The human brain is amazing. It got us to the moon, cured diseases and created awesome inventions, yet for some reason we can’t go more six minutes without checking our phones – research shows we now check our phones up to 150 times per day. Our attention spans are equivalent to that of a fish. Focus is a lost art.
Individuals who can sustain their attention for long periods of time perform better on all sorts of cognitive challenges than those who do not. If you just ‘skim’ across information, and you are unfocused on the task at hand, you will not be able to truly tap into your minds power for creativity and decision making.
Your mind is a muscle, and just like your physical muscles your mind only has a certain amount of strength at a given time so it’s important that you train it. Its stamina and power can atrophy and waste away if you don’t use it, or can strengthen from purposeful exercise – here are six ways that you can flex it:
Set up a conducive environment
Prioritise what needs to get done with to-do lists and reduce distractions. When we get a notification on our phone we hear that satisfying ‘ting’ and the feel-good-drug dopamine is released in our brain. But once we are distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to our original task.
Turn your notifications off, put your phone away and “batch” all social media and phone checking to three designated checking times.
Juggling multiple activities not only divides your attention so you will be more likely to make mistakes, but you will also take longer to complete the work than if had you done each task separately. Shifting back and forth between tasks also drains our brain’s strength. Focus on one task at a time.
Meditation and mindfulness
Over the last few years even corporations such as Apple, Google and Nike have started practicing mindfulness in the workplace. From apps to pop-ups in the board rooms, meditation is now “mainstream” with benefits including less stress, better health, better focus and improved company culture.
Focus on your breath and when your mind wanders, return your attention to your breath. Start with one minute a day (who doesn’t have “time” for that?!) and build it up to 20 minutes – you will soon start to see what all the rave is about.
Look after your health
You are what you eat – so how can you have an amazing brain? Jim Kwik, an expert in optimal brand performance, suggests to eat foods such as avocado, blueberries, broccoli, coconut oil, eggs, green leafy spinach, salmon, turmeric, walnuts and dark chocolate. And remember, LOTS of water, regular exercise and get at least seven hours’ sleep.
It’s motivation that will get you started but long term discipline that will improve your brain function. Just like a tough workout in the gym, if you find yourself wanting to grab your phone while you a reading a long, tough article – dig deeper… You’ll be surprised how much more attention and focus you still have left in your tank.
While everyone’s looking for the sexy secret to get smarter, it actually comes from good ol’ plain WORK. Better focus has a wealth of rewards including higher information retention rate, higher quality decision making, outlasting your opponent in a tough negotiation, and better emotional intelligence.
Increase your focus gradually – perhaps try to work for 45 minutes and then reward yourself with a 15minute break. Set a timer and focus completely.
Let me know how you get on.
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