Advertising
Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

    Advertising

    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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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/

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

        50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100%

        Trending in Smartcut

        1 How to Measure a Goal? (With Examples of Measurable Goals) 2 What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity) 3 13 Things to Put on Your Daily Checklist for Boosted Productivity 4 10 Effective Time Management Techniques for Busy People 5 10 Smartest Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on November 20, 2019

        How to Measure a Goal? (With Examples of Measurable Goals)

        How to Measure a Goal? (With Examples of Measurable Goals)

        Everyone sets goals. Whether they are daily goals like completing a project, personal aspirations like traveling the world, or even workplace targets, setting a goal isn’t enough to get you over the line unfortunately. This is why only eight percent of people achieve their goals.[1]

        So how do the high achievers do it?

        By setting measurable goals, keep track of them and progress towards these goals.

        To help you out, I’ve put together a simple guide on measuring goals. I’ll show you a SMART framework you can use to create measurable goals, and how you can track its progress.

        To begin, let me introduce you to the SMART acronym.

        What Is a Measurable SMART Goal?

        SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They help set clear intentions, this way, you can continue staying on course.

        When you’re writing a SMART Goal, you need to work through each of the terms in the acronym to ensure it’s realistic and achievable.

        It’ll help you set specific and challenging goals that eliminate and vagueness and guesswork. It’ll also have a clear deadline so you know when you need to complete it by.

        Here’s what SMART stand for:

        Specific

        Your goals need to be specific. Without specificity, your goal will feel much harder to complete and stick to.

        They should also have a specific outcome. Without the outcome, it will be hard to focus and stay on task with your goals.

        I can’t stress this enough. In fact, two researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, found that when people set specific yet challenging goals, it led to increased performance 90 percent of the time.[2]

        Here’s an example of a specific goal:

        Increase sales by 10% in 90 days. 

        Measurable

        You need to be able to measure these goals.

        Examining a key metric and quantifying your goals will help track your progress. It will also identify the mark at which you’ve completed your task.

        Advertising

        Measurable can mean many different things, but generally speaking, you want to be able to objectively measure success with a goal.

        Whether it’s via analytical data, performance measures, or direct revenue, ensure your goal is quantifiable.

        Achievable

        Why do you want to reach this goal? Is it important for you or your organization?

        Once you identify the key benefit, add that into your goal, so it helps your team members understand the importance of the goal and how it contributes to the bigger picture.

        Relevant

        Why do you want to reach this goal? Is it important for you or your organization?

        Once you identify the key benefit, add that into your goal so it helps your team members understand the importance of the goal and how it contributes to the bigger picture.

        Timely

        This is one of my favorite parts of SMART goals….setting the deadline.

        The timeframe will create a sense of urgency. It functions as a healthy tension that will springboard you to action.

        Examples of Measurable Goals

        Now that we know what a SMART goal is, it’s time to help you make your own SMART goal.

        Let’s start with the first step: specificity.

        Specific

        A specific goal should identify:

        • What’s the project or task at hand?
        • Who’s responsible for the task? If you’re breaking the task down, who is responsible for each section?
        • What steps do you need to do to reach your goal?

        Here’s a bad example:I want to have a better job.

        This example is poor because it’s not specific enough. Sure, it’s specific to your work, but it doesn’t explain whether you want a promotion, a raise, a career change, etc.

        What about your current job do you want to improve? Do you want to change companies? Or are you striving for more work-life balance? What does “better” really mean?

        Let’s transform this into a good example.

        I want to find a new role at a Fortune 500 company that improves my current salary and work-life balance.

        Advertising

        If you’re not too sure what the specific outcome should be, you can use mindmaps to brainstorm all the possible options. Then choose a few or one from the mindmap.

        With the example above, to become a better growth marketer, I have to explore different learning options like online courses, blogs, books, or in-person courses before I made a decision.

        Measurable

        Goals need to be measurable in a way where you can present tangible, concrete evidence. You should be able to identify what you experience when reaching that goal.

        Ideally, you should go for a metric or quantity as quantifying goals makes it easier to track.

        Here’s a bad example:

        I will get a promotion at work for improving quality

        Here’s a good example:

        I am going to land a promotion to senior VP by improving my work quality. When I say work quality, I will measure this by projects completed, revenue earned, and success factors important to my superiors.

