We’ve all heard the saying “Work smarter, not harder,” and that wisdom applies to our brains, too.
Neuroscientists have discovered some simple and practical ways we can help ourselves find solutions, generate insights and be more creative, and it’s not about sitting longer and trying harder. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“The research on learning is extremely clear,” Loren Frank, a professor at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Quartz at Work. “To learn something well, you need to study it for a while and then take a break.”
The article says that short breaks, even five to 15 minutes, can go a long way to helping us learn.
“Even outside of study contexts, taking small breaks after digesting new material – whether it’s a news article or an important email – appears to help your brain parse and memorize what you’ve just learned.”
At Noesis, we’ve designed each of our online courses that way too, with short modules that allow learners to take breaks while absorbing the new information.
Knowing that our brain needs a break from focused, analytical work, here are two simple ways you can try this for yourself:
Move That Body
We were designed to move, not sit at a desk. Our brain benefits in a number of ways from exercise of any form. Harvard Medical School professor Dr. John Ratey states that exercise makes us smarter. He claims it does so by increasing the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an essential protein in the brain “which nourishes neurons like fertilizer.”
Shift Your Focus
Have you ever noticed that you tend to have big A-ha moments when you are doing something completely unrelated to the problem you’re trying to solve? Insights tend to come when you’re walking your dog, doing a creative project, playing a game or cooking, rarely if ever, when you’re in front of a spreadsheet or trying to write a proposal. Insights catch us when we aren’t trying too hard to solve something.
Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients scientifically improve leadership.