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Timeslicing for Humans

Timeslicing for Humans

I’m wired wrong. I’ll be the first to admit it. To be in the Getting Things Done crowd, I’m supposed to blissfully work along on a project until I’ve completed all the next actions, pausing one might assume, for lunch and bathroom breaks. Not me. I can’t do it. I need chunking.

Computer processors can work on lots of things at a time by taking chunks of resources and throwing them at various requirements a little bit at a time, right? When you eat dinner, most of you eat a little of everything on the plate, not one category of food at a time. Why not approach your projects that way? There are some pitfalls to consider, and some adjustments that must be made. Here’s a method to consider.

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  • List the Projects Out Clearly– I’m into 3×5 cards right now. I take a Sharpie and write out the titles of the projects I’m working on, and then I line them up on my cork board in a nice row. Up there right now are: record ___ podcast, finish audio edit of interview, do Jean’s picture, edit Father’s Day movie, and a few more (14, sadly). Each one has a card. Each one has room to add another card for the next step.
  • List the next actions for all these projects– Be realistic. List a few hours’ worth on a separate card for each project. So, if you’ve got 14 cards with project names, take 14 more 3×5 cards and put on each one individually everything you COULD work on with regards to that project for the next two hours.
  • Get a timer– You can use a manual digital timer ($5 at most big box stores), or an online-style timer. Set it for 20 minutes.
  • Map your time– If you have two hours to get things done, map the following: 20 minutes for work, 5 minutes to switch. Get as many iterations of that into two hours. If I did my math right, that’s five iterations of 20 minutes, and four iterations of 5 minutes. Our minds take five minutes to switch and re-engage between tasks of any decent level of complexity. By building this into your plan, you properly account for it. Now, take another 10 minutes out for fidgeting, getting up to use the bathroom, etc. Make it four iterations of 20 minutes, and six iterations of 5. Now you’re good.
  • Plot the map– Write down what you’re doing in the 20 minute spots.

    20- record podcast
    20- edit Jean’s photo
    20- finish audio
    20- fix old podcast

  • Do your work– Now, just execute against those two hours that you’ve set aside to do work, realizing that you’ve got four projects you can tackle bits of in those 20 minutes, and start picking off those next actions.

The purpose of this exercise is to say that you don’t have to work on projects in the start-to-finish approach mindset. You can, instead, chunk things up in a way that matches the way your brain works. The optimum amount of time someone focuses on anything is between 25-30 minutes (I read that once with regards to giving presentations and training classes). To that end, give yourself breaks.

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Yes, it looks a little less productive on paper when I tell you that every 2 hours really only yields 80 minutes of work. But really, if you examine your own situation, isn’t that true of what you’re doing now? Even if you work on one project linearly, aren’t you giving it 20 minute or so bursts, and then getting up for a stretch and a cup of coffee? So, in either case, you now can better allot your time.

Appropriately estimating time is a Top 3 complaint with regards to project management “lessons learned” reviews. Get ahead in this game whether you’re a project manager or an individual contributor by realizing how people work optimally. If you’re the individual contributor, and if the projects aren’t even your day job, feel free to play around with the idea of slicing your attention between projects.

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The results might be surprising.

–Chris Brogan slices time all day long. Last night, he sliced up a new podcast entitled “Sounds of BarCamp Boston,” and you can listen to it at Grasshopper Factory. There are some new tips posted on minimizing web surfing over at [chrisbrogan.com]. Stop by.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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