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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 11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities 2 11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs 3 How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life 4 Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master 5 How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

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        Last Updated on September 18, 2019

        11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

        11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

        Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

        Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

        “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

        While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

        The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

        What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

        The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

        1. Cloud Computing

        “Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

        There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

        This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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        2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

        Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

        Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

        his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

        3. Data Management

        All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

        We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

        However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

        4. Scheduling

        Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

        An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

        5. Financial Skills

        These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

        While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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        6. Research Skills

        These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

        Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

        So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

        If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

        If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

        7. Marketing Skills

        While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

        Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

        While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

        8. Network Security Specialist

        Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

        So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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        9. Communication Skills

        At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

        Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

        10. Computer Programming

        I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

        11. Graphic Design

        As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

        Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

        That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

        Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

        You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

        Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

        Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

        Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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        This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

        You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

        But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

        Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

        In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

        Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

        And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

        The Bottom Line

        We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

        We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

        We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

        As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

        More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

        Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
        [2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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