First of all, the title Mindhacker: 60 Tips, Tricks, and Games To Take Your Mind To The Next Level needs a bit of explanation. The word hacker is used here in its original context, not in its later criminal association. The term dates back to the early sixties at MIT, and was defined as, "A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and stretching their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary." It had nothing to do with the malicious mischief later associated with it, such as ID theft and the like. True hackers are intent on the intellectual quest to gain knowledge, never to harm others.
It is in this spirit that Mindhacker has been published, and it is full of various strategies for us to improve our brain functions. The book focuses on ways to improve performance in nine distinct areas. These are memory, learning, information processing, time management, creativity and production, math and logic, communication, mental fitness, and clarity. The 60 tips, tricks, and games mentioned in the title are referred to as “Mind Hacks” and are associated with each chapter. They are not equally distributed, however. For instance, the “Creativity and Production” section features 11 hacks, while three others only have five.
The book is not meant to be read as a straight narrative though, or as a textbook. In the “Introduction,” the authors encourage us to flip through the chapters to the ones that intrigue us most, then use those lessons as a jumping off point to other sections. In this type of usage, we mimic the brain, which tends to work in that way on its own.
Short-term memory is something I struggle with, and so that is where I began. Taking the age-old, string-around-your-finger method to remember things is an easy metaphor to begin with, so we are shown other ways to expand on this rudimentary technique. They suggest that the string should not just refer to one particular thing, but rather a whole “string” of related items, so that the whole string can represent an entire course of action.
Keeping a checklist is another simple, but very effective tip as well. After explaining a study at Johns Hopkins University, where nurses were instructed to follow doctors prepping for surgery with a ten-point list of basic steps, the results were pretty incredible. Over the course of a year, post-op infections had previously ran at 11% for patients, but with the checklists in place, the rate of infection dropped to zero. This was seen as evidence of an over-familiarity on the doctors part. The basics such as washing their hands and such were so second nature to doctors, that they often overlooked minor items on the list, which the nurses were able to remind them of.