10 Tricks to Reboot Your Brain

In the Car

Research shows we're most likely to space out during activities we can do automatically. This is dangerous when you're behind the wheel: If a car ahead stops suddenly, your reaction time may not be fast enough to prevent an accident.

Here, two tricks to avoid it...

Tie a string on the steering wheel

When you think about the same things during your commute—anticipating the day's workload, or what to cook for dinner—your brain begins to associate the car with zoning out, says Kane. A novel, visual cue such as a colored string or dashboard sticker can snap you out of your "dream-driving" habit.

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Play a game

Those involving counting and geography are great ways for kids to pass the time en route—for good reason: The contests use items that you should be aware of while driving. Try tallying all the states represented by the license plates of the cars in front of you.

When You Read

Do you keep rereading the same passages in your novel? Don't blame a poor memory. "Mindless reading" is common and requires considerable effort to control, says Schooler, who found that readers are actually mind wandering about 20 percent of the time: "Their eyes move across the page, but they're not thinking about the text," he says.

Fix it with these steps...

Take a break

Take time-outs to process the material; mentally recap plot points or a character's motive, for example. "Periodically think over what you've read—it can improve comprehension, probably because it reduces mind wandering," Schooler says. (And read something spicy! Check out these sexy reads for your bedroom.)

Go backward

If you glossed over a few paragraphs, read them in reverse—reordering small packets of information can sometimes change how much of it you absorb. It may feel odd at first, but the extra effort required will force your brain back into focusing.

Join a club

A little peer pressure to finish a book by a certain date can go a long way, especially if you're expected to talk about the content. Budget the number of pages you'll need to read daily, and if you own the book, write notes in the margin and mark meaningful passages to boost both concentration and comprehension.


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