Train Your Brain: Preparing For Updates To Your Mental OS

BY Sarah Stein // Content Marketing Copywriter

Our computers, phones, and other technology we use on a regular basis are constantly reminding us to ‘update’ to a more current version. But do we ever stop to wonder if our brains are due for an update, too?

Employers today aren’t looking for “know-it-alls,” on the contrary, most employers are looking for those who are passionate “learn-it-alls.” The truth is, we must keep learning or we risk becoming irrelevant.

Unlike our devices, our brains don’t give us these automatic mental notifications reminding us that it’s time for an ‘update,’ which means it’s up to us to set aside this time to try and learn something new or practice a transferable skill. These skills or techniques should also ideally be timeless—knowledge that can work for us no matter what age or stage of life we are in.

Many people are experiencing stress and anxiety related to the pandemic, and on top of all other personal and work-related responsibilities, dedicating the time and energy to this process can be difficult. However, the long-term benefits of a commitment to learning can help us grow in our role, and eventually over the lifespan of our career. Optimizing this time begins with a little preparation. When your mind is prepared, you’re better able to process knowledge and retain it. Start with these steps first: 

Make sure your battery is fully charged. Trying to learn a new skill or increase your learning capacity while you’re stressed or tired is extremely challenging. Researchers have found that short-term stress lasting as little as a few hours can impair brain-cell communication in areas associated with learning and memory. (source) It has also been noted that relaxation and meditation practices can improve cognition and the ability to absorb information.

Back up your mental files. A study published in 2006 implied that it is possible that “replaying a sequence of behavioral events in our mind” is an important mechanism in effective learning and memory retention. (source) Recalling these memories verbally and talking through them with others help to engage all levels of cognition—receiving, remembering, and thinking—which in turn helps improve brain function. Individual daily reflection, even 5 to 10 minutes a day, can also have a significant effect on deriving new meaning from our memories and transforming our understanding of the information we already possess.

Choose one new topic or activity. Focus intensely on only one skill or activity at a time. With so many distractions constantly popping up, it’s easy to stray off course. Remove distractions from the area surrounding your learning space to help you stay on track.

Avoid content overload. The amount of content available on the internet can often overwhelm us. We often miss high-quality, relevant educational content because it’s buried under other “noise” and distractions. Take the time to create a “library” of relevant, useful information that you can easily access when you have a break in your day.

 Block your calendar. No matter how much time you choose to invest per week, make sure that you create a block on your calendar to save it. Remember, consistency is more important than the amount of time you spend. Having a block on your calendar protects the time you have set aside and allows it to be more seamlessly integrated into your day.

As professionals, the ability to quickly adapt to change, while also retaining and building upon new information must be a priority. Our jobs continue to be cognitively challenging—both technically and social/emotionally—as the industries we work in evolve. Mastering the ability to be a dynamic learner is what propels us forward. Make a plan, clear a space, and set yourself up for success by taking the necessary first steps on the path towards your next mental update.