Getting smarter isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead, you have to build your intelligence every day through intentional daily habits.
In a recent Quora thread, “What would you do to be a little smarter every single day?”, readers shared their advice on good habits you can establish.
Here are some simple actions that could help you become a smarter person.
1. Come up with 10 ideas every day. Think about how to reduce poverty, how to solve a daily problem you have, interesting movie ideas, or anything. It doesn’t matter what subject your ideas fall into, as long as you’re working your brain and your idea muscles. Your list might even lead to a new startup idea or writing subject.
2. Read the newspaper. It will help you become more aware of the important things happening around the word. You’ll learn to form your own opinions and connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things. You’ll also have a lot more to talk about at parties or with friends.
3. Play devil’s advocate. Take something you recently learned and generate a unique opinion on it that wouldn’t immediately come to mind. Try to support it with evidence, and be open to the idea that new evidence will change your opinion. Repeat this every day, and you’ll become much better at thinking outside the box.
If you’re feeling stuck, try reading and critically evaluating the editorial section of papers. They will help you understand how other people form arguments and express their opinions.
4. Read a chapter in a fiction or non-fiction book. Aim to read a book a week. You can always find pockets of time to read, whether on your daily commute or while you’re waiting in line. Goodreads is a great way to keep track of everything you read and to also find a community of other readers.
Fiction books are great for understanding characters and getting absorbed into another perspective, while non-fiction books are great for introducing you to new topics, from politics to psychology.
5. Instead of watching TV, watch educational videos. Sometimes, it’s more fun to watch things about a subject you love than to read about it, and you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences.
You can find fun, educational videos on Khan Academy or watch TED talks. You can also find good ones on Youtube’s channel Smarter Every Day. In videos, the information is often presented in a digestible, memorable way, so you can be assured they’ll stick.
6. Subscribe to feeds of interesting information. Follow interesting voices on Facebook and Twitter, so you’ll always learn something new when you look at your newsfeed or dashboard. For example, if you want to keep up with the latest news in science and technology, subscribe to the “I Fucking Love Science” page on Facebook. You can also follow email newsletters, such as Cal Newport’s Study Hacks and Today I Found Out.
7. Check in with your favorite knowledge sources. Every day, scroll through Quora, Stack Overflow, specialty blogs, or any other sources that satiate your hunger for knowledge. This is an extremely easy habit, because other users are curating the content for you, so all you have to do is follow the ones who write about topics interesting to you. Try using Pocket to save articles for later reading, and then try to get through them before going to sleep at night.
8. Share what you learn with other people. If you find someone to debate and analyze ideas with, you can add to each other’s knowledge and gain new perspectives. Also, when you can explain ideas to someone else, it means you’ve definitely mastered the concept. You can even share what you learn without directly talking to someone. Many people like to start blogs so they can engage others in online dialogue.
9. Make two lists: a list of work-related skills you want to learn now and a list for things you want to achieve in the future. Google Docs is a convenient way to keep track of your lists. For both, decide what you want to learn, compile sources that will teach you these skills, and then work on them each day.
For example, if you work in a computer-science related field, your first list might suggest you learn something new in Python one day or that you try using MongoDB another day.
For your second list, you can think about long-term goals, such as whether you want to go into marketing or architecture. Write down the small steps you need to take to reach that goal, whether it’s by reading the experts in those fields or taking classes at a local college.
10. Make an “I Did” list. At the end of each day, write down what you completed. This will help you feel better about all the things you accomplished, especially if you’re feeling discouraged. It will also help you reflect on how productive you were and how you can re-structure your to-do lists for the next day.
11. Write down what you learn. You can start a blog or use an app like Inkpad to help you keep track of everything you learn. Not only will this be a great way to keep a record of everything you’re doing, but it’s also a good source of motivation to keep you accountable. You will want to learn more if you know that at the end of the day you’ll have to write about it.
12. Stimulate your mind. Going on a daily run is a great way to get your brain flowing and to keep your mental health in shape. It’s also a great way to think through difficult decisions or process new information.
13. Take online courses. Check out this list of the most popular online courses for professionals. Make sure you don’t overload yourself; commit to one to two and truly focus on them. The syllabi will also keep you on track, so you know you will be doing something every day, whether it’s listening to a lecture or working on an assignment.
14. Talk to someone you find interesting. Even if they’re strangers, don’t be afraid to approach them. Ask about their interests and how they discovered them. Oftentimes, you learn the most from people you barely know.
15. Hang out with people who are smarter than you. Spend as much time as you can with smart people. Every day, you should strive to have a coffee date or walk with someone who inspires you.
Always be humble and willing to learn. Ask as many questions as possible. If you are always around people who are more knowledgeable than you, you’ll have no choice but to learn more.
16. Follow your questions. If you see or hear about something cool, don’t just let the moment pass. Follow up — pursue your curiosity and find the answer to your question.
17. Use a word-of-the-day app. You will increase your vocabulary, which can help you in competitive tests like the SAT or GRE, or even just sound more eloquent in daily interactions.
You can also try to learn new vocabulary in a different language. Every day, try to add five to 10 more words to the foreign language you are trying to pursue. You can use LiveMocha, Basuu, or DuoLingo.
18. Do something scary. “Getting out of our comfort zone always makes us wiser.” Every day, push yourself a little further. Try public speaking by joining a ToastMasters class, lead a meeting by volunteering a proposal at work, or reach out to someone you really admire by sending a quick letter or email.
19. Explore new areas. If you can’t travel every day, at least try to find something new within your hometown. You’ll meet different people, learn new facts, and understand something new about the world. It’s a lot more productive than staying at home and watching TV.
20. Play “smart” games. Some games, like chess and Scrabble, expand your mind. Challenge yourself when you play them. For example, play Scrabble without a dictionary. You can also solve puzzles via games like Sudoku, 2048, and Doors.
21. Set aside some time to do nothing. Oftentimes, sitting in silence can help you get inspiration and reflect on your day.
22. Adopt a productive hobby. If you have something you can work on every day, from knitting to fly fishing, you can actively learn more just from doing. For instance, you may try to play a new piece of music every day, read a physics textbook, write a few more pages in your novel, or learn a new computer skill.
23. Apply what you learn. If you recently learned a new coding skill or how to play an instrument, make sure you are using that skill in your life as often as possible. Learning by doing is one of the most effective ways to become smarter.