We all want to live better.
Do better. Live a meaningful and fulfilling life. According to an article in Psychology Today, by Daniel Goleman, the father of Emotional Intelligence “ disengagement, frazzle, and flow have a powerful impact on a person’s ability to perform at their best: disengagement and frazzle torpedo our efforts, while flow lets them soar. “
Sometimes it is impossible to stay focused at work but there is something you can do. Setting boundaries in the workplace is key to getting quality work done. Pay attention to when you are distracted and what kind of distraction it is (people, emails, phone interruptions, clutter, etc).
Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist, states: “Chance favours only the prepared mind.”
This I believe.
When you use your brain better, your life automatically improves. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, but somehow some people tend to achieve more during the day.
What is their secret you may ask? The answer is simple – they use their brain better. They focus on the essential few items – things that matter the most & they make the most of the 24 hours they have been given.
This is the hallmark of high performers. They use their brain & their brain energy better. You can be the CEO of your brain. Here’s how you can focus better, overcome distractions & work smarter every [email protected] #BrainHacks (click to tweet)
First here is one brain myth we need to dispel.
Multitasking is a myth.
According to research by NYU Professor of Psychology, Brian McElree “the number of chunks of information you can hold without any memory degradation is just one.” Hence why multi-tasking is a myth. The more we try to focus on, the faster our memory & quality of work degrades.
Every time the brain works on an idea consciously, it uses a considerable amount of resources/energy. The part of the brain used for our conscious processing is called the pre-frontal cortex aka the CEO of the brain. This is where you make decisions, plan, fact-check, analytical & logical thinking and more. The CEO is the decision-maker, the processing centre for all the information coming into your “company” aka your life. The CEO receives information from all 5 Senses and needs to process everything coming in and make sound decisions.
As you can appreciate the CEO cannot attend to everyone & everything at the same time & needs to prioritize the information coming in.
Focus on the tasks that needs the attention of the CEO – the pre-frontal cortex – think big rocks – attention-rich tasks – like your most important tasks. Focus on what you need the most like your intellectual growth, meditation, that big proposal etc. Schedule tasks like emails and social media for later in the day (See Brain Hack # 4) & not first thing in the morning. The idea is that you schedule your most important tasks first before someone else schedules your time for you with their request (aka emails). Schedule the most attention-rich tasks when your brain is alert (usually in the AM). The optimal use of your brain is for interacting with the information in your “office” and should not be wasted on holding information (that’s what whiteboards & notebooks are there for). As Richard Branson advocates, “what gets scheduled gets done.”
Did you know that the brain has a natural language when it comes to setting goals? (Click this link to tell your friends!) Chunking is a process of taking individual pieces of information (chunks) and grouping them into categories. By grouping each piece into a category, you can improve the amount of information you can remember and process. This decreases your need to hold information in your PFC. Research shows that scheduling time into main topics/categories like deep thinking, writing and answering emails & mindful moments into “time frames” (AM & PM) allows you to make the most of your brain energy. For example, saying “I will write my articles on Monday mornings from 8am to 10am” increases your success rate and makes effective use of your brain energy.
This allows your brain to retrieve that information at that time, reminding you that this activity needs your attention, every Monday between 8am & 10am. Or “If it is 2pm and 3pm, I will return 30 emails.” Adding the time frames speaks to the natural language of the brain. If then planning, is a powerful process that can double or triple your chance for success. Chunking your information into a formula with a time frame of If X happens, then I will do Y, is the natural language of the brain, according to Harvard Author & Blogger Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson.
When we code information into “If X, then I will do Y” terms our unconscious brain programs this information and will start scanning for this particular goal in the “If” part of the formula. This allows you to get more done, using your brain’s energy wisely. PS: It’s like having your own Executive Assistant for your brain.
