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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.

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        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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        Last Updated on June 1, 2021

        10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

        10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

        The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible?

        If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter.

        The following 10 tips will help you become a fast learner:

        1. Analyze Your Learning Style

        Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are:

        Is your memory associated to sound?

        Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners.

        If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.

        Do you relate information to visual content?

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        If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.

        Are you a physical learner?

        If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures.

        A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying or listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.

        2. Use the Right EdTech Tools

        Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management and brainstorming, etc.

        One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online:

        • StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study.
        • If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear.
        • You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused.
        • Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity.
        • Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time.
        • Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science.
        • You can also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

        3. Train Your Brain to Accept New Information

        Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks.

        One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

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        4. Get Some Exercise

        You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too!

        Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused.

        If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

        5. Work on the Ambiance

        If you have a noisy neighborhood or a working environment full of distractions, you won’t be able to learn or study no matter how hard you try.

        If you want to learn quickly, you need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

        6. Take a Lot of Notes

        Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes.

        This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material. It will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.

        Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

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        Here’re some tips to take notes effectively: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

        7. Make Mind Maps

        Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn.

        You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens.

        Some tips mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

        Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

        8. Experiment with Memorization Methods

        Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some people memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence.

        However, memorization can be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

        Try this if you want to memorize more and faster: How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

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        9. Find the Right Context

        Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information.

        Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joy of learning.

        The first step? Jot down as much information and as many ideas as possible: How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

        With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

        10. Study Every Day

        It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit.

        The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read.

        If you start studying as soon as possible after you have learned some new concepts, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

        More to Help You Learn Quicker

        Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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