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December 27, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

1) Get rid of the distractions

You can’t multitask.

Via Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:

All those buzzing text messages and email chimes can reduce mental ability by an average of 10 IQ points. For men, it’s about three times the effect of smoking marijuana.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

2) Get your sleep

If you’ve missed sleep, you’ve reduced your intelligence.

Via Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:

Think you’re just fine cheating yourself on sleep? Of course you do. But you’re wrong.

What if you can’t get a good night’s sleep but need to learn new info? Even naps can help:

Via Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep:

3) Performance enhancing drugs for your brain

No, they’re not anabolic steroids. It’s caffeine, sugar and nicotine. Coffee and nicotine make you smarter.

Via Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons:

Don’t like coffee? Studies show Red Bull can do the trick. A donut can help too. Or do a bit of exercise and have a sugary drink.

Via Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by the excellent Vaughan Bell:

4) Keep Learning

You always hear that doing puzzles can help stave off dementia. In reality, those aren’t nearly enough to keep your brain sharp. But the principle holds.

Want to keep your mind powerful? Do something that really forces you to stretch yourself:

5) Believe in yourself

Want to be smarter? The first step is to believe that you can become smarter:

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and you’ll perform better:

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 145,000 readers and get a free weekly email update here.

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