There is certainly a healthcare crisis in our country, but there is also a distraction epidemic. We live in a world of constant emails, meetings, texts and conversations that get in our way of focusing and giving full attention to one task.
The latest research in neuroscience reveals that the brain has a difficult time effectively giving all of its energy and resources when it has to divide its focus frequently. As a result, our many daily tasks from never get the brains full attention leaving us feeling like we didn’t get anything done at the days end.
Feeling in control and productive starts in the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which regulates self control and attention necessary for handling distractions and making good decisions about where to focus our time (prioritizing).
Here are five tips to strengthen your brain and get more done:
- Get emotions under control: Too much stress and emotion overwhelms the prefrontal cortex, which will inhibit attention and self-control. When you feel your attention waning get some physical exercise, meditate or try breathing exercises to get in calm state.
- Get what’s on your mind out of your head: Write down everything that has your attention, big and small, from organizing the garage to looking for a new job, then write the very next action that needs to be done, from buying plastic bins to rewriting your resume. You may not be able to get to all 100 “to dos” but your mind will be calmer and your attention will be on the task at hand once there is a plan.
- Sustain attention: Make a conscious effort to focus your attention on one task in 45-60 minute blocks with a five-to-10 minute brain break. Use strategies such as turning off the sound on your phone and email during these periods of focus. You will strengthen your “attention muscles,” and will get more accomplished.
- Know when to put up the “stop sign”: This means understanding when to take your attention off something when it is no longer productive. Keep a journal noting your attention patterns. For example, if you go into the basement to get wrapping paper, do you get distracted, come up an hour later and walk in late to a meeting? You may need to practice putting the brakes on, which starts with awareness.
- Shift from tasks effectively: You cannot have a meaningful conversation, answer email and go over meeting notes at the same time. The reality of our world is that multiple bits of information are coming in all the time. We can practice our mental flexibility by deciding to switch to a more important task, giving it full attention and then switching back. The key is thoughtfully making a jump from task to task by weighing multiple factors.
New Canaan, Conn.-based Janeen Savini is a certified health and wellness coach. She is also a productivity consultant specializing in goal setting and helping women achieve control and perspective in their lives. Janeen can be heard on The "What's Up With Wendy Show" on Business Talk Radio.