Our brain is like muscles. The more you use and exercise it, the stronger it becomes. But, if you want to get maximum results, you should do more than just practice. What you need is deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the kind of practice that stretches the boundaries of your capabilities. While in normal practice you just do the same activity again and again, in deliberate practice you push yourself to the limit. It’s not easy, but deliberate practice makes the difference between an expert and everyone else.
The principle of deliberate practice can be applied in whatever field you want to excel in, but here I will focus on mind development. Below are 8 ways to challenge and exercise your mind. Choose some of them you haven’t done and take your mind to the next level:
1. Read challenging articles
You can measure the difficulty level of an article by using Google Docs. Here is how to do it:
- Create a new document
- Paste the content of the article to the new document
- Open the Tools | Word Count menu item. It will show you three metrics: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kindcaid Grade Level, and Automated Readability Index. The higher it is, the more difficult the article is.
Of course, it’s not necessary to measure the difficulty level of every article you read. Simply take some samples from a blog or web site and you will have good idea about the difficulty level of the articles there.
2. Read challenging books
3. Read academic journals
One form of challenging reading we often overlook is academic journals. There are a lot of free journal articles you can read from Open Science Directory. Some of the journal articles in Google Scholar are also free. Go there, pick a topic of your interest and read a journal article.
4. Play mind games
Choose a free mind game to play and you can have fun while exercising your mind. I started playing Sudoku last week and it was more difficult than I expected. But over time my mind got used to it and I can now solve the puzzles faster.
5. Aim to produce certain number of ideas everyday
The ideas can be in whatever fields you are working on. In my case, I try to write certain number of words everyday. Q10 – which I first learned from Dale – is an excellent tool you can use if you are a writer. One of its features is global target with which you can set the target number of words you want to write.
6. Brainstorm using thinking tools
7. Do ultradian sprint
Doing ultradian sprint is a good way to train your focus and concentration. One trait of a well-trained brain is the ability to concentrate for long time and ultradian sprint can help you increase your ability to concentrate.
8. Set a project
Is there a project that has been in the back of your mind for some time? Perhaps you postpone it because you think it’s too difficult. Well, that’s a good candidate for deliberate practice. Often we are afraid of failure, but a mantra to quick progress is to make mistakes and make them quick. This way you will have a short feedback loop that will help you adjust your performance faster.
As I wrote in the beginning of this article, a key of deliberate practice is to push your current limit of ability. These challenges will stretch your boundary when you first do them, but after some time, you will get comfortable with it and it will no longer be deliberate practice. Here are some things you can do to keep making them deliberate practice:
- For reading, try reading something in an unfamiliar field or read more challenging materials in the same field.
- For playing mind games, increase the level of difficulty or try a new game you are not familiar with.
- For producing certain number of ideas everyday, increase the target number or the quality of the ideas.
- For doing ultradian sprint, increase the duration of the session.
- For thinking challenge, try more difficult challenges.
- For setting project, increase the scope of the project or do similar projects with stricter deadline.
Do you have tips or thoughts on mind exercise? I would love to hear them.
This article is part of May 2008 theme: Mind