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Would You Like To Maximise Your Brain? Try Emptying It First

Would You Like To Maximise Your Brain? Try Emptying It First

Keeping track of everything that you ought to remember and everything that you need to do can be overwhelming. Does it ever seem like your mind is completely overloaded? There’s always something that needs your attention.

Keeping all those tidbits of information in your head is mind-boggling, and it keeps you from being able to relax. Externalising your tasks by writing them down is a simple way to free up your metal space and get organised.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a “brain dump” is the perfect way to reduce stress, focus, and get motivated.

There’s nothing wrong with externalising

Some people deny the value of externalising or feel that it’s a sign of weakness. They may feel that a need to write things down means that you don’t have a good memory or the mental capacity to keep up. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We come by this aversion to writing things down honestly. Socrates felt that writing destroyed our memory and weakened our minds. He even argued that it was “inhuman” to write things down.

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Sometimes pulling out the pen and notepad seems like a step we could skip. For example, you could go to the supermarket without making a grocery list, or pack your suitcase without a packing list. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.

Without a list, you’ll end up going over-budget at the grocery store, or you’ll forget to buy something. Without making a packing list, the likelihood that you forget an essential item like your phone charger or travel adapter increases dramatically.

    Your brain isn’t meant to juggle so many things at once

    Our brains are powerful, but research shows that we don’t multi-task very well.[1] When you multi-task, your brain splits your attention. You may think that you are doing two tasks at once effectively, but your mind is just flipping back and forth between them.

    You can only hang on to a few ideas at a time, and you can only truly focus on one task. Your brain also doesn’t prioritize very well. Your emails, your to-do list, that thing you have to remember, an item you’re waiting on, and the task you’re trying to complete are all competing for your attention.

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      Our brains are made to solve problems and make connections. They aren’t so great at holding onto tidbits of information that we could easily externalize.

      Here are ways that you can (and should) externalise

      1. Make a to-do list. When you write down what you need to do, the thought of those tasks won’t clog your short-term memory.
      2. Use a calendar. Adding your appointments and meetings to your calendar keeps you from having to worry about them. Those items come into your mental space only when you need to focus on them, which keeps you from worrying about whether you’re forgetting something all the time.
      3. Make shopping lists. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home from the store only to realise that you’ve forgotten what you went there for in the first place. A shopping list will save you time, and it will help you stick to a budget.

      Imagine what you could do with more mental bandwidth

      Freeing up mental space occupied by trivial items gives your brain the chance to do what it’s built for: coming up with new ideas and making connections.

      Your mind has such an incredible capacity for innovation, but it’s the wrong place to store everything you need to get done. It’s not made to house your to-do lists and appointment calendar. The more you can get rid of these things that are taking up your mental space, the more clearly you’ll think.

      In the late 1920s, the Zeigarnik Effect was discovered. This psychological concept explains that our brains hold on to incomplete or interrupted tasks more readily than they hold onto completed ones.[2] The things you haven’t finished take up more bandwidth than things you’ve already done.

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      Put theory into practice

      When I emptied my mind of all the things weighing on it, I realised how the Zeigarnik Effect influenced my life. After I cleared my mind by externalising everything that I could, I had so much more mental clarity, and I was more relaxed than I had been for a long time.

      I also learned that it’s important to capture tasks as they come up in order to maintain clarity. Getting unresolved commitments out of my head and onto task lists was great, but new things were constantly coming up. I had develop a system to keep those low-return tasks from taking over.

      Find a system for externalising that works for you

      Some of the most productive people I know rely on good old-fashioned pen and paper to keep their commitments in order. This is a great system, but it’s not the only way to approach externalisation.

      I’ve settled into a system that integrates seamlessly with my life. You have to find something that seems completely natural to you. It should make it easy for you to see, manage, and prioritise everything that needs your attention. Choosing the right system makes things come together almost effortlessly.

