Keeping the brain in good shape: life hacks of famous people
How Mozart managed to fight procrastination, why Hugo wrote his works being nude and how much sleep you need to work like Leonardo da Vinci.
Of course, the daily routine and strict diet will not make you next Franklin or Flaubert in 5 days, but information about the daily routine and habits of successful personalities can give some food for your brain. Especially when many of the objective laws, intuitively discovered several centuries ago, found scientific evidences today.
"Larks", "owls", "bears" and other "living creatures"
When does your day begin: at 6 in the morning in a great mood or after the third cup of coffee somewhere by lunch?
Tchaikovsky, for example, got up at 7–8 in the morning, drank tea, went out for a walk, and at 9:30 he sat down at the piano and composed music until dinner, followed by a walk and another work period from 5 to 8 pm.
Flaubert, in his turn, didn’t get up until 10 o'clock in the morning, but began work only after 9 pm, spending a period of 11 hours on smoking his pipe, resting and reading.
The first example illustrates the “lark” rhythm: such people easily get up in the morning, they feel awake during the day, but exhaust themselves towards evening. Their cycle during the day looks like this: “peak - failure - recovery”.
Followers of Flaubert's daily routine stick to the late rhythm of the “owl”: they cannot stand mornings and they come to the peak only in the afternoons or in the evening, following the cycle “recovery - failure - peak”
Decide when it is more comfortable for you to get up - early in the morning or closer to noon - and think about what time it is better to get down to business: it is better for larks to work in the morning, for owls - in the evening. Whatever you do, do not let the routine take a peak period when the brain is especially alert.
Matter of concentration
Cal Newport distinguishes between two types of concentration - journalistic and rhythmic.
People of the journalistic type are more likely to immerse themselves in work in the intervals between the main tasks. In this case, the task is familiar to the person and does not require much concentration.
So Trollop developed the habit of writing 250 words every 15 minutes, while working on average 3 hours a day. If the author finished one book in time, he immediately began the next one. Wolfgang Mozart gave piano lessons, participated in daily concerts, was constantly looking for work in Vienna, but on returning home he could easily devote 1-2 hours to writing music.
In turn, the rhythmic approach requires more effort, because you need to tune in to work. The task is given a clear time interval of 1-4 hours every day, when a person should not be disturbed in any way.
Every summer, Mark Twain went to the farm and locked himself in his office until dinner, distracted only by the sound of the signal horn, which meant that something out of the ordinary had happened. In other cases, the family did not see and did not bother the writer until dinner.
Gustav Mahler preferred to lock himself up in a special hut in the forest. The cook who cooked and brought him breakfast had to walk along a detour path in order not to collide with the composer and not to destroy his thoughts.
Stephen King continues to write every day, regardless of whether it is a holiday, a day off or even his birthday. He begins work from 8–9 in the morning and finishes only when the number of written words reaches 2000.
Clearly define for yourself the time period, the place of the assignment, and the way to maintain strength (for example, make a schedule for walks and meals).
If this does not help to concentrate, you can make a “broad gesture”: put yourself in such conditions where you simply must fulfill your plans. Victor Hugo, for example, wrote works being nude: the servants were ordered to take away all his clothes, in order to eliminate the temptation to leave the house and distract from work. JK Rowling wrote the latest Harry Potter book in the room of an expensive hotel: the price of 1000 euros per night motivated not to linger and focus on work.
Power of breaks
Prolonged concentration on one case not only leads to fatigue, but also causes addiction: the brain loses vigilance, attentiveness decreases, the goal leaves your view.
Arrange for yourself “restorative breaks”: they stimulate mental activity and prevent addiction. It is in the passive mode that the brain conducts a complex analysis and can cause " eureka moment", which, when you concentrate on one task, is simply physiologically impossible. So do not be surprised, brilliant ideas can really come to mind during a routine like cleaning, washing dishes or walking in the park.
After a day of hard work, Herman Melville headed to feed the cattle and do farm work, throwing thoughts of “Moby Dick” out of his head. Moreover, every evening he returned home full of ideas, which could only be written down and left for reflection until the next morning.
Gardening was the passion of Frank Bauma: he spent even more time doing this relaxing activity than writing! But this did not prevent him from creating 14 books about the magical land of Oz.
According to the findings of researchers from DeskTime, which develops software for monitoring productivity, the greatest efficiency is achieved when employees work for 52 minutes, after which they take a 17-minute break. For each person, these figures may vary, but evidence of the effectiveness of short breaks is more than enough. If you cannot be distracted for 10–20 minutes, then take a walk for at least 5 minutes: even “micro-breaks” can be useful.
Physical exercise affects long-term memory, the ability to analyze information, solve problems, respond quickly and think abstractly. Power and aerobic workouts create a powerful neurobiological cocktail that allows the brain to cope successfully with its functions.
Leo Tolstoy did not have a gym membership, but he found another kind of activity: exercises with a scythe and a plow, and in the winter - cutting wood.
Johann Goethe bathed every day in the river Ilm, which flowed near his house.
Siesta: to be or not to be?
In adulthood, it is difficult not to get sad at the mention of a sleepy hour in kindergarten: a real torment in childhood, which seems like an unprecedented luxury now.
Daytime sleep is really good for the body: in addition to enhancing mindfulness and vigilance, it increases the ability of the brain to learn, stimulates short-term and associative memory, which helps us remember the name and face of a person.
The main thing to understand is that everything should be in moderation, because prolonged sleep can lead to even greater fatigue. Short-term sleep of 10–20 minutes has a positive effect on cognitive functions from the moment of awakening, while sleep lasting more than 20 minutes requires additional time to recover and tune in to work again.
During the NASA study, it was found that the pilots who slept during the 40 minutes during the day increased the response rate by 34%, and attentiveness - by 2 times. These 40 minutes included time not only for the dream itself, but also for immersion and exit from it.
Daytime sleep has a positive effect even on the “streaming state”; this is an extremely important support for creative inspiration and involvement in the process of activity.
Salvador Dali sat in a chair, holding a large brass key in his left hand. Next to his left foot, he put an inverted bowl and tried to fall asleep in this position. As soon as the goal was reached, the key fell from a loosened hand, the bell rang, Dali woke up and, taking another batch of vivid images from his subconscious, immediately returned to work.
Leonardo da Vinci, in his turn, became famous for a very strange sleep pattern: he fell asleep for about 15–20 minutes, but every 4 hours. Thus, the total was about 2 hours a day, which is almost equal to the dream of using the entire time of day.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford an afternoon nap or a house in the woods, where no one will be sure to bother you (what to say of the servants who will hide their clothes until the last chapter is finished). But even small changes in the approach to your daily routine will help you to tune in the desired way and keep your brain in good shape!