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Unplug For Greater Productivity

Unplug For Greater Productivity

Power Plug

    We’ve all experienced those days when we sat down at our desk with a long list of things to do, and yet somehow hours later we realize that we haven’t done much, aside from checking our emails 5 times, spending hours at Lifehack.org, and instant messaging everyone we know.  For those days, when you can’t seem to beat the buzz, the greatest possible way you can ensure productivity is to disconnect from the electronics.

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    Now I’m not against the use of electronics to aid in productivity, far from.  In fact, I probably couldn’t live without my Blackberry.  But sometimes a disconnect from electronics all together will allow for a clearer mind, a mind which can become a productivity machine.

    Remember paper and pens?  Well they’re making a comeback.  It turns out that when we disconnect we don’t have to fight our own minds trying to distract us.  There is no email on your Moleskine, no instant messenger on your legal pad.  No, here all we have is a blank paper waiting for you to create.  And there is something liberating about filling a page in a notebook with your own work.

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    Here’s a strategy that I use when my electronics fail me.  First I have a notepad on my desk labeled “Distractions.”  I write down every thought that is distracting me from my task at hand, and during my scheduled breaks I can knock out the distractions, or make notes of my next action on each.  This allows me to safe keep the ideas that come during productive moments, but allows the moment to stay productive.

    Next I use an old fashion to-do list.  Generally my Blackberry serves this purpose well, but unplugging is unplugging, so I use my Moleskine for this task.  For my to-do list I take into account my energy levels, the amount of time each task will take, the lengths and times of each scheduled break, and anything else that needs to be addressed during my “analog” time.  This ensures that nothing will take me away from peak productivity.

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    Finally, there are a few things that you just can’t get around, as far as a digital disconnect goes.  For these tasks I use as rudimentary tools as possible.  Obviously you don’t want to hand write a large amount of text, especially if it needs to be in digital format.  So why not pick up an inexpensive netbook, disconnected from the internet, for these tasks.  Or at the very least, use a minimalistic text editor like JDarkRoom to minimize your distractions.  By keeping things as simple as possible, we allow for less distractions and more productivity.

    Even if you can’t unplug completely, there are easy ways to decrease the noise and get things done:

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    • Schedule the times you check your email, and limit this to 2 to 3 times per workday.
    • Take a media fast; you already know the economy isn’t doing well, how many articles do you really need to read about it?
    • turn off the music; it might be soothing, but music with lyrics tend to take our attention away from our work, and even the little distractions can kill productivity.
    • exercise the 2 call rule;  if someone calls twice consecutively, it’s probably more important than a regular call.
    • Let all other calls go to voicemail;  if you are in a position where you can call people back at scheduled times, let them know this in your voicemail greeting and stick to that schedule.
    • turn off all notifications;  alarms, instant messages, email notifications, and any other notifications that will pop up and distract you from your work.
    • Schedule unplug times;  You may require the use of a computer for your job, but you could probably get away with unplugging the ethernet for a scheduled period of time (if all else fails, act like you don’t know how it got unplugged).

    Like I said, when used properly the digital world is one of the greatest tools man has available.  But this great tool can also lead to distractions that keep us from our work.  Unplug when the need arises and create those precious moments of peak productivity.  When you  find those extra hours eachday, you’ll be thankful.

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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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