Tag Archives: productivity

Help your brain to not trip over it’s own survival mechanisms

Does thinking make you tired?

I wish that I could energize and focus myself by thinking and (relatedly) by reading. I wish I could set my mind to something and just GO but I find that focus and a state of wakefulness are kind of like trying to keep a spinning top from falling off the sides of a coffee table. You have to herd that mess.

Sddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

(See what I mean?!?! I’m writing late at night and while thinking about the impact of this last statement, I nodded off, fingers barely poised above the home row—except for the heavy ‘d’ finger.

I really did write this segment late at night, really was exhausted, and really did fall asleep in the process. But before I banished it to my Ridiculous bin, I wanted to share some good news with you. The good news is that working WITH the human brain and our physiology, instead of against it, is really worthwhile and will help us focus and reach our goals.

Here are some scientifically backed tips for getting more of your potential loosed.

  1.  Eliminate distractions. Our brain wants to follow distractions. Studies show that a distraction happens every 11 minutes throughout one’s day, while it takes one’s brain 25 minutes to ‘get over it’ and move on. Therefore, cutting ourselves off from certain distractions will pull out stops towards accomplishing our goal(s).
  2. Limit work sessions, especially creative ones. With very few exceptions, brainstorming sessions, creative writing workshops, and other productive increments should be limited to an hour. Beyond that, everyone keeps looking like adults but inside we start to naturally resemble pent up children that need to go run around the playground for a while. Therefore, build in mandatory breaks for yourself. If you need more time for a project/task, or if it just isn’t done yet, break it up into sections–taking advantage of…
  3. Chunks. I’m not kidding here–chunking–is a psychological term for how our brain groups things together in order to efficiently keep track of information. This is why we remember things better if grouped into threes. (E.g. phone numbers (555) 555-, “they always come in threes, don’t they?”) This is also useful for planning how to teach and share information: combine it with the fact that in a list of things people will remember the first and last items best, and you can greatly increase the chances they’ll retain some of it.
  4. Git ‘er dun. Okay, so this one isn’t scientifically steeped here. But it’s right up there with “Just Do It.” Simply finishing something–even if it is only one item out of many you want to complete, or if it is something very small–will give you an emotional and cognitive pat on the back. I saw this in action the most working with special-needs children and those with learning disabilities. When these kids are just floundering and on the brink of total shutdown, we quickly bring the finish line to them so that they are guaranteed to at least cross it. (We would try again later.)

Tutor: “Okay, Johnny, what’s 3 + 4?”
Johnny: “AAAAHHHHH!!!!!”–while flailing and writhing in pain.
Tutor: “Okay, Johnny, touch the circle. Good job! Go play!”

These little tips are sufficient to lighten up on  yourself and get tough with yourself simultaneously. Work with your biological inclinations, get serious about building and guarding an environment you’re most likely to succeed in, and then go for it.

😉

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In Recovery: a Negativiholic on the path to sobriety

 

“You always do what you want to do.” (W.C. Stone)

 

Perhaps if I approached my negative, pessimistic tendencies as I would a substance addiction, I would have more success recognizing and beating them.

What does an alcoholic do to beat their condition? There are different step schemes, but they follow a general progression. First admit the problem, second get the help you need, third you need to know that it is a disease in which the only hope you have to beat it is to abstain from it completely, fourth quit and don’t look back. This last step is probably where I fall short and end up back at one. Why is that? That’s the worst place to stop.

Matthew Kelly said when you get to a critical choice and it is difficult to decide what action to take, decide based on this question: “Which one will make a better me?” At a crossroads, this makes it much easier to decide which way is right. From there it takes courage to follow that way. I think acting on this is key to recovering from pessimism—I will be forced to see that I have more control, more time, more choice, and more willpower than I thought possible.

Even depression can be turned into energy to make the situation better. W.C. Stone said that the Depression era in America did not hinder his productivity but rather increased it, and expanded his business because his team was inspired to action out of necessity rather than just willpower or other rewards. I have a fear that if I really was in the greatest state of necessity, I would fold. Got to shake that off! I also have a competing hunch that in that state of necessity, I’d be there in the clutch.

Maybe Patton’s treatment for shell-shock and courage under fire is applicable to many situations like this: “When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment ago was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.” The right passion meets the right fear and ignites action.

I suppose I won’t have war stories if I don’t push my way to the front lines.