      The ‘Waiting For’ list is a powerful tool to add to your productivity arsenal.[3] It adds a new dimension to your to-do list. Instead of just tracking what you need to complete, you also note things that you are waiting on to complete those tasks.

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      For example, imagine you’re planning an event, but you need a formal request document signed by a superior to order supplies. Your ‘Waiting For’ list would include something like “Receive signed formal request from the boss.”

      Having such a list can help you understand what parts of your projects are within your control and what needs the input of others. Tracking this can let you know whom to follow up with if you don’t have everything you need.

      This system is simple to integrate. Of course, you can write your list by hand, but you can also develop a system for handling emails. After you send emails that need responses, drag those messages into a ‘Waiting For’ folder. You’ll be able to see what you need to be tracking, and it will help you catch important messages that might end up in your spam folder.

      Free your mind

      There’s nothing noble about trying to make your brain do things that it doesn’t do very well. Develop a system to externalise what you need to do. You’ll feel less stressed, and you’ll be so much more effective when you’re free to focus.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips How To Be A Successful Person (And What Makes One Unsuccessful) The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life How To Work From Home Without Getting Distracted

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      Last Updated on April 6, 2020

      How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

      How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

      Have you ever imagined why some individuals maximize every aspect of their lives?

      When they establish goals, they always attain it. It could be a goal to break an addiction, work out more, or to achieve financial freedom.

      Do you find it challenging to replicate their successes? Perhaps, you even make some attempts for a while, but then you give up before you could reach the target.

      If you experience that consistently, you can quickly become frustrated, but you don’t have to give up.

      But how long does it take to break a bad habit? Some researchers recommended a 21-day plan to permanently get rid of bad habits. Others suggest a month plan or even 3 months. The most crucial factor is to follow through whichever timeframe you choose.

      In this article, I will share with you 9 proven strategies on how to stop bad habits permanently.

      1. Make the Negative Habits Obvious

      If you desire better habits, the best approach is to make those habits visible. This strategy also applies if you are devising strategies on how to stop bad habits.

      Cues are very crucial in habit formation. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, recommended the use of Habit Scorecard. This is an easy exercise that helps you become conscious of your behaviors daily.

      The first step is to pen down a chronological list of your daily habits. Then, you rate each habit as an “effective,” “ineffective,” or a “neutral habit.” The importance of this strategy is that it assists you in discerning the relevance of each habit in your personal growth.[1].

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      Now that you have a list of habits, the next thing is to take the negative habits out, which leads to the next point.

      2. Start from Simple to Complex

      Everybody wants to generate a significant change as fast as they can. They want to work out for 1 hour every morning, reflect for 20 minutes when they have been managing to meditate consistently for 5 minutes, switch to eating a healthy diet.

      The challenge is it will always require strong willpower to achieve any bigger goal. Willpower is like your muscles. It becomes tired, the more you exert it. And when it retires, you will give up on achieving your goal.

      The best approach is to take out the single target, then make progress towards a higher target. You can start by dealing with the bad habits from the less serious to the more severe.

      3. Create a New Environment for Good Habits To Grow

      Several studies show that our environment influences our habits. The basis is that you depend more on what you see (visual cues) than other senses of perception. This is no doubt why visual cues define our behavior.

      To stop bad habits, you need to focus on positive cues that reinforce good habits. Another approach is to build new habits and stop exposing yourself to cues that will strengthen negative patterns. You will find it easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.

      For instance, if you want to read more books than you watch the TV, keep the remote control in another room, and position books at every corner of your house and your office.

      4. Identify the Consequences of Bad Habits

      Bad habits have grave consequences. According to WebMD, bad habits affect nearly every organ of your body. They can lead to cancer, stroke, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, bronchitis, and other health problems. Bad habits can increase the chances of eye problems, tuberculosis, and several immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It becomes easy to stop those bad habits when you are aware of their consequences.[2]

      Here’re more consequences of bad habits: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

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      5. Make Bad Habits Difficult and Painful

      Do you want to eliminate those nasty habits? Then, attach an instant cost to each action or make those unhealthy behaviors difficult.

