3 (Surprising) Exercises to Get You Thinking Outside the Box

One of the most important skills you can have in the business world is to be able to think outside the box. You take the same information that everyone else has and look at it differently, often finding a better way to solve problems and make your business more efficient and profitable. Most people falsely think that you’re either born a creative thinker or not. The truth is creative thinkers intuitively know how to think—and be—outside the box. Not only can this skill become second nature, but anyone can master it using the following three exercises.

Thank you so much for your interest in Brainetics. For years now people have been asking me to write a book that features my best lessons for adults to learn in becoming productive, fast thinkers. I’m thrilled to finally be sharing with you the good news: it’s finally available! Want a sneak peek? Below are some of my many secrets you’ll read about in The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You. Take it to heart today. Be smarter tomorrow.

Exercise #1: Alphabetize Adventure…in 5 seconds…

This is one of my favorite habits and I truly believe it’s the best exercise for conditioning the mind to think creatively. Here’s how to do it: First, think of any word or see a word on a magazine cover or billboard (preferably six or so letters). Second, stop looking at the word and just picture it in your mind. Then arrange all the letters in your head so they are in alphabetical order. So, for example, take a word like NUMBER. You would spell it as follows: B-E-M-N-R-U. What makes this mental gymnastics so terrifically boosting to your brain is that you’re forced to use all the information—all the letters—and totally rearrange it in your mind. Try this for five minutes a day, three days a week. Increase the amount of letters in the words you are alphabetizing as you get more proficient. You’ll notice after a while, your mind will be used to looking at things in a different way and you’ll start coming up with ideas that you’ve never thought of before.

Exercise #2: Have a Conversation WITHOUT Using the Letter “E”

This is a fun game to play with a friend or family member, which will automatically flex your brain’s “muscles” and help make you mentally sharper. The object is for you and your friend to carry on a regular conversation without using any word that has the letter E in it. But you must try to make the conversation as normal as possible without any long pauses in between sentences. Example: 

Person 1: “What do you want to do now?”  

Person 2:  “I don’t know, how about lunch. I know of a good fast food joint.” 

The reason why this is such a powerful exercise is because your mind is like a human thesaurus.  You’re constantly looking for the right words to say so that your sentence makes sense and you are E-free. It’s outside-the-box thinking on steroids, and your brain will feel like you’ve had an incredible workout after just five minutes. And when you get tired of avoiding the letter E, pick another popular letter such as R, S, T, L, A, or N.

Exercise #3: Add Up a Series of One-digit Numbers…FAST! 

Adding up small numbers in your head quickly (4+7+9+3+2+2+8+5+8…) compels you to continually change the information that you are having to work with and remember. As you’re adding up the numbers, your grand total constantly changes and to arrive at the next total you have to focus solely on your current total and the next number you are adding. There are very few mental exercises where focus and continually evolving information play such an important part. Which is why this one is so helpful in training the mind to remember essential information while deleting other data or details when they are no longer needed. So the next time you’re standing in line at the grocery store and you’re temped to whip out your cell phone and send a text, why don’t you instead whip out a dollar bill and add up the serial numbers as fast as possible!

Want more tips and best practices to improve your mental performance? Order your copy of my book, The Power of Forgetting, at your favorite retailer today at MikeByster.com.

How to Give Your E-mail Inbox a Smackdown

Does your email drive you crazy? Do you feel like you’re never above water when it comes to gaining control of just too many messages (not including spam, notifications, newsletters, and daily deals)? According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, we each spend 13 hours reading, deleting, sorting, and sending emails on a weekly basis. That amounts to a whopping 28 percent of our workweek! Imagine getting all the time back to pursue other more important things, let alone accomplishing more productive “real” work. Here’s how to do it: embrace the following 3 rules and improve your email sanity. 
 
Thank you so much for your interest in Brainetics. For years now people have been asking me to write a book that features my best lessons for adults to learn in becoming productive, fast thinkers. I’m thrilled to finally be sharing with you the good news: it’s landing in bookstores this week. Want a sneak peek? Below are some of my many secrets you’ll read about in The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You. Take it to heart today. Be smarter tomorrow.
 
Rule #1: Be a Smart Loser
Face it: You will never get ahead of your email for any lengthy period of time. Never. So give up the idea that you can win in this realm and you’ll automatically free your mind up to deal with email smartly. You can’t lose sleep knowing that every minute you’re away from your computer is a minute you’re missing incoming emails to handle. Most everyone today wakes up to dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of new emails. You’re not alone so why worry? Forget about it!
 
Rule #2: Get Your Priorities Straight
If you get anxious when you can’t access your email account or respond to messages marked “high priority” (!) right away, then this rule is definitely for you. Repeat after me: Thou shall not treat email—not matter what—as my #1 priority. Seriously, folks. No one is going to die if you’re not responding to email quickly or at all for a given period of time. You know deep down what can wait, even if the person on the other side will get annoyed if you take longer than expected to reply. In fact, see if you can avoid checking any email before 10 a.m., and if that’s just too impossible for you, then scan your mail quickly first thing in the morning, flag the most important messages to respond to that day, and plan when you’ll deal with sorting, deleting, and responding. Do not reply to anything before 10 a.m. unless it’s truly an emergency. And I mean it: e.m.e.r.g.e.n.c.y (these don’t happen every day).
 
Rule #3: Flip the Switch!
Does your email automatically stream into your inbox on a regular basis? And do you look at messages as they come in? If so, listen up: Not only does keeping your email account always “On” and routinely downloading from your server leave you more vulnerable to bugs and computer viruses, but you could be doing serious damage to your ability to perform your job. Take a moment to think about the types of jobs that require high levels of focus and concentration for extended periods of time. Surgeon. Test pilot. Race car driver. Member of the special forces in the military. Champion chess player. People who go into these lines of work or who take up hobbies that demand intense precision and rigor must train their brains to achieve exceptional levels of concentration—and they aren’t checking their emails thirty-six times an hour all day long like so many of us do. Choose the times that you’re going to go check your inbox and manually hit the “get mail” function in your email program; stay strictly offline in between those times (and please don’t have any “you’ve got mail” pings streaming through your speakers; turn these features off your mobile devices, too, including tablets). Having your email turned off will automatically make you feel less stressed out, anxious, and prone to checking it continuously like a maniac. You can even include a line in your signature that says something along the following: “Note: If I do not respond to email right away, I am on deadline or away from my computer. I will return messages within 1 to 2 business days. Thanks.”
 
 
Want more tips and best practices to improve your mental performance? Order your copy of my book, The Power of Forgetting, at your favorite retailer today at MikeByster.com.

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