Getting smarter. Creating a Life to Love + A Strategic Brain Plan. Part 3

We, women, make jokes about multi-tasking.  It has become some badge of “proficiency/efficiency/enough-ness” that we measure ourselves by.

Remember that TV commercial about the beautiful, skinny woman, who could fry-up the bacon in a pan, before leaving for work in her perfect dress-for-success suit, coming home to make love to her man? She even did it all while smelling good.

We roll our eyes about these things but is there one of us who has not tried to accomplish something close to that?

It makes me think of the woman who created my websites.  She has four kids under the age of 10 and her husband is in the military.  She “works” starting at 4:00am, while the house is quiet…..then gets the kids up, dressed, fed, watered, clucked over and out the door.  Those are the ones she can shuttle off to school.  She still has the other little ones to tend to, the rest of the day, at home…..while running a business, being successful and putting on the happy, helpful face to clients like me, who can’t even get their flashlight batteries in the right order.   Some people call her a “stay-at-home mom.”  Please.  I call her a “hero”.

But Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD at the Center for Brain Health in Dallas has another take on this kind of lifestyle.  She says we are “blinding our minds” with multi-tasking.  We are making ourselves sick, literally with our “so much to do–more of everything, all time time”, mentality.

If you want to boost your sustained brainpower and your overall health, sense of well-being and reduction of stress, understanding how to create “strategic attention” is the key to reversing the exhaustion AND still getting things done.

She says, “The problem is, we are engaging in hypervigilance—focusing on everything. We have lost our stopping points, our breathing room, our boundaries and our finish lines. It has gotten so bad, we don’t even believe we can do one thing at a time—most of us don’t even want to.” 

We are not just in “fry-oh-my”, we are in the deep fat fryer on this one.  The stress caused from multi-tasking has also been shown to be the source of higher levels of cortisol, produced in our bodies.  Higher levels of cortisol over a prolonged period have been shown to be a factor in early onset dementia.

Plus….Got a roll around your middle?  Massive multi-tasking, creating surges in cortisol levels can be the contributor.

So, what to do?

Chapman has these suggestions….as she calls them “Know Brainers.”

1.  “Manage your time on the computer.”  Set a time, twice a day to answer emails.  Literally, set a timer to get yourself into the habit.  When it goes off, stop. Period.

It will cause you to prioritize what you really need to get done.  It will keep you from taking those “thought walks” while you are in the middle of the other things you are doing.

“True mental productivity requires periods of single-mindedness. Working sequentially, rather than simultaneously, will increase your results, reduce your mistakes, and you will achieve a higher level of productivity…..all of which result in an enhanced sense of well-being.”

Research has shown that most of us, currently, can only work for 3 minutes without being distracted by our very own thoughts or allowing ourselves to be distracted by other outside sources.  Once interrupted, it takes an average of 20 minutes to return to the original task at hand.

This makes us anxious. Stress kicks in and so does the cortisol.  We are off and running into another day.

2.   Chapman says, “tackle your highest priority first.”  It is so tempting to focus on the easy stuff jamming our to-do lists.  It makes us feel like we are accomplishing more as we tick them off—but the treachery is that we are depleting our brain reserves for the things that require the most strategic thinking.  We are exhausted before we get to the things that matter most.  We are setting ourselves up for more frustration.

Instead, boost your brain power by doing the two most important things to accomplish in your day, FIRST.  It will energize you for the rest of it.

3.  “Use silence to find your solutions.”  How often have you been searching for something you’ve misplaced?  When you find it is when you have let go of the need to find it immediately.  Clear as a bell, you brain kicks in to the exact place where you left it.  The same goes for problem solving.  When you are forcing an answer in the moment, you are rarely satisfied with the solution.  But, inputting the problem or the question, then stepping away from it…it allows the brain to process at a deeper level. More often than not, you will experience an “Ah-Ha!” that amazes you, once you have silenced the immediate need to know.

Your brain is a powerhouse of solutions when it is not being forced.

In conclusion of this series……..

We have long-believed that we are born smart…or not.  Now, we are seeing that so much of our brain power, so much of our well-being, so much of our ability to create a life to love….can be learned.  We have unlimited potential to live lives that are meaningful and productive.  We have access, instantly, to people and information that can take us into new vistas of deep understanding and fulfillment.

Stand up for yourself. Take the steps necessary to know yourself fully with fascination and compassion. Embrace what you value most.  Set your sights on the kind of brilliant, purposeful life you deserve.



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