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You’re Familiar With These Everyday Distractions But Do You Know How To Deal With Them?

You’re Familiar With These Everyday Distractions But Do You Know How To Deal With Them?

Do you think that 24 hours in a day is not enough? Are you always ‘running around’ trying to get things done? Is your to-do list never empty? More importantly, are you missing out on what you love to do and the things that really matter? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s time to take a step back and ponder some of the seemingly innocuous distractions creeping into your everyday life.

We live in a world of information overload, with digitization at the crux of the problem. The plethora of gadgets and social tools that were meant to increase productivity, are now the biggest enemy of our focus. We are willingly allowing them to invade our concentration, reduce our efficiency and induce stress. Let’s look at four everyday distractions that challenge us frequently and investigate how we can cope with them.

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Email

Email is no doubt a revolution in the field of communication. However, as powerful a tool as it is, we can end up spending hours just reading and responding to emails. In today’s era, people expect to receive an instantaneous reply to their email. Some of us are in the habit of constantly refreshing our inbox to see if there is a new message coming our way. But really, how often is something life threatening and urgent waiting to be read in our mailbox? Here are some tips to deal with the distraction of email:

  • Schedule certain times in the day to be dedicated to email. Try 15-minute slots, three times a day to begin with and then alter accordingly.
  • Turn off push notifications and pop-ups to indicate the arrival of new emails.
  • Manage other people’s expectations in a way that you will responsibly answer, but not immediately.
  • Invest time in creating rules and filters, which will help in focusing on the relevant items first.
  • Avoid providing your email address to promotional websites, shopping sites and the likes. Unsubscribe from emails that you usually don’t read.

Social Media

You are in the middle of completing a task at work. Your phone buzzes and you see a Facebook invite from your friend for her 30th birthday. What should I wear to her party? Let’s see the guest list. Oh, Juliette is invited too? You click on Juliette’s profile and see that she just returned from her Turkey vacation. You have been dying to go to Turkey, so you decide to further explore her Instagram pictures. Just at that moment, you realize you have a new follower on Twitter. Oh, it’s your school friend, whom you haven’t seen in ages. Let’s see what he has been up to. You Google him and his LinkedIn profile comes up. Wow, he works for NASA! You quickly add him on LinkedIn and browse his experience.

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A relentless flood of social platforms can steer you away from high-value work. Social media needs a desperate role reversal – instead of being swept away by it, we should control it and use it to our advantage.

  • Prioritize and be selective about which platforms you want to be part of. Exercise the power of choice and try not be influenced by peer pressure.
  • Think about what you ultimately want to achieve with each of these social sites. Define a purpose and acknowledge it.
  • Dedicate a block of time during your day, preferably during your down time, to cater to these interests.

Other People

The people around us can prove to be a huge disruption in the form of office chit-chats, phone calls, background noise, or demanding yet unnecessary meetings. Research shows that regaining concentration after an interruption can take quite a few minutes. How do we balance being responsive yet maintain focus on the task at hand?

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  • While you don’t want to work in absolute isolation, it’s beneficial to be vocal and clear about your priorities. Communicate politely that you are busy and will respond when you have time.
  • Block out unwanted acoustics by using headphones or earplugs. It also signals that you are busy and making an effort to complete your work.
  • Meetings can often be counter-productive. Say no to those that provide little value.

Our Thoughts

We tend to blame external factors for disrupting our work, but what about random thoughts buzzing around in our head when we are trying to concentrate? Oops, I forgot to buy a gift for Mom. What will the weather be like in Toronto? What will I make for dinner tonight? Our mind can seesaw and wander from one thought to another, even in the absence of outside stimulus, but which tools are the most useful to overcome this?

  • Meditation is your best friend when it comes to helping train your mind to be more attentive. It will require self-discipline, persistence and patience, but the results are magnificent.
  • De-clutter, clean up your desk or workspace and adopt minimalism. It is easier to remain on a single track of fluid thoughts when your surroundings are in order.
  • When your mind is multitasking too much, write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. It’s a great way to increase awareness and disentangle the web of feelings.

 

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Studies show that chronic multitasking can diminish our capacity to function effectively. So think about your current lifestyle, workload and priorities. Are we harming ourselves more by our efforts to squeeze additional activities into our already busy lives?

Featured photo credit: caffeinating, calculating, computerating via flickr.com

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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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