25 Ways to Make Yourself Smarter — Today!


Feel like you're in an educational rut? It happens to the best of us. The good news is that you don't have to go back to school to learn something new. In fact, there are many learning opportunities waiting for you today — literally right now — that will make you a little bit smarter than you were when you woke up this morning. Check 25 of them out below. (See also: Watch a Yale Classroom Lecture Free)

1. Read Everything You See

From the fine print on marketing collateral to the backs of cereal boxes, I try to read every word I see. It certainly helps inform my own profession as a copywriter and blogger from a strategy standpoint, but I sometimes learn new facts that I didn't know before. For instance, did you know that there are 119 grooves on the edge of a quarter? Neither did I — until I read the underside of a Snapple cap. Keep that little gem locked away until you're on the "Million Second Quiz" and trying to take home the big bucks. Fingers crossed that this is something Seacrest asks you.

2. Listen to an Educational Podcast

As in all other genres of media, there's an abundance of nonsense saturating the podcast world, but there are plenty of awesome shows that can teach you a thing or two. The Art of Manliness has compiled 24 note-worthy podcasts for guys, while ladies may be interested in this list of podcasts from Girlfriendology. These suggestions aren't an attempt to be sexist, of course, but rather a way to let you know that there are plenty of podcasts out there to make you smarter today, no matter your interests.

3. Play a General Knowledge Trivia Game

Some of my friends and I are on a trivia league — yes, league — and we meet every Wednesday night of the season to show our fellow competitors just how smart we are. Sometimes, however, we're stumped by a question, the answer to which only makes us smarter (and better equipped for a trivia bout down the road) once it's revealed. Because bar trivia has become quite the phenomenon over the past few years, you shouldn't have a hard time finding at least one trivia night at a local watering hole near you. Pop in and smarten up. (See also: How to Host a Great Game Night)

4. Learn a New Skill From YouTube

There are several benefits to logging onto YouTube and watching a tutorial to learn a skill you don't yet possess. For starters, YouTube is free, but it's also there right when you need it — including right now. From simple tasks like how to tie a bowtie and how to change a diaper to more time-consuming endeavors like how to build a go-kart, YouTube has a diverse library of instructional videos that will make you more intelligent that you were 10 minutes ago. (See also: Free Ways to Learn Something New)

5. Enlist the Help of Others

How did anybody get anywhere without the help of someone else? We all learn from each other, which is why it's important to sometimes take a step back, swallow our pride, and ask someone to teach us how to do something. Enlisting the help of others can sometimes be humbling, but perhaps that isn't a bad thing.

6. Take an Online Quiz

I often get sucked into an online quiz — sometimes it's "Roseanne" trivia, sometimes it's the Ultimate History Quiz — but no matter the subject, I always come out learning something new. And you better believe I'm taking it to the bar with me next Wednesday.

7. Read a Science-Based Article Online

I'm specifically suggesting science-based articles here because there's a lot you can learn from science. Just recently I discovered that three new species were found in Australia, and that our oceans are home to creatures more frightening than I ever imagined. I'm not sure what I'll do with that new information yet, but it's certainly a better use of my brain space than discovering how Kanye and Kim plan to spend their holidays.

8. Read the Comments Section of an Article

It's best to tread lightly when diving into the seedy world of online comments, and also take what you learn with a grain of salt until you can independently verify it, but there's still value in reading what other people are sounding off about. More than once I've learned something I didn't know from amateur "experts" trying to one-up each other. Sometimes even a fool can have a moment of brilliance.

9. Watch Smarter TV

You probably won't learn much from reality TV — besides how to throw shade like a pro — but there's plenty of educational programming on the tube that can teach you a thing or two. The Discovery Channel and History are two great ways to learn something you never knew. My personal favorite is Shark Week, where I learn all about terrors of the deep while reminding myself why I stay out of the water. (See also: A Guide to Frugal Reality TV)

10. Solve Brain Puzzles on Your Phone

I have a game on my phone called Brain Tuner X that requires me to answer a set of 20, 60, or 100 simple math problems in the fastest time I can. I'm always trying to beat my record score on my subway ride to work, and I swear that playing this game for even 10 minutes makes my mind sharper when it's time to start thinking creatively at the office.

11. Tap Into Social Networking

Social media — especially Facebook and Twitter — is full of information to make you smarter. I'm always clicking on interesting links and videos that my friends post to learn more about a particular topic. Granted, there's a lot of nonsense on social media, but I still think it's more beneficial to my state of mind than it is detrimental. (See also: How to Use Social Media in Business)

12. Eat Brain-Boosting Foods

Food not only keeps your body running like a well-oiled machine, but it helps boost your brain as well. Fish, dark leafy greens, grains, and berries are all super foods to help you maintain your mental sharpness. (See also: How to Improve Memory and Get Smarter)

13. Quit Something Unhealthy

Stop smoking today, and you're smarter in an instant. That goes for any other unhealthy habits, too. Take your pick.

