Brain Fitness: How to Improve Your Thinking Ability

Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.
George Bernard Shaw

One of the greatest resources you have is the biocomputer between your ears: your mind. Consequently, one the best investments you can make is honing your thinking ability. This will potentially brings you great rewards in life. While the mind is not everything (things like relationships and spirituality also play important role), it is perhaps one of the most neglected.

BrainJust think about physical fitness. Many people are aware that physical fitness is important, and they allocate time to exercise. But what about mind fitness? How many people allocate time to exercise their mind? Not many I’m afraid. But as George Bernard Shaw said in the quote above, the few who do may far surpass many other people and make name for themselves.

So, without further ado, here are some tips to exercise your mind and improve your thinking ability:

1. Set time for “mind exercise”

Just as you should allocate time for physical exercise, you should also allocate time for mind exercise. This way you will improve your mind fitness the way people improve their physical fitness through exercise.

2. Make a master list of problems

To make the exercise useful, use it to handle real problems you face. Make a list of problems you would like to solve. You can add new problems to the list as you encounter them in your daily life without waiting for the exercise time to come.

3. Pick a problem from your master list

At the beginning of your mind exercise session, choose a problem from the master list which you need to solve. You will be more motivated to practice if you know that you need the solutions. The more you need the solution, the more motivated you will be.

4. Pick a thinking technique to practice with

After you pick a problem, you should pick a thinking technique to solve the problem with. A good start is mind mapping which you can use either on paper or with software like FreeMind.

There are still a lot of other thinking techniques you can choose. One book I recommend for this purpose is Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko which contains no less than 29 techniques. A good online alternative you can use is Exploratree.

5. Do effortful practice with the thinking technique you choose

Effortful practice means that you should use the technique to the best of your ability. You can only increase your capacity if you push yourself slightly beyond your current limit. So try your best with the technique you choose and push yourself a bit more. Let your brain “muscles” be heavily trained.

To do such effortful practice, motivation is important (see the diagram in How to Have an Expert Mind), and that’s why you should choose a motivating problem.

6. Write the ideas you get in an “idea journal”

To make sure that you do not lose the ideas you get through the exercise, write them down in an idea journal. Having an idea journal is very helpful for me. In fact, I have several journals for different kinds of idea. If you want to, you can also make an action plan to put the ideas into practice.

7. Pick different technique another time

In your next exercise, you can pick another technique if you’ve felt comfortable with the thinking technique you currently use. Otherwise, you can still use the same technique. By using a different technique, you expose your mind to a new kind of challenge which will help your mind grow optimally.


  1. Since I started blogging, I have kept a journal of ideas, but the concept of a master list of problems to solve is excellent! And Thinkertoys is going on my Christmas list.

    These mental workouts not only keep our brains in tip top shape, but they also protect against Alzheimer’s as well. That alone should be motivation to get that gray matter pumping.

  2. Quint,
    The master list of problems is something relatively new for me. All of us want to improve but sometimes we forget where precisely we can improve. This is where the master list of problems comes into play.
    And thanks for the info about Alzheimer! It motivates me even more to exercise my mind.

  3. Hi
    All things begin with our thoughts. What we think or conceptualize become real. Only concern we do not endure enough pain in the beginning. As after practice it is a pleasure. I practice visualization. Get this report

  4. Abraham,
    Yes, the way we think can make us or break us. Visualization itself is an interesting concept that can help us achieve our dream.

  5. I believe that mind works on its own, and it’s totally out of chance that the mind will be sharper and these sort of lists won’t help.

  6. thanks for the advice

  7. it is the bset way to increase thinking power.

  8. give me some excellent ideas. thanks man

  9. article 6 really inspires me, makes me realize that past is past i have to move on , motivate myself and start a new beginning

  10. Great ideas, but all will help with practice only.

  11. Interested in life enhancing artitle

  12. Believe we can achieve our dreams.. There are much doors before us.. Don’t forget to knock atleast 1!

  13. i have some body who tell something she told me she has problems remembering things and sometimes have difficulty thinking pls how will you be of help

  14. When I was small I memorise all the text and understand what i learn in school but in present time I forget all the things and can’t remember all the things that I learn on college..? SO plz tell me the solution how to solve my promblem……..

  15. i am very thankful to him, you suggest me great ideas to be perform to create mind ability and increase mine mind skills.

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