Our first instinct is to fill our days with nonstop activities, from work to the gym to dinner with friends, but there's something to be said for simple reflection and contemplation. That's according to Zat Rana of career and self-improvement newsletter Design Luck, whose purpose is to help people think and live better lives. He argues that, through reflection, reading, and focus, you can grow into a smarter, more creative, and more accomplished individual.
"More and more research is showing that, while talent is indeed responsible for some extraordinary results, most accomplishments generally result from a combination of practice, habit, and mindset," he writes for Quartzy. "Most people who we see as smart don’t get there suddenly or through magic. They just do the little things that are easily neglected by most people. Over time, these little things add up."
To sharpen your intelligence and pave a life path of passion and intellect, he recommends the following daily ritual: Reflect for 10 minutes, read for 20 minutes, and focus on something you're passionate about for 30 minutes. "While everyone spends 10 minutes reflecting, they don’t do so deeply; while everyone reads for 20 minutes, they don’t read the kind of things worth consuming; and while everyone works on something for 30 minutes, they don’t do so with the aim of purpose and progress, without distraction," he clarifies. Here's how it works:
Reflect for 10 minutes
We rarely reserve time in our days to simply think about what we want in life and what piques our interest. "Ask yourself one hard question every day and take time to ponder it," he writes, such as What about the world excites you? "You can learn a lot from the ideas you put into your mind from the external world, but you can arguably learn even more by breaking down and better making sense of the things that are already roaming around in your head."
Read for 20 minutes
Preferably actual books, not articles on the internet. "Reading is … as much about the tangents of thoughts that arise in your own mind as it is about whatever the writer is trying to tell you, and that’s where the brain does the real work of sharpening itself," writes Rana. "In my experience, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that a single book at the right time can completely change your life. With just a 20 minute commitment, you’re giving yourself up to 20 opportunities a year to do so."
Focus for 30 minutes
Select a hobby or a personal project you're passionate about and really hone in on it. "It’s worth dedicating even just half an hour a day to getting a little better at it in a tangible and measurable way," he writes. "Learning to learn is one of the most important qualities required in a fast-changing world, and it comes from the ability to intensely focus on something that pushes you to ask more of yourself."