As we get busier and we have less time to accomplish all of our chores, multi-tasking has become a given for those who aim for success. However, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, switching from one thought to another seems to clutter our brain which leads to lower productivity. How can we organize our minds so we can be more productive and still manage our busy lives? Levitin spoke to CBC Radio about this dilemma. You can listen here and read a summary below.
1. Externalize your memories
Create cues to trigger your memory in the external environment. These might be such things as writing reminders on sticky notes and leaving them on your fridge, setting reminders in your phone, writing things down in a daytimer, or asking your partner or administrative assistant to remind you. This will allow your mind to let go of those things when it is not necessary to be thinking about them and therefore, less “clutter”! You will be able to focus on the task at hand much more easily.
2. Write things down
“When you write something longhand, it requires deeper processing,” according to Levitin. Your brain then gives itself permission to let that thought go “and stops nagging you about it.” Some people really find journalling helpful. Give it a try and see if it’s for you.
3. Prioritize your tasks
Identify the most pressing tasks and tackle them one at a time. Regularly assess what your priorities are and work from most urgent to least pressing. By focusing on a single task, you will be more efficient and more productive. Again, writing things down tends to be a useful tool.
4. Clear your mind
Write down the problems you need to tackle and then let them go until it’s time to deal with them. The stress and worry of the issues you aren’t currently dealing will clutter your mind which in turn makes the task at hand more difficult. Some people create “worry time” in their schedules. This strategy signals your brain to take note that you are aware of these troubles but once you finish your writing, you no longer have to be aware of them in the present moment. It does not make the problems disappear, it just sends a signal to your brain to close those files for the time being. Other activities that are very helpful to clear your mind are meditation, going for a walk, talking things out with someone, or putting your all of your focus onto something else completely such as cooking a good meal can turn off the clutter and then you can re-direct your attention back to working on one thing at a time.
When you are working on a task, be completely present. By focusing on what is in front of you, “it allows more time for spontaneity and creativity” and helps you to enjoy “more time doing the things you really love.” Being ‘present’ will take some practice but is well worth it.
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