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Moving things around doesn't have to be restricted to your
desktop or furniture. If your work schedule is flexible enough,
rearrange the order in which you accomplish daily tasks. Do
you look at your mail first thing in the morning? Try another
time. Can you take your breaks half an hour earlier or later?
Or change regularly scheduled meetings from the morning to
the afternoon? Within the constraints of your line of work,
incorporate a little "disorder."


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2. SEE THINGS IN A NEW LIGHT 3. MAKE TASKS ODOROUS
You can activate your memory by pairing an odor and a spe-
Jrlace different-color gelatin filters (available at art supply or
cific task. For example, to help you remember a certain phone
photography stores) over your desk lamp. (Check first for fire
number, use a specific smell every time you dial it. (For this
hazards).
exercise, use the scent canisters described on page 63 or buy a
^ Colors evoke strong emotional associations that can create com- few small herb plants.) Crushing some thyme, mint, or sage
provides a strong and effective olfactory cue.
pletely different feelings about ordinary objects and events. In ad-
dition, the occasionally odd effects of color (a purple styrofoam coffee
^ Certain odors produce increased alertness
cup) jars your brains expectations and lights up more blips on your
and energy. In Japan, nutmeg or cinnamon
attentional "radar screen."
odors are added to air-conditioning systems
of office buildings to enhance productivity.
This exercise takes the use of odors one step
further: Rather than providing odor stimu-
lation as a passive background to everything
you do, odors can be used to highlight specific
aspects of your workday, which provides a
tag for longer-lasting memory.




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5. TAKE-SOMEONE-TO-WORK DAY
4. LEARN BRAILLE
liring a friend, child, spouse, or parent to your workplace.
IVLost public elevators and ATMs have Braille instructions
Everything you take for granted”the pictures in the halls,
for blind or visually impaired individuals. In today's world,
the machines you use, your familiar coworkers”are seen
it's sighted people who suffer "tactile deprivation." Use your
anew through another person.
fingers to learn the Braille numbers for different floors of
The national Take Our Daughters to Work Day is an ex-
your office building or for controlling the elevator doors.
cellent example of a novel experience that does wonders not
only for your daughter but for your own neural networks.
^ When you learned to read, you learned to associate a very spe-
cific visual stimulus”a letter or number”with a sound, then
^ The simple act of mak-
with a word, and eventually with meaning. Learning to make dis-
ing introductions fosters the
tinctions and associations with your fingers”such as between two
all-important social inter-
dots and three dots”activates a whole new set of pathways link-
actions that we know are
ing the cognitive regions of your cortex (those parts that know what
crucial for a healthy brain.
a letter or number stands for) to the sensory regions. By the time
Introducing your child (or
you're able to "read" the button for your floor, using just your fin-
friend) to coworkers exer-
gertips, you'll have built quite a bit of new circuitry in your cortex.
cises your abilities with
names far more effectively
than sitting at your desk and 7
trying to memorize them.




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6. THE BRAINSTORM” many ideas as possible, no matter how unpolished, silly, or
"wild." No one may evaluate or judge anything that's brought
AN ASSOCIATION MACHINE up, or dominate the session. Instead, participants must free-
associate to build or "hitchhike" on each other's suggestions.
Ijrainstorming is a very Neurobic activity,
The facilitator writes the suggestions on a board or sheets of
because its goal is to encourage indi-
newsprint for all to see and keeps the mood playful and fun.
viduals to make associations and
(Afterward, those responsible for the assignment take all the
then to cross-fertilize them with
ideas, group them into categories, and select those with the
other people's associations.
most valuable raw material.)
Arthur B. VanGundy, an
expert on brainstorming, sug-
^ The word brainstorm itself conjures up images of flashing
gests having a varied group
lightning bolts. The lightning bolts in the brain are really the elec-
of four to six people, with
trical flashes crisscrossing between brain areas that only rarely
one person acting as
communicate, and the "storm" captures the idea that this exercise
facilitator and note taker.
provides an environment for increasing the number and intensity
The facilitator presents
of these unusual associations.
the problem or oppor-
tunity”whether it's
Another effective technique using associations to stimulate
for a new product or
creativity is often used by illustrators and art directors. It is
service, or resolving a
based on a technique that originated at the Batelle Institute
difficult situation. In-
in Frankfurt, Germany. Write down the assignment or prob-
dividuals are encour-
lem, and generate two or more columns of associations that
aged to offer up as


