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How To Improve Your Memory And Concentration

How To Improve Your Memory And Concentration

Your brain is like a muscle. Without going to the gym and feeding your muscles with the right food, they simply won’t grow. The same applies to your brain. Without giving it any care and attention, it will be just like any other body part, continuing to serve you with a series of mundane tasks that it’s used to doing every other day.

What if there was an easy method to improve on your brain power which would improve memory and concentration tremendously? Would you try it? Of course you would. But would you take that method and convert it into a good habit? You probably would not. Why? Because we are creatures of habit — and, sadly, they’re mostly bad habits.

So, having said that, we urge you to read on, as there are things you might not know about your body which you can use to your advantage and turn into habits to improve memory and concentration.

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1. Be The Master Of Your Own Sleep

We all know that getting the suggested 8 hours of sleep a night can be tough, especially in today’s fast-paced world. Instead of chasing the norms, why not take power naps during the day? According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85% of the mammal species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they take naps — we humans are also in this category. A short nap of 20-30 minutes can have a great impact on your concentration and memory.

2. Understand Your Periods Of Wakefulness And Sleepiness

Understanding when you are most awake and alert helps increase productivity. Studies have shown that people feel most alert at 10 in the morning and items on the top of the to-do list should be done during this time.

However, alertness varies between different people and understanding when you are most awake is important. Why not keep track of your productivity levels by penning down the times when you have accomplished the most? By doing this, you will be able to know your best times of alertness.

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3. Develop A Ritual To Kickstart Your Engine

There’s a lot of research that looks into how CEOs are so productive. One method used by CEOs is the 3 wins for the day technique. By setting out 3 big tasks you want to accomplish before your day starts, you position your mind to complete these 3 big tasks in order for the day to be a success.

4. Understand Focus And Losing Concentration

Breaking focus is an innate involuntary reaction to keep us safe. While selective focus is about top-down attention, breaking focus is a bottom-up reaction. For example, a loud voice or a very bright light breaks our focus most of the time. Once our focus is broken, it takes us approximately 25 minutes to refocus again. With this knowledge, you can focus for long periods of time provided that there are no distractions around.

5. Exercise To Improve Memory And Concentration

When we exercise, our nerve cells produce proteins called neurotrophic factors which trigger other chemicals that help in learning. A study in 2010 on monkeys published by Neuroscience has proven that regular exercise helps monkeys learn new tasks twice as fast compared to non-exercising monkeys, and it is one benefit scientists think would apply to humans as well.

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6. Play Brain Games

“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” and this applies aptly to the brain. Research into brain plasticity tells us that by providing your brain with brain exercises, you can stop this degeneration.

A program called Brain HQ is designed to provide our brain with different stimuli to improve different areas, from reading and comprehension to memory improvement. Just by checking out smartphone app stores, you can find many various brain games. However, it’s advisable to only invest 20 minutes a day on brain games, as these will become just like any other mundane task if performed for longer on a daily basis.

7. Practice Visualisation And Association

Images are easier remember than facts, and scientists have uncovered that we actually never forget anything. The reason why we cannot remember things is the lack of “mental hooks” that help us retrieve the information from our brain.

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To use the V&A method of remembering things, you associate things that are memorable. For example, to remember a grocery list can be quite daunting. With an item such as blueberries, you can associate it with something memorable, such as a blue bear. Blueberries are not memorable, but riding a blue bear sure is!

8. Hang Out With Friends Often

A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health found that people with active social lives show lesser mental decline. Humans are, after all, social animals, and being around friends often not only is a benefit to our emotional health but also to our brain health.

You can take advantage of the memory-boosting benefits of socializing by reaching out over the phone, volunteering, or even joining a club. And if everyone’s just busy doing their thing, you can turn to a pet — especially a highly sociable dog.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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