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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Managing your attention, energy, and technology

On April 5th I have the honor and pleasure of speaking at the Women’s Forum of the Risk Management Association in Minneapolis. The topic is “Managing your Attention, Energy, and Technology” of which I am sharing a preview in this post.

A little something on your brain:
       Your nervous system constantly processes and reconnects trillions of neural connections.
       Our brains are wired to pay attention to novelty. We are distracted every 3 to 5 minutes.
       A distraction is an alert that says “Put your attention here, now! This could be dangerous or important.” So a distraction generally feels great.
       You get an emotional high when you get a lot of things done at once.
       Distractions use oxygenated glucose, which leaves you with less for the next task. Less energy equals less capacity to notice, process, understand, memorize, recall, decide, and inhibit.

May I emphasize though, that a temptation or disruption turns into a distraction only if you allow it to?

Some of the many studies done on multi-tasking, which is really a myth:
·       Sussex University: High multi-taskers have less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, so there’s impaired empathy and cognitive/emotional control.
·       Stanford University: Multitasking is less productive than doing 1 thing at a time. People bombarded with streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch between jobs as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.
·       London University: Multitasking during cognitive tasks results in IQ declines similar to being up all night or marijuana use.
·       McGill University: Switching between tasks comes with a biological cost. It leaves us more tired than when we sustain attention on one thing only.

May I emphasize that productive people take a 15 minutes break every few hours, one that allows for mind-wandering through walking, reading, listening to music etc.

Just a few of the suggestions to improve your attention and energy management:
1. Practice focusing when you don’t have to: Read in a noisy spot.
2. Wiggle your toes: It brings back drifting concentration.
3. Listen attentively to the sound of brushing your teeth and that sound only.
4. The one you’ll either love or hate hearing: Prioritize physical activity. It releases brain chemicals for learning and memory, it boosts the size of the hippocampus (University of British Columbia). From now on, decide to stretch, stand, and walk when others remain glued to their seats.

May I suggest you choose 2 actions to start right now and that you will hold yourself accountable for?

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