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6 Habits To Largely Improve Your Memory and Brain Power

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6 Habits To Largely Improve Your Memory and Brain Power

Would you like to become smarter? Remember things easier? Increase your brain’s overall strength? Good news! I’m going to show you six things you can start doing immediately that will improve your memory, strengthen your cognitive abilities and make you smarter!

Before I start with the six, I must tell you about the one thing that relates to all of them…being mindful.

The most important thing you can do to increase your brain power and memory is to be mindful.

This is basically paying attention on purpose. Being mindful is scientifically proven to increase the gray matter in your brain. Gray matter allows you to think clearer and remember more. The reason I don’t have mindfulness as one of my points is because you have to be mindful to do any of these things!

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Maximize Your Sleep Cycle

We sleep 1/3 of our life, or at least we are supposed to. When we sleep, we go through a cycle which include 3 stages. Each stage is 30 minutes (90 minutes per cycle), and the cycle repeats itself throughout the night. The first stage is light sleep, the first 30 minutes, and this occurs when we first fall asleep. The next stage is deep sleep, between 30-60 minutes, and in deep sleep our body heals itself. It does this by releasing the hormone HGH which repairs what the body needs repairing. If you are sore from working out, this is the stage that makes you not sore in the morning.

The final stage, or Stage 3, is the famous REM stage which occurs between 60-90 minutes. This is the stage that repairs our brains. REM is known as the dreaming stage, but is also the stage where it categorizing your thoughts and memories. During the night the cycles treat different stages with different priorities.

Your body is the first thing to heal and then it moves to the brain. This is why they say it is crucially Important to get 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night. The average American gets 6.8 and lives in a sleep debt most of their life.

Implementing – Do your best to get 7.5 hours of sleep and if you need to take a nap, take one! If you are one of those people that think sleep is weak and you run just fine on your 6 hours, try getting 7.5 and see how efficient you are, how much better you feel, and notice how good your mood is throughout the day!

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Maximize Your Food Intake

You get out what you put in! If you want your car to perform at its best, you put in high octane fuel. If you want your body and brain to perform at its best, you put in high octane food. Begin by cutting down on the amount of food you consume at one time. If you normally eat three larger meals, cut those down to six smaller meals throughout the day. Our brain works best with 25grams of glucose at one time…that is basically a banana. There are also plenty of foods that release hormones like dopamine that make us feel good. Some say two handfuls of cashews equals an antidepressant pill. Although they may be a stretch, why are you not snacking on cashews all day?

Implementing – First, cut down on the size of the meals you are eating! Next, simply think about what you are putting in your body. Everything you put in makes your feel differently, so put in the good stuff! Finally, if you are not sure, look it up. Google is at your fingertips, so use it… your body and brain will thank you!

Write it Down

When you physically write things down your brain looks at it differently than if you type it into your phone or computer. When you actually write it down, it cements it into your brain. When I was in high school I wasn’t a very good student and when it came time to take tests, I always made cheat sheets.

The fascinating thing was I never used them. About an hour before the test, I would look at the possible questions and write down the answers on a small piece of paper. I would then put the paper in my pocket and plan on pulling it out when it was time to retrieve the answer. The thing was, when I would read a question, the answer would come right to me because I had just written it down. I could visualize how I wrote it, and where I wrote it down on the cheat sheet.

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Implementing – There are several ways to start doing this. My favorite is write down tomorrow’s activities/responsibilities the night before. What this does is release any worry about what you have to do the next day and you will sleep like a baby! It also allows you to wake up the next day and just follow a schedule…no-brainer! Even though it is better to write things down by hand, have an app on your phone where you can always jot things down when they come to mind. We have so many great ideas that come and go, if you don’t capture them, you may lose it forever!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, or putting yourself “out there” has an effect on the way your brain sees things. Your brain reacts differently in new environments than when you stay in the same place. When your brain sees the same things all the time, it goes into auto-pilot. It has seen it before so it doesn’t have to work to understand. When you change your scenery, your brain starts to see new things and perceive things differently. It does this because it has to “pay attention.” This is where the magic happens.

What I mean by that, is there are things we all have in our heads which we have no answer for. We may be working on a project or just something you know you are missing and when we introduce our brain to new environments those missing pieces sometimes come to the surface…it’s amazing!

Implementing – This can be done so many different way, but the easiest answer is switching up a routine a bit. A few examples are driving home and working out. Instead of driving home the exact same way, even if it takes you another 5 minutes, take an alternative route to shake up the brain. If you exercise, that’s next; you should change up your routine a bit. Instead of running the same route or the same time and miles per hour on the treadmill, shake it up a bit. You can also add in a new form of exercise to do the same.

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Exercise

Besides being great for our body, exercising is amazing for our brain. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins that make us feel good. It also decreases our stress which eliminates the bad hormone cortisol, which I like to call the “dumb” hormone. Cortisol clouds our thinking and decreases our cognitive ability. So, to feel better and think clearer, jump on that treadmill, lift those weights, get to that yoga class or whatever form of exercise you choose is right for you.

Implementing – If you don’t already, start exercising! You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, there are plenty of workouts you can perform in the privacy of your own home. Beyond that, make conscious decisions to be more active. Take the stairs not the elevator, park away from the building instead of hunting for the best spot, and get up and take a walk every now and again…your body and brain will thank you!

Slow Down

Slowing down may sound like something a lazy person would tell you, but in fact here is why it helps. Being “busy” or “multitasking” are two of the least productive things you can do. When you slow down and mindfully concentrate on one task at a time, you give it 100%. When you multitask two things, you do each at 50% and when you do three, it is 33%, you get the picture. Besides doing the job better and more efficiently, you become less stressed which, yes, eliminates the cortisol in your brain. As we know this allows you to think clearer which will produce less errors. So, in fact, when you slow down you actually increase your productivity.

Implementing – This one is pretty simple, but for some reason one of the hardest. We are so “trained” to go fast, and get things done, but it is that mentality that creates the mess! So, write down the things your are going to do in the next hour/day and mindfully do them one at a time. You will find that you feel better as you get each one done and more relaxed. Slow down and enjoy life!

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Start implementing these six habits and you will not only see your brain power and memory increase, you will see your mood lift like never before. So be mindful, put these to work and I’ll see you at the top!

Featured photo credit: Business Bootcamp by Sebastiaan ter Burg via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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