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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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        Last Updated on May 22, 2019

        50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry

        50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry

        LinkedIn is an excellent platform to network with great people to help you in your career and businesses. However, with over 575 million people on the site, who should you follow? This list will steer you to the right people to follow, organized by categories of expertise.

        Job Search Experts

        You will likely have several jobs throughout the course of your career, and you will constantly need advice on new trends and strategies out there in the job market. Here are the LinkedIn experts who you should follow on these matters.

        1. Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Her articles on job searching are filled with creative and colorful cartoons.

        2. Lou Adler is the author of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.

        3. Dr. Marla Gottschalk will help you make an impact in a new job.

        4. Hannah Morgan runs CareerSherpa.net, where she gives expert advice on job searching and how to be more visible online.

        5. Alison Doyle is the CEO and Founder of CareerToolBelt.com.

        Management Experts

        They say that people leave managers, not jobs. These experts in LinkedIn will help you become your employees’ dream manager.

        6. Jeff Weiner. How can we leave out the CEO of LinkedIn himself?

        7. Nozomi Morgan is an executive coach. She can help you transition from a boss to a true leader.

        8. Mickey Mikitani is the CEO of Rakuten. He constantly shares his expertise in managing a global player in e-commerce platforms.

        9. Andreas von der Heydt was the head of Amazon’s Kindle Content and now the Director of Talent Acquisition. He has extensive experience in management, branding, and marketing.

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        Productivity Experts

        By maximizing your productivity, you can win in all aspects of life. The following LinkedIn experts will help you win big in your career.

        10. Gretchen Rubin is a happiness coach and the bestselling author of the The Happiness Project.

        11. Carson Tate is the founder of Working Simply. She advises us to include play in our schedules.

        12. Greg Mckeown is an essentialist. Part of being an essentialist is saying no to many things so that we can focus on the things that matter.

        13. Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha! Labs Inc. provides strategies on how to be productive and happy at work at the same time.

        Marketing Experts

        14. Sujan Patel is VP of Marketing at When I Work, an employee scheduling software. He is an expert in content marketing and he even shares his ideas on content marketing in 2020.

        15. Megan Berry is the Head of Product Development at Rebelmouse, a content marketing and AlwaysOn powerhouse.

        16. Sean Gardner will help you navigate the social media landscape. This includes how to use different platforms to help accelerate your career. He is also the bestselling author of The Road to Social Media Success.

        17. Christel Quek is an digital and marketing expert. She is the VP of South East Asia at Brandwatch. Their products help businesses utilize social media data to make better business decisions.

        18. Jeff Bullas is a digital marketing expert. His blog has over 4 million readers annually.

        19. Michael Stelzer is the CEO and Founder of social media powerhouse site, Social Media Examiner.

        20. If you’re looking for inbound and content marketing expertise, follow Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of Hubspot.

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        21. David Edelman is a McKinsey partner and is at the helm of the Digital Marketing Strategy Practice Department.

        22. Dave Kerpen leads the social media software company Likeable Local. He is the author of Likeable Social Media: How to delight your customers.

        23. Clara Shih is the CEO of Hearsay Social and the author of The Facebook Era.

        24. Aaron Lee is Grand Master of Customer Delight at Post Planner. He is an excellent resource for everything social media.

        25. David Sable is the CEO of Y&R, one of the largest advertising firms in the world.

        26. Content marketing trumps traditional marketing these days, and who else better to lead you in this area than Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

        Personal Branding Experts

        Part of what we market in our personal career is our brand. When people hear your name, what kind of brand comes into their mind? What traits and qualities do they associate with you?

        Here are some personal branding experts from LinkedIn to improve your own brand.

        27. Dorie Clark is the author of Stand Out and Reinventing You. He can help you craft the professional image you’ve always wanted.

        28. Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding. If you’re a millennial, Dan is the guy to help you craft your personal brand.

        Other Notable Experts to Follow

        29. Lisa Gates is the expert to follow if you’re negotiating for higher salaries and promotions.

        30. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Marc Miller will help you navigate the continually changing landscape of the workplace.

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        31. To avoid getting your resumé moved to the “No” pile, read Paul Freiberger’s excellent advice.

        32. James Caan provides insightful ideas on careers in general. He is also a serial entrepreneur.

        33. Jeff Haden writes on various topics, such as leadership and management. He is the owner of Blackbird Media.

        34. If you’re looking for expert business advice on getting new customers and keeping them, follow Jay Baer.

        35. Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, is a great human resources specialist.

        36. If you need help in using Twitter to boost your career, Claire Diaz-Ortiz can guide you in the right direction.

        37. Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management tool.

        38. Customers are the lifeblood of a business and Colin Shaw focuses on revolutionizing this customer experience.

        39. Brian Solis often reflects on the future of business and how technology can disrupt our world.

        40. Nancy Lublin provides advice on more lighthearted topics, which are perfect after a long day’s work. She is the CEO behind Dosomething.org, a portal designed for social change; and the founder & CEO of Loris.ai and Crisis Text Line.

        41. Katya Andresen provides advice on how to manage your career. She was the CEO of Cricket Media and now responsible for the SVP Card Customer Experience at Capital One.

        42. Gallup has created a system to test what your strengths are and how to use them at work. Jim Clifton is the CEO of Gallup.

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        43. Adam Grant is a Wharton Professor and the author of Give and Take, which provides advice on why being helpful at work can accelerate your career.

        44. Hunter Walk is a partner at Homebrew Venture Capitalist Company and has specialty in product development and management.

        45. If you’re running a nonprofit organization, follow Beth Kanter for expert advice on this area.

        46. Emotional Intelligence is necessary to succeed in your career, and Daniel Goleman is your expert for that.

        47. Rita J. King connects science, technology and business.

        48. Tori Worthington Rose is a Creative Director at Mary Beth West Communications, LLC. She has extensive experience in sales and digital media.

        49. If you’re looking for some advice on how to use writing and personal content marketing to boost your career, follow Ann Handley.

        50. Tim Brown is the CEO at IDEO and shares his insights on Leadership and Creativity.

        These are just some of the key thought leaders and movers in various industries. They will provide you with constant inspiration, as well as the willpower to pursue the career that you’ve always wanted. Their stream of expert ideas in their respective fields will help you become well-equipped in your professional pursuits.

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