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10 Myths About the Human Brain

10 Myths About the Human Brain

Recently, an infographic from journl.com was published illustrating the inaccuracy of the 10 most common myths about the human brain. It’s interesting to know that in an age where it’s important to understand the mechanics of success, we still embrace these myths. After all, learning how to utilize our brain power effectively is essential to attaining goals. The following myths are addressed in the infographic briefly. This articles goes a little more in depth.

It is time to stop believing false myths about our brains. Some can make a big difference in the way we perceive things and our overall success.

Myth #1: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

This myth is the most commonly believed one so we will begin with it.

The myth most likely came from William James, an American psychologist in the early 1900s. When James was quoted while saying, “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her overall potential,” the quote was altered. First altered to,”10 percent of our capacity”, then further modified to “10 percent of our brains”. Even though we can scientifically prove that humans use more than 10 percent of their brains, this myth is believed true by many.

Myth #2: The Brain Declines as We Get Older

Some mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, language comprehension, critical thinking, and emotional control are a few of the areas that continue to develop.

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Recent studies suggest that mindfulness is another way to increase brain function. Studies suggest that brain function improved in certain areas for study participants after an eight-week mindful based stress reduction program. Participants showed an increase in gray matter clusters controlling functions of emotion and social cognition. Studies suggest mindfulness may be useful in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Myth #3: Brain Damage is Always Permanent

Although it is true that severe brain damages may never heal completely, functions enabled by the damaged portions can improve, and connections lost between neurons can reconnect.

The bottom line is that damaged neurons cannot grow back. However, damaged connections between the neurons eventually reconnect, reversing damage. When neurons are damaged, the brain can rewire to use other portions in performing the lost function. Functions such as speech may be handled by another part of the brain once that part can learn the function through therapeutic repetition.

Myth #4: The Brain is Hard-Wired

The truth is that brains can be re-wired. Therapy encourages new parts of the brain, not associated with a skill, to take over the performance when the associated part is unable. For example, the hearing of a blind person is enhanced when sight is not available. A stroke victim can speak by teaching an area not usually associated with performing the task to control speech.

Re-wiring your brain is also possible to change habits. Brains learn through repetitive actions. If you want to stop smoking, you can train your brain to stop sending the signals that make cravings unbearable. It just takes time and repetition to retrain your brain.

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Myth #5: Left-Brained People are Organized Right-Brained People are Creative

Division of brain hemispheres is another great example of a myth that was altered by others and then gained popularity until it was believed to be true.

The reality is that both sides of your brain control most activities. For example, when performing math, both the right and left hemispheres of your brain are utilized. If we were to believe that the left hemisphere controls logic and the right hemisphere controls creativity, it wouldn’t make sense to use the right side. After all, math is all logic, right?

Myth #6: Your Memory is an Exact Account of What You See and Experience

We recall memories from the brain. They are not an actual account of what took place. When we recall a memory it takes on the form of the last time we recalled that memory. That means we enhance certain portions of the memory and allow other parts to fade into the background.

If we remember a traumatic experience, our brains may block certain parts as a protection. It is also important to know that psychologists have successfully been able to implant false memories. All of this better explains why several people can witness the same event, but everyone recalls it differently.

Myth #7: Listening to Classical Music Will Make a Baby Smarter

In the 1950’s, physician Albert Tomatis claimed success in treating auditory disorders with classical music. He based his findings on a theory formed after 36 college students were asked to listen to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. The students were found by an overseeing psychologist, Dr. Gordon Shaw, to have improved their IQ points by eight. With the findings, the “Mozart effect” came to life.

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No physician has been able to duplicate the results of the study since the original findings. Dr. Frances Rauscher, involved in the initial study, advises the results never claimed listening to Mozart made the group smarter. Instead, they found it increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks. However, the myth was born and still lives today.

Myth #8: Brain Games Improve Your Memory and Reasoning Skills

In theory, it seems to make sense that brain games would improve your memory and reasoning by exercising the portions of the brain that control those functions. However, research has proven this not to be true.

The BBC took initiative to look into this theory. In a study of over 8,600 people, ages 18-60, brain function in memory and reasoning skills did not improve after participating three times per week, ten minutes per day, in games designed to improve these skills. Myth busted.

Myth #9: Your IQ Stays the Same Throughout Life

Do you believe some people are born smarter than others and IQs will not change? If so, you’re not alone. Although it is true that the standardized IQ test will show little increase in intelligence over a lifetime, it is not publicized that a learning curve is built into the test.

The test factors in the amount of learning expected to take place over time, and then discounts it, making scores appear to stay the same when we are actually getting smarter.

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Myth #10: Your Brain Works Better Under Pressure

The theory is a widely popular one, but in reality your mind is not working better under pressure, you are just more focused on the task.

Because added focus makes people think they work better under pressure, they will wait until the last minute to perform a task. The stress caused to a brain while under pressure increases the release of cortisol. Too much cortisol can hamper learning and memory formation causing long-term adverse effects.

Now that you know the 10 most common myths about the brain are debunked, it’s time to educate the world. Next time someone tells you they are right-brained and cannot do something, you will have an educated answer as to why they can.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Becraft via flickr.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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