On Business - Six Tips to Stay at the Top of Your Game

Fall 2011

Star athletes and great real estate professionals have at least one thing in common: they both want to consistently perform at the top of their game. But keeping that winning edge in an era of crowded schedules and information overload can be challenging at best. The good news is that you can take steps now to maintain that winning edge for the present and for the future, according to memory expert Cynthia R Green, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, and author of “Brainpower Game Plan” and “Total Memory Workout.”

“We know from research that while there are changes in our cognitive performance as we grow older, there are many things we can do to manage those skills so that we stay effective,” she said. “A lot of this is under our control in terms of the choices we make and the activities that we participate in. Having a better memory is not just a matter of playing a game on the computer or staying busy at work. When it comes to brain health, we need to look at the whole picture. Good brain health is the result of an integrated approach to brain wellness.”

Cynthia Green

Cynthia Green

If you are worried about staying at the top of your game and competitive in the commercial real estate business, Dr. Green offers six tips, two of which we are all familiar with – getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, especially around the mid section. If you are on your feet for much of the day visiting buildings and showing properties, that’s good but it is not enough. You need aerobic exercise as well. Aerobic activity will help you to focus better and it will help your memory. Exercise has the added benefit of reducing your risk of dementia, but the benefits don’t stop there. Exercise will also lower your risk of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, according to Dr. Green. “Hands down,” she said, “exercise is the best thing you can do to stay at the top of your game. Studies suggest that even brisk walking can give you the aerobic exercise that you need, but you have to walk at a pace where it is a little difficult to carry on a conversation. Get about 30-45 minutes of brisk exercise five or six days a week to gain significant benefits.”

As for maintaining a healthy weight, Dr. Green noted, “There is growing evidence that being overweight — not even obese but merely overweight — can significantly increase your risk for dementia,” she said, recommending making smart, healthy choices in your diet and to maintain a healthy weight with no extra girth. The four other tips are:

Get organized, stay organized and revisit your organizational tools regularly. “Getting organized is one of the key things you can do to stay at the top of your game,” explained Dr. Green. “When I mention this to real estate professionals, they respond by telling me that they could not be in this business if they were not organized. I am sure that is true, but what I find is that we do not revisit our organizational strategies, even ones we adopted 25 years ago. Take time every six months to find better ways to organize yourself.”

Real estate professionals don’t need to be told to use an appointment book, she said, but they do need to be more conscious of how they use it and other tools. She suggested two effective techniques to keep organized and focused. The first she calls The Weekly Way In and the second is The Daily Grind.

The Weekly Way In: At the beginning of each week, Sunday night or Monday morning, set aside time to go through your calendar for the upcoming week. Create a to-do list for the week and make sure you have all of the materials needed for an important appointment. Keep a tickler file as well. In the tickler file store items such as the calendar of events from your local business association. Check that folder weekly for events that you might like to attend and add them to your calendar.

The Daily Grind: You can do The Daily Grind the night before or early in the morning. For a few minutes each day, review appointments for the upcoming day and go over your weekly to-do continued on page 20 list. It allows you to focus on what you have written down without havinto memorize it. She said that a lot of times we will add an item to our appointment book or Outlook calendar, but then it slips our mind because we were not really focused on it as we wrote it down. The Daily Grind gives you a few minutes to focus on your entire day. She said that calendar items are not things we need to memorize because they change all of the time, but we do need to organize the information and then refer to it regularly.

Improve your everyday memory skills. Play games to improve your cognitive skills to better focus, pay attention and think flexibly. She suggests playing games against the clock. One game she suggests is Boggle in which you have 16 dice with letters on them. From those letters you must make as many words as you can in two minutes. This game can be played on a computer or using a smartphone app. She says games like these are fun and need only be played for 10 minutes a day. The key is to play them against a clock, which eliminates crossword puzzles or Scrabble because they are not timed. Improving these skills will help you better remember directions and more quickly do calculations.

Stretch your brain by doing things that are intellectually engaging. Dr. Green said that research shows that people who are intellectually engaged have less risk of dementia in later life. One theory about being intellectually engaged is that you build up a greater cognitive reserve and build more brain density. You don’t build a bigger brain, but you do create a more dense brain with more connections between brain cells, according to this theory. What activities are recommended to be intellectually engaging? Dr. Green suggested those that not only challenge you to think but to also think differently. Don’t do things you have done all of your life -- take up something new. Take up painting, a musical instrument, learn a new language, or take up knitting or needlepoint. Further, change little things in your life to build new connections in your brain. Take a different route to work or wear your watch upside down. Your brain has to work a little harder to interpret this information. Change your routine as much as possible every day. These activities are called neurobics.

Incorporate strategies into your daily routines to help you hold on to information. Dr. Green stated that in the real estate business, information is currency. Such information is often gained quickly, but can be difficult to hold on to because it is not written down. There are strategies that can help you hold on to information and give meaning to it. For example, if you want to remember someone’s name effectively, get into the habit of repeating the name as you hear it. Another strategy is to always make a connection with a name to give it meaning. One quick technique she suggested is to make up a story about the name. When you meet a Frank Hill, for example, you might think “Frank is walking over the hill” to help remember his name.

Brain Activities to Stay at the Top of Your Game

Work mental activity into your daily routine:

  • Play bridge
  • Play board games
  • Do jigsaw puzzles
  • Learn a new language
  • Take up a musical instrument
  • Solve brain teasers
  • Play computer games
  • Take up painting
  • Take up pottery
  • Play card games 

For More Information