        If you’re having difficulty measuring your goals, you can use a goal tracking app. They’re a great way to measure your progress, especially if it’s time-based.

        In addition, I love to use the following strategy to keep myself accountable and ensure I’m hitting goals:

        Reminder emails.

        I schedule emails to myself asking for measurable data on my goals, and even CC others to hold me accountable.

        For example, if you work with a team, CC them on your email to keep yourself honest and on-track.

        Here are five methods you can use to measure your progress towards the goal:

        1. Keep a record – Have you recorded all your actions?
        2. Assess your numbers/evidence – Are you breaking your commitments?
        3. Create a checklist – Can you simplify your tasks?
        4. Stay on course – Are you moving forward with your plan smoothly?
        5. Rate your progress – Can you do better?

        Achievable

        When it comes to being able to achieve your goals, you should stick to Pareto’s principle. If you’re not too sure what it is, it’s the 80/20 rule.

        Don’t just attack and go for everything at once! Pick things that give you the most results. Then, work on the next objective or goal once you’ve completed your first ones.

        Advertising

        Here’s a bad example:

        To get more work-life balance, I will examine all factors of my work and how to trim down the time I spend on them.

        Here’s a good example:

        This week I will record my time spent on projects to analyze the amount of revenue or success they generate. Projects that fall short of production will get less time and resources than others. 

        Relevant

        It’s always important to examine your goal to ensure it’s relevant and realistic to what you’re doing.

        This is where the bigger picture comes in.

        Here’s a bad example:

        I want to be promoted to CMO because I need more responsibility.

        In this case, it’ll be unlikely for you to receive a promotion if the purpose and reason behind your goals are not strong.

        Here’s a good example:

        I want to be promoted to CMO because I enjoy digital marketing. I’m currently excelling in X, Y, and Z digital marketing practices, and I believe that via a promotion I can further grow the business via X, Y and Z.

        The why will help you grind out in moments when you just want to throw in the towel, and also provide more purpose for your goals.

        Timely

        And…finally we’ve hit the deadline.

        Having a due date helps your team set micro goals and milestones towards the goal.

        That way, you can plan workload throughout your days, weeks, and months to ensure that your team won’t be racing against the clock.

        Let’s start with a bad example:

        Advertising

        I’m going to land a new promotion this summer.

        Now, let’s turn this into a great example:

        Within the next month I will increase marketing revenue by XX%. Then, within three months I will expand the digital team, hire two new employees and scale it. Within five months I will leverage this success into a new role.

        So that’s how you create a measurable goal.

        Here’s a summary of the example above in the order of its acronyms.

        Overall Goal: I want to transition into a new role with a reputable company.

        • S: I want to find a new role at a Fortune 500 company that improves my current salary and work-life balance.
        • M: I am going to land a promotion to senior VP by improving my work quality. When I say work quality, I will measure this by projects completed, revenue earned, and success factors important to my superiors.
        • A: This week I will record my time spent on projects to analyze the amount of revenue or success they generate. Projects that fall short of production will get less time and resources than others.
        • R: I want to be promoted to CMO because I enjoy digital marketing. I’m currently excelling in X, Y, and Z digital marketing practices, and I believe that via a promotion I can further grow the business via X, Y and Z.
        • T: Within the next month I will increase marketing revenue by XX%. Then, within three months I will expand the digital team, hire two new employees and scale it. Within five months I will leverage this success into a new role.

        But before we finish off, I want to leave you with a note:

        If you want to ensure you reach your goals, make sure you’re accountable. Ensure that you will stick by the goal and deliver the results that you want. Because sometimes, the goal might not just be for you. It could be goals for your clients, customers, and even loved ones.

        For example:

        Here, Housecall Pro promises customers that they grow up to 30% in one year.

        By placing that statement on their landing page, they’re keeping themselves and their goals accountable to their customers.

        For personal goals, tell your friends and family.

        For professional goals, you can tell your peers, colleagues, and even your clients (once you’re ready).

        Bottom Line

        So to wrap things up, if you want to measure a goal, be SMART about it.

        Start with a specific outcome in mind; make sure it’s measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely to your existing schedule.

        While 92 percent of people fail to reach their goals, you can be the exception.

        Reach your goals by setting targets and objectives together.

        More About Goals Setting

        Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next