If you’ve tried other methods to stay productive and it hasn’t worked, perhaps it’s time to leverage science! Neuroscientists have conducted a lot of research on how our brain reacts to external conditions (i.e., distractions) and what we can do to stay focused. Start with these three brain-friendly approaches.
- Engage Your Prefrontal Cortex. This part of your brain is responsible for a variety of complex behaviours, including planning, decision making and creative thinking. Think of your prefrontal cortex (PFC) as a battery – works well on a full charge, but eventually slows down and needs to be replenished. Ensure you are maximizing the power of your PFC by limiting your planning, decision making, and brainstorming activities to 2-hour intervals.
- Stop Multitasking. Research has found that multitasking makes us less effective. When we are doing several things at one time, our brain switches back and forth between thought and action. This constant switching causes a loss of concentration, which results in diminished productivity, reduced IQ, increased stress and impacts the quality of our work. When we spend all of our time multi-tasking, we are less likely to produce quality work. Restrict multitasking to activities which have outcomes that are not critical.
Pomodoro anyone? Created by an Italian researcher in the 1980s, this technique breaks work into 25-minute intervals followed by a five-minute break. Choose your task or project, set your timer for 25 minutes and get started. When the timer rings, take a five-minute break. After four “pomodoros,” take a 15-20 minute break. The frequent pauses reduce mental fatigue and will keep your brain fresh, repeat this process until your task is complete. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fresh you feel as you complete your projects.