Make your brain work faster

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The Independent Online
It is not unusual for today's managers to spend the normal working day either on the road or in meetings. It is only at around 5pm, when things are calming down a little, that they can knuckle down to their real job and start work.

With so few productive hours in the day, and time management sheets bursting with objectives, managers might want to take a look at some of the new techniques to put their own brains into overdrive.

When Simon Smith, a management consultant, was faced with the task of researchingchange management methods he realised he would have to read every book and paper on the subject. He decided to invest about 30 hours of his time, spread over a month, to learn a new skill first - photo-reading.

"Once I had completed the research project I decided to put my new skill to personal use and read 40 leadership books in a month," he says. "The result was dramatic. Through synoptic reading and mind mapping each book it became clear that there was a gap in the market. I wrote my own book on self-leadership as a result, which will be published next year by Nicholas Brierley."

Mr Smith used The Photo Reading Whole Mind System course, marketed by Lifetools. It taught him how to use both hemispheres of his brain for efficient and accelerated learning, and preliminary relaxation methods to established a state called "photo-focus".

"First I would have a quick flick through the book to see what it was about," Mr Smith says. "Then I would set myself an objective for reading it. Having learned to look at each page of a book with a kind of soft focus, turning the page every couple of seconds, I would then `photo-read' the book. Afterwards I found I could dip straight back to the sections that were most relevant as my preconscious mind had mentally photographed the pages."

Photo-reading claims that its whole mind approach can allow readers to cover more than 25,000 words per minute.

Mind mapping is the perfect accompaniment to photo reading as it allows users to note all the relevant points from a book, report or seminar on to just one page. A completed mind map is a useful tool for accessing memory and brainstorming.

While the skills of mind mapping can be learned from a book such as The Mind Map, by Tony Buzet, MindJET offers software for the purpose called MindManager. "It may not be as organic as the kind of mind maps created by hand, but it has added value," says Mr Smith. "It can save time on presentation preparation, create web sites and there is an internet conferencing tool."

Fast track managers looking to squeeze in the time to study for an MBA can benefit from accelerated learning techniques. Accelerated learning has much in common with photo-reading, in that the "preview, photo-read, dip" approach described by Mr Smith, is similar to the three stages of accelerated learning.

Lifetools has produced its own courses in accelerated French, German, Italian and Spanish perfect for anyone needing to learn a language fast.

The link between photo-reading, accelerated learning and other whole- mind techniques is that all require the reader to achieve a state of relaxation beforehand. Unfortunately this means that busy people using the audio tape course are not advised to cram their studying into the hours spent driving the car.

But Lifetools offers a solution here too. It also markets a light and sound machine, MindLab Orion, which, it claims, can induce the kind of relaxed state required at the touch of a button. Not only can MindLab Orion help with learning it is also a stress reliever,which, in turn, reduces the amount of time you need to spend asleep at night.