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relate to it. Then combine associations from one column with
7. TAKE BRAIN BREAKS
those from the other. If, for example, the task is to illustrate
an article about vacations in Alaska, you might list:
1 here's more to a coffee break than loading up on caffeine (a
Alaska
Vacations short-term brain performance enhancer, actually). Coffee and
cold
camping lunch breaks give you time for mental stretching and social in-
beach teraction. A brisk fifteen-minute walk outdoors invigorates the
ice
polar bears
cruise ship body, clears the mind, and opens the door to real-world sensory
eagle
camera stimulation. Try fostering nonstressful, mind-expanding inter-
bears
sunglasses actions during this time. Enlist some coworkers to start a walk-
salmon ing, talking, or discussion group during breaks or lunch.
suitcases
Eskimos
cars, trains, planes
oil wells
relaxing
wilderness
swimming (pools)
snow
eating
hunting
sleeping
fishing
reading
dog sleds
drinks

After much cross-referencing you might decide to illustrate a
picture of an Eskimo and a polar bear holding up their salmon
to be photographed by a tourist.. .or a polar bear wearing sun-
glasses reading in a beach chair and being served drinks.



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8. ONGOING CHESS GAME
We know of one office where a chessboard was left out near
the water cooler. Any employee could come to the board
(preferably during a break), assess the situation, and make a
move. It was an ongoing game, with no known players, and
no winners or losers.

^ Even a novice chess player will weigh dozens of possible
moves, attempt to visualize the consequences of each one, then se-
lect the move that offers some strategic advantage. This type of
"random-player" chess game doesn't allow anyone to develop a
long-term strategy. But it does require visual-spatial thinking
that is different from what most of us do at work. The brief gear
switching provides a break from verbal, left-brain activities and
lets the "working brain" take a breather.
AT WORK
KEEP YOUR BRAIN ALIVE




10. ADAPT, ADOPT, OR AD LIB
9. TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
rr\
You can adapt many of the exercises from other sections to
lurn pictures of your family, your desk clock, or an illus-
use in your workplace. For example:
trated calendar upside down.
• Get a new cover or cushion for your chair.
^ Your brain is quite literally of two minds when it comes to pro-
• Make a collection of things like small squares of carpet
cessing visual information. The analytical, "verbal" part of your
samples, different grades of sandpaper, or different types of
brain (sometimes called the "left brain') tries to label an object af-
paper and tape a few different ones on the underside of
ter just a brief glance: "table," "chair," "child " The "right brain," in
your desk or to the side of your computer monitor or
contrast, perceives spatial relationships and uses nonverbal cues.
phone. Take a few seconds throughout the day to feel each
When you look at a familiar picture right side up, your left brain
and make fine distinctions between them.
quickly labels it and diverts your attention to other things. When
the picture is upside down, the quick labeling strategy doesn't • Collect small objects like paper clips, fasteners, nails, or
work”and your right-brain networks kick in, trying to interpret screws in a cup and during a break or while on the phone,
the shapes, colors, and relationships of a puzzling picture. The identify them strictly by touch.
strategy of looking at things upside down is a key component for
• Bring earphones and a portable tape or CD player to use
awakening the latent artist in us, as described by Betty Edwards in
during the workday (or a CD and earphones for your com-
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
puter). You might experiment with some of the natural en-
vironmental tracks available and bring the sea, the surf, the
forest, or the jungle into your personal space.
• Try working with the hand you don't normally use for some
daily tasks, such as writing, stapling, turning on machines, or

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AT THE MARKET
dialing the telephone. Or eat your lunch and snacks with the
"wrong" hand.

^ As previously discussed, changing which hand you use can un-

F or thousands of years getting food was a vigorous, Neu-
leash a tremendous amount of new brain wiring. You may not
robic workout, involving all the different senses: tracking
think of it as learning, but the nerve cells in your brain do!
animals by sight, smell, and sound...deciding when to plant
or harvest crops by "reading" the weather...remembering
• Change where or with whom you eat lunch. If the weather
how to locate the best fishing and gathering grounds. Each
permits, going outside will almost automatically increase
season presented its own challenges and opportunities for ob-
your sensory stimulation compared with staying inside the
taining food, and the fear of going hungry always loomed just
controlled environment of an office building.
over the horizon. Finding food was never routine and it was
• If you bring your own lunch, you can use many of the ideas usually a very social activity. (It is believed that language first
from the "At Mealtimes" chapter to make your lunch brain- originated on the hunt.)
healthy. One novel example might be to randomly swap Modern society has effectively eliminated the time, strug-
brown-bag lunches with a group of coworkers. gle, and unknowns involved
in getting food, but we've
given up something in ex-
change for the predictability
and convenience of the su-
permarket. Instead of food
being a feast for the senses,
supermarket packaging is