      James Clear again recommended ‘a habit contract’. This is a written agreement where you stipulate commitment to a specific habit and the punishment for not meeting up. You will also identify two individuals who will serve as accountability mentors to append on the written agreement. In this same way, make good habits simple and attach rewards for practicing them.

      6. Change Your Mindset

      Whenever you are devising a strategy on how to stop bad habits, use a ‘scientist and subject’ mindset. You will need to consider each action as a behavioral experiment where every challenge offers useful data for the subsequent step.

      Direct your energy on how to stop those bad habits daily instead of focusing on the long-term. If you follow the process, the outcomes will show up as outcomes of your daily efforts.

      7. Associate with Supporters

      The individuals you associate with have a significant influence on your habits. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, if your friend becomes obese, you stand the risk of obesity by 57% even if that friend lives some miles away. [3]

      Other studies also added that we tend to adopt the same lifestyle, goals, and aspirations of the company we keep. If you want to stop smoking, you need to dissociate yourself from friends who smoke.

      8. Practice Positive Speaking

      Peradventure you have made these statement in the past:

      ‘This situation is seemingly hopeless.’

      ‘I don’t think I can go through this.’

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      ‘I will never be able to break through this situation.’

      ‘I will give it a shot, but…’

      ‘It’s just disgusting.’

      If you have made any of these statements, then you have been reinforcing bad habits. Psychological studies have found that the subconscious provides meaning to what it hears. Your thought pattern and your body will align with your words. Thus, if you desire more success, peak performance, and more connections, begin to speak positive words every time you open your mouth.

      The power to stop bad habits is in your words. The ability to make a good impression and create opportunities is in the words you speak.

      9. Meditate to Knock Out That Bad Habit

      Your life derives definitions from what you repeatedly do, not what you do once in a while. Thus, developing a knock-out strategy on how to stop bad habits is a must and not an option for total transformation.

      A lot of individuals have at least one or two bad habits they wish to discard. Some people are heavy smokers, and they want to quit. Some others aspire to minimize their consumption of sugar and alcohol. Some people are also battling with less dangerous habits such as nail-biting, nose picking, and they find it difficult to let go.

      Several practices exist on how to stop those bad habits. Meditation is of them.

      People who practice mindfulness and meditation achieves two things:

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      First, they become more self-aware. As you start to meditate, you progressively penetrate each layer of your being and move beyond the delusions and lies that you often believe about yourself.

      Second, they focus on reality and what they desire. Meditation assists in identifying what will satisfy you beyond what those bad habits can. You will learn how to stop bad habits by visualizing reality while discarding the bad behavior.

      In a recent study, researchers Marlatt, Rose, Pagano, and Marques studied the impact of meditation and other organized relaxation exercises among heavy social drinkers.[4] They discovered that the respondents who have histories of substantial social drinking but began to engage in meditation experienced a significant decrease in the consumption of alcohol. This means meditation can help on how to stop bad habits and illicit personal improvement in your behaviors.

      Final Thoughts

      Bad habits will prevent you from reaching your full potentials. Establish a commitment timeline to avoid procrastination and excuses. It could be a 21-day or one-month timeframe.

      It takes a higher force to dispel an effect. It takes words to overcome thoughts. Habits are the outcome of a cycle. It starts from a feeling(positive or negative), it culminates into a thought(positive or negative), then leads to action. An action is a thought that implement. Repeated action forms a habit.

      If you don’t like the outcome, block the source, which is the feeling by speaking the right words.

      Your words empower you to take control of how you feel. If you need to wake up early, for instance, you need to tell your body to rise and shine. If you don’t, your feeling will entice you to sleep more.

      Learn more about breaking bad habits and sticking to good ones:

      Featured photo credit: Jason Briscoe via unsplash.com

      Reference

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