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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

More by this author

Nick Darlington

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

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

15 Best Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators

Let me guess.

You should be doing something else rather than reading this article. But due to some unknown force of nature, you decided to procrastinate by reading an article about how to hack procrastination. You deserve a pat on the back.

Fortunately, procrastination is not a disease. It’s just a mindset that can be changed, however, here are some productivity tips you need to start getting work done:

First, you need to acknowledge that procrastinating is an unhealthy habit. Not only you’re prioritizing unimportant things, basically, nothing gets done. Still unsure if you’re a procrastinator? Check out this article: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

Second, your commitment to change is very important. You should be physically, emotionally, and mentally determined to change this habit. If not, then you’ll just succumb to the tempting lure of doing other things rather than your tasks or chores.

Here are sthe best productivity hacks to improve productivity and keep yourself from procrastinating at work:

1. Give (10+2)*5 a Try

Let’s start with a classic but very effective hack called (10+2)*5 created by Merlin Mann,[1] author of 43Folders.com. Don’t worry. This is not a complicated Mathematical formula you need to solve.

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The (10+2)*5 simply means 10 minutes work + 2 minutes break multiplied by 5, completing 1 hour. It is crucial to stick with the time limits and not skipping work and break schedules. The point of this is for you to create a jam-packed routine of work and break schedules. The result? You will eventually skip your break schedules.

2. Use Red and Blue More Often

Clean your desk and remove things that might distract you. According to a Science Daily study[2] about which colors improve brain performance, red was found out to increase attention to details while blue sparks creativity. Surrounding your workplace with these colors not only benefits your brain, it’s also pleasing to the eye.

3. Create a Break Agenda

List all the things you want to do on your break, be it surfing the web, checking your emails, snack time, taking selfies, Facebook/Twitter—everything.

Like the (10+2)*5 hack, squeeze these in between work time but the difference is you schedule these activities for ONLY 20 minutes. Eventually, you’ll take your break minutes wisely. You’re finishing tasks while sidetracking to doing the things you enjoy.

4. Set a Timetable for Your Tasks

Like any other habits, procrastinating is a tough wall to break. Replace this habit with another habit. When you’re assigned a task, set a timetable for each step. Let’s say you have a big research task. Here’s a sample timetable:

9:00 – 9:10 am – Set up all your tools, browser tabs, emails, coffee, etc..
9:10 – 10:00 am – Internet research
10:00 – 10:45 am – Look through existing files
10:45 – 11:00 am – Break time!
11:00 – 12:00 pm – Outline the research report

Deadlines are the best hack for getting things done. Setting a specific time to finish a task creates time pressure even if the deadline has passed.

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5. Take It Outside!

Do yourself a favor and don’t ruin the comfy vibe of your home. If you need to work on a stressful project, do it in a library or coffee shop. You’ll never finish it anyway. Your cozy sofa and toasty bed will just lure you into napping yourself to doom.

6. Become Productively Lazy

Instead of finding all sorts of ways to unproductively procrastinate, use your habit to look for shortcuts and new ways to finish your tasks. Staple multiple papers at a time or master the 3-second t-shirt folding technique. A strong drive combined with laziness sometimes bring out the productive and creative side you never knew you have!

7. Assign a ‘Task Deputy’

It could be your colleague, your supervisor, or your significant other, anyone who has the unforgiving guts to reprimand you when you procrastinate. You could go the extra mile by paying up unfinished tasks or times you open your Facebook or watch a funny cat video on YouTube. Let’s see how five bucks every time you procrastinate will change you.

8. Consider a Gadget-Free Desk

According to a study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, average users check on their phones 150 times per day and having your phone just an elbow away just creates sizzle to this habit.[3]

Removing mobile devices and gadgets allows you to focus on your work without the constant interruption from notifications, calls, and text messages. It eliminates the very distracting ambiance and the urge to unlock your phone just because.

9. Prepping the Night

Before hitting the sack to oblivion, prepare everything you’ll need the next day. This will probably take you 15 minutes tops, saving you more time for coffee in the morning.

Spin class at am? Pack up your gym clothes, shoes, socks, etc. or better, create a checklist so you don’t miss anything. You can also prep your food into containers and just grab one before leaving.

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10. Do a 7-Minute Workout in the Morning

Exercising is proven to increase productivity and stimulate release of endorphin or “Happy Hormones”.

Take a jog outdoors and get warmed up for the day. Don’t feel like running outside? Hop on a treadmilli. It’s a great investment and there are a lot of ways you can use a treadmill like endurance running and metabolism training. On a budget? Here’s a 7 minute, no-equipment needed workout you can do at home:

11. Set-up Mini Tasks

If you’re given a big project, break it down into mini tasks. Create a checklist and start with the easy ones until you finish. Got an article to write? Just start with the title and the first sentence. Or perhaps you have a visual presentation to make?

Spend 15 minutes on your outline, take five minutes coffee break, then finish the first two slides. Accomplishing something, no matter how tiny, still gives you that sense of fulfillment.

12. Create an Inspirational Board or Reminder

I found these mini desk chalkboards from Etsy you can use to write motivating quotes.

Or you know what? Simply write “Do it now!” and stare at it for 10 seconds every time you feel like dropping by on Reddit.

13. Redecorate Your Room

Redecorating my room motivates me to maintain that ‘new’ look for some time until I get use to it and eventually stop. So I redecorate again and again, it became a monthly habit really. Here are some DIY ideas you can do to any room without spending much.

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14. Ready Your Nibbles

You know that trip to the pantry? It’s just seconds away but it took you several minutes just to get your fruit snacks in the fridge. Before starting a task, prepare your nibbles on your desk to avoid zoning out and losing yourself on the way to the pantry.

Bonus productivity hacks you can do at home:

15. Schedule Your Chores

Write down your chores in a weekly basis with matching day and time when you should be doing these.

For the artsy folks, you can create fun chore charts like these or simply stick the list somewhere visibly annoying e.g. mirrors, doors, TV. The trick is listing as many chores as you can for the week and including unfinished chores the following week. Who likes seeing a long list of chores first thing in the morning?

More Tips to Overcome Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

Reference

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