19 Micro-Habits That Dramatically Increase Your Intelligence

Not-so-intimidating ways to boost your brainpower.

intelligent woman doing work at desk GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Intelligence is the currency of the future.

Times have changed. People are not paid for how much physical work they can do in a day. In fact, most physical jobs are getting automated. Jobs at the bottom rung of the ladder are getting vanished. And new jobs are getting created at the top rungs of the ladder; jobs that require better decision-making.

To that end, if you’re not going to work on building your intelligence, I have a bitter pill for you to swallow. You simply won’t be able to make it in the times to come.


Hence, I’m writing this article to help you grow your intelligence. None of these habits is very intimidating. They’re micro-habits that don’t take a lot of time or energy. When done consistently over long periods of time, they’ll lead to extraordinary gains in your intelligence. Excited? Let’s dive in!

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Here are 19 micro-habits that dramatically increase your intelligence:

1. Put "thinking for 10 minutes" on your to-do list

If you think about it, you don’t really take time to think anymore. You’re always doing something. You’re either working, or you’re on your phone watching reels on Instagram. Plenty of external stimuli; yet, no signs of internal mental stimuli.


But thinking is important; it’s how you convert your everyday experiences into lasting insights. Bill Gates too, is known to take think weeks.

Therefore, think every day. Think about what you learned that day. Think about how you could solve the problems in your life. Or think about how you could solve the problems this world is facing. No matter what, carve out the time for some insightful thinking.

2. Read about cognitive biases

Behavioral science is a field that’s won three Nobel prizes until now. It teaches us how humans make decisions, what flaws exist in our thought processes and how we might fix them. And I have to say, it’s one of the most important subjects one can invest their time in.

So here’s a way to start. This is a list of biases. You can learn about any one of these biases every now and then, find instances in your own life where you act biased and learn how to fix it.


3. Celebrate your errors in judgment

This is what an average person does when he’s wrong. They deny it. They’ll argue till the end of the world but at no cost would they accept that they could have been wrong.

Be the opposite.

If you’re wrong, be happy about it. Celebrate it. Because next time, you can learn to be right. People who deny that they are wrong will be wrong the next time as well. Don’t be that. Be wrong once, never twice.

4. Write online (as little as one tweet per day)

Writing online is an extraordinary endeavor. My intelligence multiplied by a jillion times after I started writing online. This happens because writing online forces you to simplify your thoughts so that they make sense to an audience.


It forces you to break apart a concept, and get to the basics; and while doing so, you learn the general art of simplifying complex ideas. Which is one of the very important pillars of high intelligence.

You don’t necessarily have to become a blogger. Even something as simple as one tweet per day might be incredibly helpful.

5. Reject your first thoughts in stressful situations

Whenever something stressful happens, the thoughts that come to your mind are drenched with fear and emotions. At the time, they sound logical, but they’re not.

The essence of higher intelligence is the ability to control your emotions while making decisions. This is why learning to reject your initial thoughts in stressful situations is important.


It allows emotionless and logical thoughts to follow, which will help you make better decisions.

6. Embrace constraints

People use constraints as excuses. "I can’t go to the gym as I have a lot of work to do." However, a healthier alternative is to embrace constraints instead.

If you decide that you want to go to the gym in spite of the amount of work you have to do, you’ll force yourself to think of ways to finish your work faster. This will teach you how to increase your efficiency in any field.

So when you think about it, constraints are good, not bad.

7. Write down lists

10 is a good number for this exercise. You can write lists about whatever you want.

  • 10 ways to save more money
  • 10 ways to increase efficiency while working
  • 10 ways to lose weight

The first few ideas are easy to come up with. But to reach ten, you have to put in mental effort. This is why it is simply a way to exercise your mind and will increase your brainpower when done consistently.

RELATED: 4 Highly Specific Strategies To Become The Most Intelligent Person In Any Room

8. Read quotes and ponder over them

Sounds like a cliche but if you think about it, quotes can be life-changing. Think about it. Quotes are just a few words. But they carry so much power, so much wisdom. A simple six-word quote can change your life. Exhibit A: Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

And I would even say that with time, you should try to write your own quotes. Again, it’s an exercise for your brain; as you’re trying to fit in an immense amount of wisdom in just a few words.


9. Ask questions

Asking questions is so simple, yet people hesitate to do it because they think it makes them look stupid. Don’t be that person. Ask questions to people you consider smart, and grow smart yourself.

