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Learn How To Work Not 1, But 3 Of Your Brain Regions For Maximum Smartness!

Learn How To Work Not 1, But 3 Of Your Brain Regions For Maximum Smartness!

How many times do you find yourself distracted when trying to complete an important task? How often do you suddenly snap out of a daydream for the hundredth time when you know you need your full attention on what’s in front of you?

Procrastination is a natural byproduct of the human brain being unable to focus 100% for long periods of time. Research has found that we can only focus on what’s in front of us 53% of the time. So working on developing a strong “attention muscle” is the key to creating more focus on tasks and, in turn, allows us to spend our time and attention optimally in the moment.

But how can we train our minds to pay more attention and become more focused?

The Two Ways Our Brain Stops Us From Focusing

It causes feelings of frustration, demotivation and even failure, but when we’re faced with a task that needs our focus and energy there’s only so long our brain will allow us to 100% put our attention into it. The two main procrastination avenues are:

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  • Daydreaming or Zoning Off: We all have times when our thoughts drift away but an interesting study [1] conducted by Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, found that we actually spend around 47% of our waking hours in this daydreaming mode. This means that while you’re supposed to be focused on various important tasks throughout your day, half the time you’re actually focused on something else. We’re usually more mindful of this when we feel stuck on a task that requires a lot of our energy and focus. Our brain dreads the ‘hard work’ and wants to avoid it as much as possible hence we eventually lose focus.
  • Distractions: How we decide to spend each moment makes or breaks our productivity. While technology has made things much faster in many areas of our life, it’s also the biggest cause of distraction. The quick-fix stimulation it provides us outweighs the meaningfulness we find in tasks and projects. In terms of convenience and speed, technology allows us to work much quicker yet the paradox here is that the faster we complete tasks, the harder it is for us to work in a deliberate manner. And this is why we spend 47% focused on anything but the task at hand.

It goes without saying that this has massive productivity costs especially as our time and attention are so intricately connected in order to get things done. In other words, the less attention you devote to a task, the more time you have to complete it because you’re actually working less efficiently.

    Why Productivity is More About Mindfulness and Intention

    When we talk about productivity, we tend to assume it’s more about getting work done in less time but this isn’t the case. If we’re looking at it from a place of energy, focus and attention, then it’s more about being deliberate with what we do and doing it with intention.

    The power of being productive is all about carving out more time and attentional space around the tasks that you do. As a result you create the room to work on higher-return tasks in each mindful moment, and fend off low-return tasks and so become a more productive person.

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    According to neuroscientists, our attention is made up of three parts:

    1. Central Executive: This is the thinking and planning part of your brain located in the prefrontal cortex.
    2. Focus: This is the process of narrowing your attentional spotlight on any given task in order to help you work more efficiently.
    3. Awareness: This helps you become more aware of both your external and internal environments in order to help you work more mindfully and deliberately.

    The three of these together are what makes up your main attention muscle and building up this important muscle involves using all these elements equally.

      How To Train Your All-Important Attention Muscle

      Be Mindful of Your Distractions

      Next time you have an important task to complete, keep a notepad by your desk and make a note of every distraction, interruption and daydream that occurs. This will make you much more aware of how often it happens and can eventually allow you to deal with distractions before they pop up. Switching off alerts on your phone is a common one especially as it can take as long as 25 minutes to refocus after an interruption has happened.

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      This is an important strategy of defence against interruptions that will minimise the need to refocus while boosting your attention, focus and flow.

      Single-Tasking

      Focusing on just one thing at a time is the absolute best thing you can do to be optimally productive. This doesn’t necessarily mean “focus harder” but instead prioritise your list of things to do and start with the most important first. Yes, your mind mind may wander or you might start reaching for your phone but try to resist those thoughts and stick to what you need to do in the moment. Catching yourself and acknowledging the distraction is the best way to renew your focus before too much time has passed.

      There’s nothing better than the feeling of flow and being fully immersed in whatever task or project you choose to do so allow yourself to feel that benefit.

      Chew Gum

      Yes you heard right! You may have heard this trick before and thought it was an old wives’ tale but a study by researchers at Cardiff University found that chewing gum can increase your alertness and improve attention span. The act of chewing ignites the brain and tells the body that nutrients are on the way, therefore decreasing hunger pains (a common excuse for procrastination). But another more mindful way of using gum to lessen distraction is to provide focus with the repetitive chewing action and bringing awareness to the breath especially if you opt for the minty variety.

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      Focus and Refocus

      The consistency of a task is down to your attention span and we all have an attention span limit. What you do when you reach this limit is the crucial key for success. Most of us are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than around 40 minutes at a time so this is usually a great moment to stop and have a break. However, it’s important to come back to the task and refocus.

      People with the best focus simply realise that when they get off-track they must repeatedly choose to refocus. It’s a good habit to get into because this ability to renew attention, trains you to “pay attention” to things that last for more than a few minutes such as a long movie. So the secret key to improving your attention span is a constant cycle of focus, distraction and refocus.

        So be honest with yourself. Do you spend more time on distractions when trying to get a task done? Could you have finished the project in half the time? Try becoming more mindful of where your focus is going. Note how often your thoughts wonder or how many times you check your phone notifications and aim to improve your attention span by focusing for short bursts, breaking and then refocusing. By doing this you’ll experience the wonderful feeling of flow, success and fulfilment in completing difficult tasks.

        Featured photo credit: snapwire via pexels.com

        Reference

        [1] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/

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        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        1 How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 2 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) 3 How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut 4 Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart 5 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

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        Last Updated on March 25, 2020

        How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

        How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

        Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

        Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

        Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

        In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

        How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

        Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

        Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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        • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
        • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
        • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
        • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

        If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

        After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

        We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

        Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

        Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

        One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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        These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

        40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

        All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

        For Changing a Job

        1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
        2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
        3. Get a raise.
        4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
        5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
        6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
        7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
        8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
        9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
        10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

        For Switching Career Path

        1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
        2. Find a mentor.
        3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
        4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
        5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
        6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
        7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
        8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
        9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
        10. Create a financial plan.

        For Getting a Promotion

        1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
        2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
        3. Become a mentor.
        4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
        5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
        6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
        7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
        8. Become a better communicator.
        9. Find new ways to be a team player.
        10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

        For Acing a Job Interview

        1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
        2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
        3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
        4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
        5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
        6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
        7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
        8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
        9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
        10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

        Career Goal Setting FAQs

        I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

        1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

        If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

        If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

        How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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        2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

        Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

        Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

        Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

        3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

        You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

        Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

        4. Can I have several career goals?

        It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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        On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

        For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

        Summary

        You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

        • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
        • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
        • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
        • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
        • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

        By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

        More Tips About Setting Work Goals

        Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

        Reference

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