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When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change

When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change

“Most of us have action addiction; it’s that dopamine craving. We’re spinning our wheels with insignificant things. You run fast without achieving anything. It’s so widespread, and it’s the main threat to mental effectiveness and productivity.” -Rasmus Hougaard, Co-Author of “One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work With Mindfulness”

Multitasking for Instant Gratification

Multitasking is inefficient and unproductive. However, our brains are geared towards this by default. But why? Firstly, we have a wandering mind. Case in point: I’m sitting here on my bed, and as I attempt to write this article, my mind is wandering; I’m thinking about going out for a drink with friends. But, I’m mindful of this distraction – this is crucially important – but more on that later.

Secondly, each time we complete a new task, no matter how trivial – this could be sending an e-mail to answer a work colleague’s question – we receive a reward. This reward takes the form of a dopamine injection – a naturally produced neurotransmitter directly linked to addiction. When released we immediately feel good. We receive instant gratification, despite the sheer insignificance that the task may entail. Our brains learn this, and so, we continue to chase this instant gratification.

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How to Stop Multitasking

If we’re able to stop this multitasking, which is very much a part of who we are, our brains will change. How though do we stop multitasking and more importantly how will our brain change? Let’s find out.

For us to stop multitasking and subsequently improve our productivity and focus, we need to work against our brain’s natural inclination to multitask. We need to stop focusing on small insignificant actions and rather focus on important ones. We need to be more mindful. There are two rules of mindfulness training.

Mindfulness Training: The Two Rules

1. We can let go of the majority of distractions

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We need to be cognizant that the majority of distractions are negligible and we can consciously choose where we focus our attention. Yes, our brains will wander by default – I mean they’re wandering 46.9% of the time – but the art is to notice these distractions, without getting distracted.

For example, earlier I was being mindful of wanting to have a beer with a friend; I noticed it and re-focused my attention on the article because the article was more important at the time as I have a deadline looming. Always remember we have control over our distraction. They do not control us.

2. Strategically Handling Our Distractions

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We also need to strategically handle distractions, either by choosing to let them go totally, dealing with them in the future or diverting our attention to them fully (if they’re more important than what we’re currently doing). For example, if I was faced with a family emergency whilst writing this article I would immediately divert my attention to that, as it’s far more important. Or if I received an e-mail from a work colleague asking me a question about a client meeting that’s happening in a week, I would choose to answer the question sometime in the future. These examples illustrate doing the right thing at the right moment.

How will this change our Brains?

By practicing mindfulness and refusing to give into our brain’s default tendency to wander and multitask, we’re training the prefrontal cortex of our brain. This is the part of our brain that gives us the ability to maneuver at will. We’re also able to better focus on important tasks and gain control over what Hougaard refers to as the “digital weapons of mass destruction.”

On that note, I’m going out for a beer with my friends.

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Featured photo credit: medicine.stonybrookmedicine.edu via medicine.stonybrookmedicine.edu

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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

Study Says Art Makes You Mentally Healthier, Even If You’re Not Good At It When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change How Silence Affects Our Brains in A Good Way, Science Explains 5 Things That Will Happen When You Wake Up Two Hours Earlier For A Month Why Overthinkers Are Probably Creative Problem-Solvers

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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