Can Breaking Rules (And Eating Chocolate) Make You Smarter?

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Woman scratching head

© pathdoc / Adobe Stock

Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson
April 23, 2024 at 6:7PM UTC
More so than their other professional counterparts, women have a lot more “rules” to abide by in the workplace. From dress code to meeting etiquette to everything in between, it can be tiring to feel like you have to do everything right all of the time. (And as we already know, women get this feeling from all sides.)
But what if you didn’t have to follow the rules? What if, instead of doing everything right and getting good results, you could disregard society’s rules and get great results? Believe it or not, it can be done! Here’s how you can do it and here’s why you should:
1. Daydream.
Rasmus Hougaard, coauthor of “One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work With Mindfulness,” says that daydreaming in an office is natural. “Our brain is not designed for the kind of work we now do, especially in offices,” he said to Fast Company. “The default for our brain is to want to do all of it at the same time, and we aren’t naturally able to cope with that.”
Giving our brains the space to wander — and being aware when it does — strengthens the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that allows us to gain intentional control of how distractions affect us. The next time you catch yourself daydreaming, make the conscious decision either to actively allow yourself to do so or to shift your focus. Doing so will strengthen your focus for other tasks.
2. Read more than one book at a time.
Reading is an obvious way to facilitate brain activity; not only does it introduce us to new perspectives, but it also introduces us to new vocabulary, grammar ways to construct sentences, etc. The information you’re processing varies greatly based on what you’re reading, so frequently switching between different genres and formats improves brain plasticity. Plus, it helps you get through your reading list faster than you would have otherwise, since you’ll consistently be re-engaging your mind.
3. Play video games.
We’re not suggesting that you park yourself in front of your television for a few weeks straight, but playing video games in moderation has proven benefits. A recent study from the University of Glasgow showed that video games can build problem-solving, adaptability and communication skills, among many others.
Skill-building in video games isn’t limited to educational games, either; games in the study included “Minecraft,” “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light” and “Borderlands 2” — all of which are designed as games for entertainment.
Our brains naturally love to multitask; any time the brain thinks it’s “accomplished” something, it gives itself a dopamine injection to provide a sense of gratification. But instead of shutting out all urges to multitask, Hougaard suggests that we turn those natural inclinations into practice for living mindfully.
“You have to override the brain wanting to do more at a time,” Hougaard said. “Multitasking trains the brain… You can mindfully discern in the moment what is important and what is urgent. What is important is often not urgent.” Similar to when we catch ourselves daydreaming, Hougaard recommends that we consciously recognize what our brain is trying to do and then actively choose how we react to that urge.
5. Eat chocolate?!
Okay, you’ve caught us… we don’t actually have any statistics that eating chocolate can make you a better professional. However, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a highly significant correlation between a nation’s chocolate consumption and the rate its citizens win Nobel Prizes.
Including this data isn’t meant to encourage you to go buy a bunch of sweets for you and your coworkers. Instead, it’s a good reminder to keep a healthy perspective through a healthy work-life balance. Plus, it never hurts to have a bit of fun in your work (and yes, chocolate too).

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