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Autofocus Brain: 5 Tricks To Use Your Brain Like A Camera

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Autofocus Brain: 5 Tricks To Use Your Brain Like A Camera

Think about the lens of an autofocus camera. Regardless of the distance, the focus adjusts itself in milliseconds to bring the object into sharp clarity and perfect focus.

Now, imagine if you could learn to use your brain to do that. Imagine if it could focus on various things in matters of milliseconds, seamlessly moving from one thought to another.

An Example on a Ship’s Bridge

If you are the bridge of my ship, you will find a symphony of random information flow and an orchestra of quick decisions.

I stand in command. We are a massive mammoth entering the Mississippi delta, about to pick up Pilot at the Southern end of the Mississippi river. With a draft of 40 feet, my ship is in waters not nearly deep enough. I have little room to maneuver and no room for error! Small vessels are whizzing past my bow and larger ones are coming downriver, often loaded, sluggish, and unpredictable. The port control is of little help in guiding me in. There is an efficient bridge team working for me. Everyone is on high alert. I am getting inputs from all ends.

Use your brain potential

    Here is the list of information packets that are reaching my brain at any given time:

    1. Speed and distance values in real time, as they keep changing.
    2. The possibility of ships and smaller vessels crossing my path at close quarters.
    3. Problems and changes in my ship’s engine parameters.
    4. Vessels departing anchorages heading towards me.
    5. Shallow patches of water creating difficulty in maneuvering.
    6. The Pilot boat is approaching and I need to slow down soon.
    7. There is a vessel behind trying to overtake me on my starboard side while I have another one on my port side.
    8. My agent wants to know my itinerary so that things can be arranged as soon as I enter the port.
    9. Port control is calling me on the radio to report to them.

    Not everything is going right as planned, so I also have additional information to consider:

    1. Technical difficulties I am facing with my ship.
    2. Unexpected movements by vessels around me.
    3. Difficulty in steering the vessel because of shallow depths (just to name a few).

    This continuous information flow is collected by my team and fed in real time into the primary central server — me. Besides, I also also have to control team frustration to prevent the system from crumbling.

    Here’s the thing: the default setting of a brain so bombarded by information is to get perplexed and confused. I just do not have that option. All of these inputs are being prioritized and filtered in real time by mere instinctive reflexes in my brain. Decisions are being made in seconds. One wrong decision can lead to a disaster. I am the last line of defense here.

    Overwhelming? Well, that’s just another day for us out at sea.

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    Maximising your potential

      The Importance of Correct Decisions

      In several professions around the world, decisions have to be made in seconds or milliseconds. And just like me, some people cannot afford to make mistakes — the price is too high. You have to know how to use your brain!

      A concert master conducting an orchestra will pay the price with a ruined performance in front of an audience, perhaps a ruined career over one wrong gesture of his hand. A soldier in the battlefield is going to pay the price with his life for any wrong decision. The pilot of a Boeing 737 will pay with the lives of everyone on board.

      In every phase and every sector of life, high achievers need to develop this habit of making the right decisions immediately.

      To use your brain to its full potential takes more than intention. It takes training.

      When you get hit by several information inputs at once, an untrained brain gets mesmerized and overwhelmed. Productivity declines. The ability to prioritize declines. If prolonged, this can lead to cognitive impairment, where you are unable to make any decision. Your productivity drops to zero.

      However, that is not an option for some people. As I said before, our mistakes cost dearly. We have no room for error.

      The Mechanism of Pulling off a Successful Venture

      To make an operation succeed, you must have:

      1. The ability to use your brain to prioritize information in real time and to act on the highest priority in the moment.
      2. Once solved, the ability to shift focus immediately and concentrate on the next piece of information.

      How You Use Your Brain for Prioritizing

      Prioritizing comes with experience in the job. We prioritize based on the balance between 3 things:

      • The urgency of the decision (Urgency factor).
      • How easy the decision is (Difficulty Factor).
      • The consequence of the wrong decision (Consequence factor).

      In the boating example above, if I make a wrong call on a vessel coming out of the harbour, it can lead to a severe disaster, hence the high Consequence factor. I may have just a few seconds to make that decision – meaning there’s also a high Urgency factor. However, the decision may be elementary for me, meaning a low Difficulty factor. This decision will have to be given a lot of attention in the moment, and once made, the brain can shift into things of lesser priority. How you use your brain for those few seconds can make or break the situation.

      On the other hand, in the same example above, the agent is asking me for my itinerary. Even if I give him the wrong information, nothing disastrous is going to happen, hence a low Consequence factor. The information is easy for me to give, hence a low Difficulty factor and, frankly, it’s not very urgent either — a medium Urgency factor. This decision shall be postponed for later as it is not a priority at the moment for me.

      What I have just explained is done by professionals all over the world. There are ways to improve on setting priorities, which we shall get into at a later date.

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      The Focusing Ability of the Brain

      Let’s talk about developing the ability to shift focus in matters of milliseconds.

      The problem with an untrained brain is that while you are focused on one thing, the remnants of your previous decision are still looming in your mind. It is distracting you and affecting your present decision. You are getting delayed. When there are several quick decisions to make, this will bring in undue haste and your brain may fail or refuse to decide quickly.

