At any given time in your day, how many things are you thinking of and how many are you trying to do? Unless you are very lucky, I would say that your brain is juggling multiple thoughts as you try to juggle multiple tasks.
While we may think that multi-processing and multi-tasking is efficient, all research shows that it actually has the opposite effect. The reason is that your brain doesn’t actually do two activities at the same time with equal efficiency. As you load your brain with more, it diverts resources from what it is currently doing. This happens so fast that you may not notice it, but the evidence is clear, when your brain is occupied with many things, you are NOT functioning at your best mental capacity.
OK, fine, you will say. There’s so much to do in one day, so many things to deal with and think about. So many little red notifications shouting for attention. Even if you believe the scientific evidence, can you actually do something about it?
Here’s a very simple technique you can practice through the busiest day to reduce the load on your brain and sharpen your mental faculties. It only takes few seconds at a time.
Before you start
What were you thinking about a minute ago? I’m not a mind reader but I know it will be one of two things:
- You were thinking about something that happened in the past – maybe an incident at work, or a conversation with your spouse, or something you forgot to do last evening or the answer you should have given that cocky colleague but didn’t.
- You were thinking about something in the future – tomorrow’s presentation, or next month’s EMI or the job of your dreams.
This is the root of the problem. When our brains are occupied by the past or the future, we are not functioning at the highest mental capacity required for the task at present. We have the brain power but are only applying a small percentage of it.
You can change this by following these simple steps.
- Write numbers 1 to 10 in a place you can access easily. If you carry a notebook, use that or write it on the Notes application on your phone.
- Now anytime in your day, pause and bring your mind to any sensation you are feeling.
- Are you typing on your laptop? Pause and touch the keyboard. Is it warm or cool?
- Are you scrolling through Facebook? How does the back of the phone feel to your fingers?
- Are you drinking coffee? Touch the cup, feel the sensation of warmth.
- If you are just sitting, feel the chair under your leg, or even the sleeve of your shirt on your arm.
It can be any sensation at all. Just bring your mind to it for a few seconds. That’s all you need to do. For those few seconds you are completely and totally in the present moment. All your brain’s resources are focused on a single point – the sensation you are feeling.
- As soon as your mind wanders, reach for your Notes and check off the first box on your list.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you can in a day, keeping count of how many times you were able to do it. Increase the count slowly. As you build it into your day, you can stop keeping count.
With regular practice over time, you will feel your brain getting less tired and your concentration increasing. In small, but sure ways, you will feel the difference in your mental stamina. In a sense, you are training your brain to stop dissipating energy and focus.
Be sure to let me know how you got on. All the best.