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1. VISIT A FARMERS MARKET
geared to appeal mainly to our visual sense. And in this world
of shrink-wrapped, frozen, or canned foods, stimulation based
on other senses, such as taste, touch, and smell, are eliminated oince the produce is usually what's available locally and in
or relegated to the background. Human exchange has been re- season, you never know what to expect. Go to the market in
placed by automated checkouts, and even the hunting routes an exploratory mode”with no list”and invent a meal from
(aisles and shelf arrangements) have been preprogrammed for whatever you find that looks, smells, and feels good.
optimum sales, not sensory stimulation. Let's see how a farmers market recruits your senses dur-
The exercises in this section attempt to reawaken the ing apple season. You stop at a farm stand on a fall drive and
hunter-gatherer within, by involving more of your senses and browse among the varieties of apples available. As you ex-
the associations between them, as well as some of the social
aspects of the "hunt."
These activities may involve a little extra time (and in
some cases, a bit more money), but they have big payoffs in
terms of nourishing the brain.




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2. SHOP AT AN ETHNIC MARKET
plore the diversity of shapes and colors, pick up an apple of
each variety. Feel it for texture and firmness, inhale its aroma.
Let the proprietor cut open a Macoun for you to taste, and An Asian, Hispanic, or Indian market will offer a wide vari-
another apple you've never seen before”an heirloom from ety of completely novel vegetables, seasonings, and packaged
his grandfather's orchard that he's been growing for thirty- goods depending, of course, on your own ethnic background.
seven years. You taste the subtle tartness, experience the dif- Choose a cuisine unfamiliar to you. Ask the storekeepers how
ference between mealy, juicy, and crisp. Suddenly you are to prepare some of the unfamiliar foods on the shelves.
more acutely aware that it's a bright, sunny day, the leaves are Spend some time in the spices section. Different cultures
changing, there is a smell of fermenting apples in the air, and use radically different seasonings, and you're likely to en-
the sky is a bright blue. Around the one simple act of buying counter smells and tastes that you've never experienced.
some apples, you have created a rich tapestry of memory. If you're lucky, the market will have self-serving bins of
Chances are the vendors are also the people who grow the grains, beans, cereals, and spices. Buy a few small bags of any-
apples, and you're sure to encounter some interesting stories thing that strikes your fancy to use later as tactile, taste, or ol-
and characters. Ask about their farms; this year's crop; and if factory stimuli.
there's a favorite recipe that uses what you're buying.
^ The olfactory system can distinguish millions of odors by acti-
^ This exercise ranks high on all the elements of Neurobic re- vating unique combinations of receptors in the nose. (Each receptor
quirements: Novelty, multisensory associations between different is rather like a single note on a piano, while the perception of an
shapes, colors, smells, and tastes, as well as social interaction. odor is like striking a chord.) Encountering new odors adds new
chords into the symphony of brain activity. And because the olfac-
tory system is linked directly to the emotional center of the brain,
new odors may evoke unexpected feelings and associations, includ-
ing links to the ethnic group involved.

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3. BUTCHER, BAKER, FISHMONGER 4. PRACTICE NEUROBICS
IN THE SUPERMARKET
You may not have ethnic markets where you live. But most
places still have specialty stores staffed by people who know
i Use your senses. Close your eyes and distinguish fruits by
about the products they sell. Ask to see, feel, and smell the
their smell or by the feel of their rinds. Use self-serve bins
merchandise, and about where it came from or how to prepare
to buy small amounts of grains, cereals, or spices with dif-
it. In a fish store, by seeing, feeling, touching, and smelling the
ferent tastes, textures, or odors (health food stores are espe-
catch, you form associative links with the variety of shapes,
cially good sources).
sizes, and colors.
i Change your usual route through the aisles.
^ In a bakery, your olfactory sense gets a valuable workout. Cer-
i Ask the people at the meat, fish, or deli counters to help you
tain odors, such as freshly baked bread, trigger emotional responses choose something instead of just picking out prepackaged
that stimulate the memory of other events. foods.
A package of sliced monk-
i Change the way you scan the shelves. Stores are designed
fish looks like a hundred other
to have the most profitable items at eye level, and in a quick
shrink-wrapped packages, but
scan you really don't see everything that's there. Instead,
a whole monkfish”a bizarre,
stop in any aisle and look at everything displayed on the
almost grotesque creature - -is
shelves, from top to bottom. If there's something you've
deeply memorable.
never seen before, pick it up just to read the ingredients and
think about it (you don't have to buy it). You've broken your
routine and experienced something new.



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5. REAWAKEN THE
HUNTER-GATHERER WITHIN
season, you can gather edible plants, fruits, and nuts in
the wild”fiddlehead ferns, dandelions, wild asparagus, and
grape leaves, various wild berries, mushrooms (careful!), chest-
nuts, sea wort, wild peas. (If you don't know what things are
okay to eat or how to prepare them, take a field guide to edi-
ble plants with you on your foraging trips.)
Visit a pick-your-own orchard or farm to gather straw-

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