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

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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

More by this author

Nick Darlington

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

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Last Updated on January 13, 2022

How to Use Travel Time Effectively

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How to Use Travel Time Effectively

Most of us associate travel and time with what we’re going to do one we get to our destination. Planning and mapping out what to do once you arrive can certainly make for a more pleasurable vacation, but there are things you can do while you are on your way that can make it even better.

Sure, you can plan for the things you’re going to do on your vacation while you are travelling en route – but what about making use of that time for other things that you don’t usually do when you’re at home? You don’t need to have your gadgets with you to do it, and you can really connect with yourself if you take the time to manage your life while heading towards your vacation destination.

Here are some great tips to help you with your time management while you travel, some of which are more conventional than others. Nonetheless, you can find out what works best for you and apply them accordingly depending on when and how you are travelling.

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1. Take Your Time Getting There

As I write this, I’m on a flight to San Francisco. Flying is the fastest way to get from place to place, and for many people it’s really the only way to travel.

But I’ve often taken the train or ferry on trips so that I have extra time without distraction to get more done. I’m not worrying about navigation or lack of space to do what I want to do. Instead I’m able to focus on getting stuff done during the time I’ve got without feeling rushed. For example, when I took the train from Vancouver to Portland, it was an eight hour trip and I managed to get a ton of writing done and closed a lot of open loops. It also was less expensive than flying, which was a bonus.

Sometimes taking the long way to get somewhere on vacation can be the best thing for you to get somewhere with your life.

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2. Go Gadget-Free

This is going to be a tough one for a lot of you. But why do you need to bring your gadgets with you when you go on vacation? It isn’t be a bad idea to leave all but one of them behind, and only pull out that one when you absolutely need to do so. In some countries, you’d be wise to be discreet with them anyway since flaunting them in front of those that are less fortunate than you isn’t a good practice. While it may not seem like flaunting to you, in different cultures it can definitely come across that way.

If you can’t go gadget-free, then at least go Internet-free. If you use a task management app that requires syncing across your multiple devices to be effective, remember that if you only have the one device with you then it can be the “master device” for the time being and will store your data locally anyway. Just sync up when you get home.

3. Reflect and Prepare

Finally, going on any sort of excursion gives you the perfect opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been. The fact you have removed yourself from where you usually are can give you a perspective that you simply can’t get when you’re at home. You may want to journal your thoughts during this time – and by taking more time to get to your destination you’ll have more time to dig deeper into it.

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After a period of reflection – however long that happens to be – you can then begin to not only prepare for the rest of your travels, you can prepare for the rest of what happens afterward. The reflection period is important, though. You need to really know where you’ve been in order to properly look at where you want to be. Time away from things gives you that chance.

Conclusion

Traveling isn’t always about where you’re going and how quickly you can get there. In fact, it’s rarely about that at all.

More often it’s where you’re at in your head that will dictate how much you benefit from traveling. So don’t just go somewhere fast. Instead, take your time on the way there and take the time to connect with not only where you are but who are while you’re there.

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If you do that, you’ll have a better chance to be who you want to be when you leave.

Featured photo credit: bruce mars via unsplash.com

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