Awesome Quora #23: If you only had 15 minutes to sharpen your mind every day, what should you do?

Preamble

I read Quora questions/answers regularly and I bookmark a lot of them.

So in the spirit of redistributing and having an easier access to my favorite stories over there, I decided to publish them on a daily basis here.

The following question and answer were actually not in my Bookmarks 5 minutes ago. I read them today.

If you only had 15 minutes to sharpen your mind every day, what should you do?

The following answer is by Jeremy Hadfield to this particular question.


You don’t need to practice brain games. You don’t need to learn quantum mechanics. You don’t need to take freezing showers every morning or read a hundred books a year. You don’t need to wake up at 3 am to carry an overweight pig while doing sprints up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Those things may help. Actually, upgrade that “may” to “probably will.”

But they’re not essential. And just one single practice is more impactful than all of them: deliberately setting your intention.

Why is this one behavior so high-impact? Because, by definition, it helps you achieve what you want. You can practice gazillions of ‘mind-sharpening hacks’ (from frigid showers to productivity courses), but if you aren’t deliberately aiming your mind toward your intentions and desires then they will ***never happen.***

A key metaphor here is velocity vs speed. Speed is a scalar value (magnitude only), while velocity is a vector (magnitude and direction).

In life, speed does not matter; only velocity (speed + direction). Absolute speed is unimportant unless you are traveling in your intended direction.

You could ‘get your brain jacked’ with all these mind-sharpening techniques. But why care, if you’re not using that newfound brain muscle to further your intentions? Sharpening your brain without setting intention is like spinning your wheels in a Ferrari: it doesn’t matter how powerful your engine is if you aren’t applying the wheels to a surface with traction.

In the same way spinning out is a waste of the engine’s power, most of us waste our mental resources. Of course, the “you only use 10% of your brain” concept is a misguided myth. We use 100% of our brain. But we don’t use it for the purposes with the most impact on our lives.

In other words, we don’t set our intentions. We run on autopilot.

Enough of the vague self-help writing. How can you use your brain to its full potential for the purpose you want? What actionable steps can anyone practice to sharpen their intentions?

  1. Every week, have a “week in review.” In writing, reflect on the last week. Are you making progress towards you real purposes? In what ways are you wasting your time & mental effort on things that won’t bring you towards that purpose? Are you further along in your long-term life plans than you were last week? Then set your intention and focus for the next week.
  2. Be ruthless in cutting out things that don’t drive you towards your intentions. Focus is the art of saying no to almost everything. For a few moments before each activity in your day, have an honest evaluation. Is this activity helping you toward a specific goal or purpose? If not, consider it something you’re doing on autopilot, not out of intention. Then cut it out.
  3. Each morning for a few minutes, decide on a single focus. One of the most difficult actions to do in the morning is limit your daily goals to a single item. It forces you to be fully responsible for that goal. You can’t justify failing to complete it by saying to yourself “I had other things to focus on.” You’ll notice that this adds powerful focus to your day. Triaging your priorities will help you get more done. And it reduces stress by preventing the overwhelming creep of more and more goals and to-do list items.

Number 1 takes about 30 minutes a week. Number 2 takes about 5 minutes a day. Number 3 takes about 5 minutes a day. That’s an average of 15 minutes a day for radical improvements.

A habit of intention and reflection may not make you “faster” in terms of absolute speed. But it will increase velocity in your intended direction.


The above answer is by Jeremy Hadfield to this particular question.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this answer as much as I did.

I really recommend you check out other answers to this question on Quora. I may have read it a long time ago and some new and even better answers may have popped up since.

If you don’t use Quora, feel free to leave a comment down below about this answer.