharp or become redundant and fall behind. Businesses highly value leaders who can deliver consistent results. But just like your body requires physical exercise to stay in shape, you also need to train your brain to form new synapses and avoid cognitive impairment. Did you know that as you age, your brain starts shrinking in volume at the rate of around five per cent per decade after the age 40? Here are some practices and techniques you can rely on to keep your mind healthy and sharp.

1. Change your routine
The simple act of changing your routine can work wonders to strengthen your concentration. You can do this by making simple changes that establish new routines; reorganising your desk, taking a new route to work, rearranging furniture or reading something different than what you usually prefer. Though all these might seem insignificant, by welcoming these changes you will force your brain to be alert and pay attention to its surroundings again. This will help improve your attention and strengthen your concentration. So fight the urge to keep the status quo and regularly change things around you to optimise your memory function.

2. Challenge yourself with mastery
Learning something new stimulates brain activity, but when you focus on mastering it your brain becomes even more efficient at the activity. You can focus on learning a new language, playing a musical instrument or simply focus on learning a work-related skill. This can have an enormous impact on your memory function. Push yourself out of the comfort zone and concentrate intently on learning a new skill to slow cognitive ageing.

3. The Pareto principle
Another technique is to apply the Pareto principle otherwise also known as the 80/20 Rule to keep your mind sharp. According to this principle 20 per cent of our time, investments and actions are responsible for 80 per cent of the results. Taking it a step further, Google, one of the world’s most popular search engines, came up with something similar called Google’s 20 per cent time policy. This policy basically focuses on helping employees explore new avenues and expand their learning. Google gave employees the leeway to work once a week on projects that were not necessarily in the job descriptions. These tasks were meant to increase their creative potential, yet they led to whole new level of ideation and resulted in some of Google’s key products like AdSense and Google Reader. So, set aside some time every week to work on side projects to help foster ideas and push you to think outside the box.

4. Pursue a creative hobby
Creative hobbies otherwise termed as purposeful activities stimulate our neurological system and enhances our mental wellbeing. They’re a great way to have fun while also flexing your mental muscles, sharpening your focus, and build skills. Play a musical instrument, exercise regularly, learn a new language or yoga, read often, or play board games/card games/video games. All of these increase neuroplasticity, which enhances cognitive abilities and helps you see from different points of view. You can do these alone or as part of a group, which will also give you a chance to connect with others and expose yourself to new perspectives and ideas.

5. Pomodoro Technique
Developed by developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method using a timer to break down work into periods of 25 minutes, separated by short breaks. This is a great mind hack that maximises concentration on a single task and improve your time management skills. Other benefits include eliminating burnout and reducing distractions. Use this technique to give projects and tasks undivided focus and enhance your productivity. The short break will give your brain a break and prepare it for the next task.

Photograph: Freepik