      It takes a bit of practice to condition a mind so that it can focus on one issue and then immediately shift focus to a new one with equal attention. This way, you use your brain to pay rapt attention to every decision, which makes them impeccable and error-free.

      That is my concept of the autofocus brain.

      The Auto Focus brain - use your brains true potential

        What if your brain could work like the lens of an autofocus camera, focusing itself and readjusting focus as needed in a matter of milliseconds? What if we did not get perplexed ever, no matter how many tiny bits of information come through to us? What if this was as easy for you as a walk in the park?

        When you get a series of random information inputs, it apparently seems that the mind concentrates on several things at once. This, however, is not true. It is not possible for us to pay attention to many things at the same exact moment. What we really do is dissect the information into smaller parts, concentrate on each part at a time and, once resolved, move on to the next. This is how you use your brain.

        5 Proven Methods to Develop Your Brain’s Ability to Focus Instantly

        What I am going to explain here is not theory. I have practiced this myself and I have trained my juniors to use this ability to their benefit. I know it works.

        These five different methods can be used individually or together over the course of a day. Each of them, with the exception of number 5, takes about five minutes of your time. Even if you follow any one of them just once a day, you will be able to use your brain in ways you never thought were possible.

        1. The breathing technique (5 minutes)

        This is something practised by hypnotists and yoga practitioners around the world. It works like a charm.

        For five minutes a day, sit in a relaxing comfortable position, close your eyes, and let go of your muscles. Now, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Feel the up and down movement of your chest or stomach. Feel the air entering your nostrils leading up to your lungs and feel the freshness in your body. Pay attention to this and to nothing else.

        If you have not done this before, your mind will wander off. This is not a problem. When you realize that you have branched out into different thoughts, just bring your focus back to your breathing.

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        2. Browsers option (5 minutes)

        Do you spend a lot of time in front of computers? This option is ideal for you.

        Open up 5 of your favourite sites in different windows. You can have them open on different browsers, like three on Google Chrome and two on Firefox, just to make it more challenging.

        Now, open one of them and read the content with rapt attention. Really concentrate on it! Do this for exactly a minute and then shift to the next window. As soon as you are on the next one, read that one with your full attention.

        It will seem difficult in the beginning and you will tend to think about what you were reading before. When you realize this, just bring your attention back.

        Time yourself for one minute using your watch or mobile phone. If you can, set it for a single beep every minute. When you find this easy to do, shorten the span to half a minute and use your 5 minutes to browse through ten sites. Try changing focus fast, yet concentrate on each item individually.

        3. The Facebook technique (5 minutes)

        If you are a social media fanatic, this option is great for you. Facebook is an ideal collection of random facts which can be used effectively.

        Open your Facebook page. Now read the first post for a minute. Do this with rapt attention to it.

        At the end of the minute, whether you have finished reading it or not, shift to the next one and pay equal attention. As before, this will be difficult in the beginning and you have to keep bringing your attention back to the post in front of you.

        Even if you have not finished reading one post, you must shift focus to the next one. This can also be done using Twitter, Yahoo, or Google+. It slowly becomes easier to shift focus briskly and to use your brain in this fashion.

        4. The fixed-point method (5 minutes)

        This one is for anyone who can spare five minutes of their time during the day to be alone and undisturbed.

        I want you to sit on the ground in a quiet place with your legs crossed. Draw a small dot on the wall in front of you.

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        Now, with your hands and body relaxed, look at this dot. Concentrate on it. Think about this dot and about its shape and size. You will slowly see everything else fading away, even the wall will seem blurry and the only thing in your focus will be this dot. If your attention wanders, as before, bring it back.

        When you think you can concentrate on this dot effectively for five straight minutes without distraction, put your ability to the test. Choose more noisy and distracting environments and do the same exercise. For example, while traveling, choose a fixed point in front of you and concentrate on it. Do not let the noise of the cars around distract you — needless to say, do not do this if you are driving.

        5. The attention method

        What are you thinking about right now? Are you just reading this post or are you thinking about something else? Just start paying attention precisely to everything that you do from now on. Most of the things you do don’t take much of your attention. They are mostly reflexes and habits. I am asking you to start paying attention to them.

        For example, the next time you peel an orange, peel it carefully and cleanly. Think about what you are doing. Once you’re done, pay attention to the taste and how it feels in your mouth. Consciously use your brain to concentrate on the immediate task.

        While talking to someone, pay attention to the conversation. Do not let your mind wander off to other thoughts. If it does, just bring it back.

        These methods, if followed diligently, will give you results within a relatively short time. They can work wonders for kids too. If your child is at an age where they can follow instructions, get them to do one of these during the day. Trust me, these five minutes can be far more beneficial than hours of study.

        With a bit of practice, the mind works on autopilot, focusing on the essential things only. This will make you a winner in all that you do, big or small, and increase your productivity infinitely.

        Photo credits: Ship heading into the diamond ring; The Azimuth Mirror : Photos Taken by Captain D. Camera: Free Images

        Featured photo credit: Liam Welch via images.unsplash.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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