14. Take a Nap to Recharge

Naps make you smarter, boost your ability to learn, and essentially let your brain make room for new information. So when you're feeling frustrated or encounter a creative block, take a nap; you'll get farther faster with a little shut-eye.

15. Browse Wikipedia

I learn a lot during the day, but I learn even more as I lie in bed Wikipedia-ing everything that comes to mind before I head off to Dreamland. I'm sure you know the routine. You start thinking about one topic you want to learn more about — probably from something you heard on the TV — and before you know it, you're 12 articles deep and onto a subject that you've never even contemplated. The more you know, right?

16. Rummage Through Family Relics

Most of us have time capsules hidden in our basements and our attics — relics of our family's past — that hold a wealth of information about what life was like way back when. Take a day to poke around these hidden treasures and immerse yourself in a time when life was a little slower and, arguably, better.

17. Browse an Antique Store

Another one of my favorite pastimes is browsing antique stores, where everything inside has a story. I never know what I'll find that day, but I'm absolutely certain I'll learn something great about America and its past by walking through aisles and aisles of nostalgia.

18. Have a Conversation With Someone Old

You don't get to a ripe old age by being stupid. Sit down and talk to someone who has a few years on you to learn about life and how to live it better. (See also: Fun, Free Ways to Make New Friends)

19. Have a Conversation With Someone Young

Young people don't yet have it all figured out — even though they think they do — but there's still value in tapping into the mind of a younger person. They tend to be quicker, savvier, and more open to new ideas than older folks, which is why it's wise every now and then to chat up the active learner in your life.

20. Ask for Help From a Professional

Professionals don't have a very expensive degree in a specialized field for nothin'. Help them put it to work by asking a professional for help when you need it. Whether it's advice on parenting, home improvement projects, or something simpler — like how to make the perfect holiday turkey — you're better off asking a professional than attacking your problem blindly. It also may help you save some money from having to fix a mistake you didn't have to make.

21. Participate in Something You've Never Done Before

How would any of us learn anything — at all — if we didn't try something new? If you want to become smarter today, get out of your comfort zone and try something completely different. (See also: How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone)

22. Use an Old Tool

Two simple words come to mind when I think about using an old tool that technology has replaced — map and compass. I don't know how to read either one comprehensively because I have devices to do that for me, but they're probably great skills to have just in case this whole future thing doesn't work out like many of us think it will.

23. Start Learning a New Language

Learning a new language literally opens up a whole new world of experiences to you. I started learning Spanish when I was 11 years old, and I've never stopped. Because of my language skills, I've been able to travel to amazing places and enjoy my time there because I knew how to speak to the locals. If there's one thing on this list that you should do to become smarter today, this is it. It will literally change your life if you stick to it. (See also: 5 Ways to Learn a New Language)

24. Visit an Ethnic Restaurant

As you're learning your new language, enhance the experience by visiting a restaurant connected to the language to get a taste for that culture's food and perhaps its people. You'll also be able to use your newfound language skills when order your meal and perhaps pick up a few new words from the menu that you haven't yet learned from Rosetta Stone. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Dining Out)

25. Pop Into a Cultural Event

An art installation, a jazz session, a ballet performance — no matter what the cultural event, you'll learn something new… even if you're well versed in the subject at hand. Don't forget, too, that you'll be attending that event with lots of other learners, most of whom will be eager to strike up a conversation to make the most of the experience.

Do you have other ideas on how you can make yourself smarter today? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Ashley W

Sorry, I know posting podcast lists for guys and girls wasn't "meant to be sexist," but the "men's list" contains podcasts for science, books, economics etc., while the women's list is all about dating, sex, being a mother, etc.. Considering how many Top 10 lists exist on the internet, maybe you could have chosen slightly better.

Guest's picture

YES. Thank you. I happen to be female and I've been listening to about 1/4 of the men's podcast list for months or years. The women's list looks super, super lame.

Guest's picture

"Educational" podcasts? The ones you recommend for women are about things like relationships, motherhood, sex, dating, grammar, books and family. Recommendations for men include all the truly interesting, educational stuff--history, practical advice, Fresh Air, This American Life, Marketplace, Freakonomics, Radiolab, etc.

I'm a 42-year-old wife and professional who wrote down 6 different podcasts on the men's list to try (I already listen to the ones I mentioned above, along with Grammar Girl). The women's "fluff" podcasts do not interest me. The idea that men would be more interested in Fresh Air or This American Life than women is truly baffling.

Guest's picture

I really appreciate your effort. Although most of the topics you discussed to be smarter, we already know about that, but very few of us follow, this happens only just because, we don't have enough time to spare on it.