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Want To Improve Your Memory? Have A Busy Schedule!

Want To Improve Your Memory? Have A Busy Schedule!

Our lives are overfilled with things to do. And the more driven, ambitious, and connected we are, the busier we stay.

We are bombarded with messages to “unplug,” get away, take a break, slow down, and engage in “me” time. While these things are absolutely necessary and essential to our mental wellbeing, busyness does have its benefits.

Researchers have found that staying busy improves mental processing and reasoning skills, helps improve memory — both long and short term — and improves overall mental functioning.

Busy people have sharper minds and better memories, plain and simple.

In a study conducted by researchers in Texas and Alabama, 330 healthy men and women ranging from age 50 to 80 were quizzed about their daily schedules and put through a battery of mental tests.

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The results showed that no matter how old they were or how well educated, a busy lifestyle was linked to a healthy brain.

In this particular study, researchers began with the hypothesis “that a busy schedule would be a proxy for an engaged lifestyle and would facilitate cognition.” They were able to determine that greater busyness was associated with better processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge.

busy schedule

    How does staying busy improve memory?

    The brain, like any other muscle, needs exercise. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities is mental exercise. Scientists believe that the amount and types of stimulation directly affects cognitive processes — especially in the area of memory improvement.

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    Some of the mental processes involved in having a hectic schedule are:

    • Multi-tasking
    • Problem solving
    • Reasoning
    • Analyzing
    • Interruption and re-engagement of thought
    • Planning
    • Strategizing
    • Linear thinking
    • Global thinking
    • Computation

    Researcher Dr. Sarah Festini of the University of Texas at Dallas said, “We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information.”

    Busyness improves episodic memory — the ability to recall specific events and working memory — which is the part of short-term memory concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.

    The study reported a surprising correlation: the busier the individual, the higher he or she seemed to score on the cognitive tests. It’s possible, the researchers hypothesized, that the daily workout of completing task after task is building our brains up and improving mental skills.

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    The performance gap between the busy and the free was even more pronounced among older participants.

    Before you run out and overfill your schedule with random activities, consider this:

    The results of this study are one-sided, and therefore not entirely conclusive.

    Keep in mind the study only examined how mental engagement works to improve memory and mental cognition. It did not study the negative effects of a harried and mentally taxing lifestyle. Having a crammed mind does not automatically equal a sharper one.

    “In our fast-paced, wired world, many of us live our lives in chronic stress,” says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. That means our brains are being perpetually bathed in stress hormones like cortisol.

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    The result?

    Studies done in mice show that chronically elevated stress hormone levels shrink the hippocampus, so while your memory may be improving, you’re less likely to form new memories.

    Even though the research does prove that staying busy helps keep the brain honed, a hurried life could carry less positive consequences for our hearts and metabolisms.

    Busyness responsibly

      Using busyness responsibly:

      For those who may have some additional mental bandwidth and room in their schedules for another activity, try to engage in tasks that will improve memory and your overall brain function, such as:

      • Take a class — nothing too stressful but be sure it is something that genuinely interests you.
      • DIY projects — these are fun and challenge your brain in different ways.
      • Learn a new skill — any activities where your brain is engaged in the learning process will stimulate and improve all cognitive processes.
      • Try something new and different — such as resturants, recipes, activities, routes home, or grocery stores.
      • Plan an event from start to finish.
      • Work out — physical exercise is scientfically proven to be just as beneficial as mental exercise.
      • Volunteer — spend your time engaging in an activity that you connect with. This will improve your mind, body, and soul.

      Featured photo credit: Mickey970 via pixabay.com

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      Denise Hill

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      Last Updated on March 15, 2019

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

      Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

      In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

      What Makes a Leader Fail?

      A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

      If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

      And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

      What Is Effective Leadership?

      Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

      Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

      Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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      “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

      How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

      To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

      1. Courage

      The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

      “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

      Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

      For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

      In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

      It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

      Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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      2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

      If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

      The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

      To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

      3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

      Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

      Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

      4. Likability

      Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

      When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

      Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

      So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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      5. Vulnerability

      Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

      When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

      6. Authenticity

      Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

      Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

      7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

      Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

      Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

      Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

      Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

      As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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      “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

      8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

      Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

      This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

      9. A Passion for Continual Learning

      Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

      These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

      Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

      The Bottom Line

      No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

      Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

      More Resources About Effective Leadership

      Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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