What is Brain extending: 

We usually don’t live in the present moment, because we find ourselves overwhelmed in our heads with tasks that need to be remembered, facts we’ve just learnt and out-of-the-blue ideas that have sparked inside of us.

At the same time, we want to be productive with our time and effective with our limited resources. And that’s where a precious idea of externalizing memory comes in.

Brain extending is the concept of freeing up your brain by externalizing pieces of the memory that don’t need to be there. It simply means, freeing yourself of the burden of remembering something the whole day before you can get to it. 


Benefits of Brain Extenders:

The brain no longer needs to keep track of things. Writing long hand actually allows the brain the process the information more deeply. That way it tends to stick and you’re less likely forget. Also, a lighter brain is more productive because it can work more effectively.


You’re already doing it: 

You’re probably already extending your brain without realizing it. Writing down your shopping list before you can hit the grocery store sometime this week is an example. Putting an important paper tucked between your wallet or stuffed inside your purse, so you won’t forget it while you rush through the door in the morning is another example.

The other ways we’ve externalized our brains are that we no longer have to remember facts like the distance between the earth and moon, or how many wives King Henry VIII had. We’ve outsourced all such research to tools like Google. Of course, thanks to Google, we also tend to overload our brain with information like, Facebook Addiction Disorder is a now mental disorder identified by Psychologists, which is a different problem altogether.


How can you extend your brain:

  1. Put it in the environment. My 13 year old always carries his umbrella in his school bag, because he doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of looking for one during rainy days. On days he uses it, as he’s folding it up the dry umbrella later, he puts it back directly into the bag. This always amuses me, because there’s so much to learn from little children.
  2. Create special places. For things like keys and handbags, have a designated place in the house so you won’t have to always jog your memory to hunt them.
  3. Write things down. Write tasks that you want to remember as:Urgent and Later.


Creating an external brain physically: 

A commonplace book by definition contains entries from inspirational writings for learning purposes and is mainly organized under headings or tags rather than chronologically. 

For me as a writer my commonplace book is invaluable. Its literally a part of my brain that lives outside of me. I can’t imagine how overcrowded my brain would be if I continued to work through the day without writing ideas down to work on them later.

Interspersed with all my key learnings is also a daily snapshot of my life as it happens. So my commonplace book is also my journal, my task list holder and my idea generator. 


How can you start building your own brain: 

Grab a notebook (commonplace book) and a pen.


Actionable Tip:

Finish any task that takes less than 2 minutes immediately. That’s how you can ensure that the commonplace book is effective and doesn’t become overwhelmed. Of course, if something can’t be done right away, you have the book anyway.


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