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Use the “ABC method” to hack your brain for improved focus

Use the “ABC method” to hack your brain for improved focus

Lots of people struggle to focus in their day-to-day lives. They constantly get distracted, and this makes it difficult for them to complete tasks so that they can achieve their goals.

The Problem With Multitasking

Multitasking is a big part of modern society. You will notice it at home and at work: when you are watching a film with your family, you may notice that your family members are using their laptops and phones at the same time. When you are in a meeting, you may notice people texting under the table or sending emails.

Most people don’t see this as a problem. After all, multitasking is often seen as a sign that you are hardworking and efficient.

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However, the truth is that multitasking means that you are more likely to forget things and make mistakes. You are also less likely to retain new information, which can make it harder for you to solve problems or be creative.

Research has found that most people have very short attention spans, and multitasking is only making the problem worse. People are constantly being bombarded with work, home and technology demands, and so they are finding it even harder to stay focused.

Thankfully, an article in Harvard Business Review suggests a method called the ABC method to help people improve their focus.

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Teaching Your Brain to Stay Focused

There has been a lot of research in recent years into how the brain works. Scientists have made huge advances with neuroimaging, and studies that looked at adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are teaching us more about how the brain focuses on tasks.

The research has also revealed more about how easily the brain can be distracted. This research is very relevant to modern society, as most people struggle to focus for long periods of time.

So, what have researchers found out? They’ve found that anyone can teach their brain to ignore distractions so that they can stay focused. This helps to you to be more productive and creative, and it will help you to achieve your goals.

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The ABC Model

An article published in Harvard Business Review describes the ABC method to help people to stay focused. It gives you the chance to metaphorically press the brakes on your brain when you encounter a distraction. There are three steps to follow.

The first step is being aware of your options. You can either follow the distraction and become unfocused, or you can keep going with the task that you are working on.

The second step is breathing deeply. Take a minute to relax without thinking about the distraction.

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The third step is making a choice. You can choose to be distracted or you can choose to stay focused.

This may sound simple, but it works. This is because you are openly acknowledging that one of the options is a distraction, rather than a useful or important task, so it is much easier for you to ignore it.

Set Your Goals

The author of the article recommends that people make a conscious effort to be aware of where their attention goes. When you start your day, you should ask yourself these questions: what is my main task for today? How do I feel? Do I expect to succeed?

This will make you aware of what you want to achieve, so it will be easier for you to stay focused and motivated. However, this will only work if you also use the ABC model at the same time to avoid distractions. Setting goals is important, but if you aren’t willing to work on your distractions then you will still struggle to stay focused.

Featured photo credit: Tookapic via pexels.com

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Amy Johnson

Amy is a writer who blogs about relationships and lifestyle advice.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

2. Get Enough Breaks

Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

4. Exercise Regularly

Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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5. Get Enough of the Right Food

You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

6. Drink Enough Water

Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

The Bottom Line

Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

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Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

Reference

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