Give your brain time to process information by scheduling 5/10/15 minutes between meetings to process or note what Action Item you need to take and to file away your biggest takeaway. The brain needs downtime for integration – to process the information it has absorbed for the last hour or two/day. This allows your brain.. to breathe and prepare for what’s next. Buffering leads to more clarity by helping you deal with all the items in your brain queue, waiting to be assigned to its designated folder.
Buffering helps information to load, leading to deeper insights and you being more present at your next meeting. (PS: Don’t have enough “time” to buffer? Take a bio break. Go to the bathroom, take a minute, breathe, download and then get to your next meeting. And honestly, if you don’t have 5 minutes between meetings, revisit your meeting objectives & look for opportunities for improvement. Help your colleagues use their brain wisely as well!)
Scan your emails for prioritizing, not responding. Opening your email doesn’t mean you need to reply to everything right away. Unfortunately, many of us have trained our brain to believe just that. As the CEO of your brain, this is a great opportunity to change your email policy. Train your brain to scan to prioritize, look for any urgent items, look for names on your Urgent & High Priority list and scan to arrange items in the order of their relative importance.
As you identify the urgent items, deal only with that and then file away the rest to its allotted time slot under the Email Category via chunking for later (See BrainHack #2). This will require a few tries as your brain is trained to “See & Respond”. As the CEO of your brain, you get to decide what gets on your schedule and when.
You get to decide who is in the Urgent & High Priority Folder or not. Don’t let other people’s agendas determine your priorities. Create the schedule, and then train yourself to be disciplined enough to it follow through – no matter how many tries it takes. After all, like fine wine, a CEO gets better with practice:)
Help your brain help you, by eliminating everything that doesn’t need your attention right now. Working on the updates for the new policy for the next hour? Shut the YouTube/email/that cool article you’ve been meaning to read window” and only have one-word document open – the one that you are working on right now. Doing some work on your whiteboard or paper document?
Research also suggests that shutting your laptop completely increases focus and directs energy for the task at hand. This improves the quality of your output and also increases your innovation & creativity fueling your ability to process & gather insights at a much faster rate.
According to Neuroscientist & my Brain Hack Mentor Shonte Jovan Taylor, we all need to go offline in order to reboot our brain. Here’s what Shonte had to say:
“Going mentally offline is the concept. Your brain chemicals and bodily hormones take a natural dive mid-day which means we are fighting a losing battle with biology. Think about it…if a plane never stopped to refuel or have maintenance it would eventually crash right? Likewise, the brain needs to refuel and do a little maintenance in the middle of the day after thinking all morning and afternoon.
So take 5-10 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply. You can do this in a designated quiet room, in the car, on a bench in a courtyard etc. Then your brain will go the rest of the distance for you. Believe it or not…the brain only needs 20 minutes of a power nap (if you ever can) to recoup and restore alertness. Additionally, you can go the opposite route and activate your nervous system by revving up your state which will increase adrenaline, stress and blood flow to the brain and body (jumping jacks, push-ups, or a power walk.)
Your brain is the most powerful piece of technology on the planet. Use it wisely. As the CEO of your brain, you get to decide how it operates daily. When you make better use of your brain, you improve your mindset and better your life and your impact on the world.
“Whether our efforts are, or not, favoured by life, let us be able to say, when we come near to the great goal, I have done what I could.” – Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist.
Please share your insights in the comments section below, as I know that the best success hacks are yet to be discovered as you haven’t shared that one thing you do brilliantly well with me. Which of these brain hacks inspired you the most? Which one will you implement? Any additional brain hacks would you like to share?
If you would like to know how you can increase your confidence & leverage your emotional intelligence & brainpower for greater success in life, work & love, drop me a note. I am here to help.
Is self-doubt a constant companion? Are imposter syndrome moments keeping you from realizing your biggest dreams and desires? Maybe shame is getting in the way of moments of courageous action? Or maybe it’s something entirely different.
Discovering what’s getting in the way of your success is the first step to dreaming bigger into your purpose.