10. Be biased toward action

Thinking is good for growing your intelligence, but never let it substitute for actual physical action. Some lessons in life cannot be learned by reading, researching, or thinking. They can only be learned by doing. So go do it.

11. Play an instrument

These days, neuroscientists can hook up people’s brains to machines and figure out which parts of the brain light up when doing different activities. Many activities exercise our brains considerably, however, nothing beats the way playing an instrument stimulates our brains.

It’s like fireworks in your brain. TedEd went so far as to call playing instruments the equivalent of a full-body workout for the brain. And MIT even suggests that if you want smarter kids, teach them music, not coding.


12. Read someone else’s deep thoughts and extend them

Coming up with the first deep thoughts is difficult. Solution? Outsource it. Read someone else’s deep thoughts and try to extend them. For instance, you could read an insightful article and ask yourself, what would I write, if I were to write a sequel to this piece?

In essence, when you read something insightful, don’t just be done with it. Instead, spend fifteen minutes or so thinking about how you can add to the piece.

13. Practice empathy

People might think that empathy is a skill of people who are 'good'. However, I truly believe that empathy is a skill for people who are smart.

Look, being smart is all about being able to play with multiple perspectives. And empathy is just about seeing things from someone else’s perspective; being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That’s why I think practicing empathy can help you be smarter.


14. Practice openness to new ideas

Fear is deep-rooted in all humans and it manifests in different ways. One such way is people’s tendency to be overly skeptical or even outright reject new, weird, or ridiculously ambitious ideas.

However, what I’ve noticed about truly smart individuals is that they’re open to such ideas and find potential where others fail to. For example, many people are skeptical about NFTs, but Garyvee (an evidently smart content creator) thinks that it holds incredible potential.

If he’s right or not, only time will tell. But the lesson here is that openness is important.

RELATED: 3 Unsexy Habits That Immediately Increase Your Mental Strength


15. Contemplate a complex problem before sleeping

Sleep is not just 'rest' for your body. Sleep is also the time complex neurological rewiring happens in your brain.

Due to this, there have been times when people dreamt of solutions to truly complex scientific problems that seemed too difficult to be solved otherwise.

For example, Friedrich August Kekul among many other scientists was frantically trying to figure out the chemical structure of benzene. But the solution constantly eluded him and others. However, one-day Kekul dreamt of a snake eating his own tail; which led him to realize that the structure of benzene was actually ring-like.

This is why, I often think about a difficult article idea right before going to bed, because then, I might discover a smooth outline in my dreams. Do something similar.


Whatever complex problem you’re working on right now, think about it deeply before you sleep. Collect all the pieces before you sleep. And perhaps, the puzzle will be completed when you wake up.

16. Watch TedEd videos

TedEd is genuinely one of the best YouTube channels ever. It’s a huge library of some truly amazing lessons illustrated in refreshingly entertaining ways. I highly recommend bingeing on the channel once in a while.

Some of my favorite lessons are:


17. Practice second-order thinking

First-order thinking is basically short-term thinking. And most people are content with it. They aren’t able to and don’t even try looking beyond the short term.

For example, this one time, I played tennis with a friend. Since I had a weak backhand at the time, I converted most of my backhands into forehands and won the game. I felt good in the short term because I won (a win that did not matter by the way), but on the drive back home I realized that in the long term, I lost because I wasted time I could have used to work on my backhand.

Winning that game only made me feel good in those few hours, however, instead, if I would have worked on my backhand that day instead of trying to win, I would have been better in the long term even if I lost that day.

This happens all the time. We chase immediate gratification and hence fail to think in the second order. Don’t do that. Look for the long-term consequences of each and every decision of yours.


18. Build an extra-somatic brain

Your brain is nothing but a storage organ that stores memory and allows you to use it when needed. However, like any other storage device, it has its limits. You’re not going to remember everything you read or learn.

That is why you should note every significant thing down. It surprises me that so many people don’t make notes. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the smartest people have notes filled with ideas, quotes, poems, stories, words, images, and whatnot.

In essence, keeping a library of notes is nothing but building an extra somatic (out-of-body) brain for yourself. You can visit them from time to time and use them to enhance the brain you carry.

19. Trust your gut instincts

People don’t trust their gut feelings because they don’t understand where they arise from. However, your gut instincts don’t arise out of thin air. They’re just the result of many years of pattern recognition by your brain.


Your brain is constantly looking for patterns in your life. So as you cruise through life having different experiences, your brain recognizes the underlying patterns of these situations so that when such situations recur, your brain knows how to best handle them.

This is why your gut instincts deserve more of your trust.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.