Mental clarity can escape anyone.
Surely even Einstein and Shakespeare had their moments. It happens.
It’s your ability to recover that matters.
You can impact your brain function and cognitive abilities by making simple tweaks here and there to your daily routine.
If you are looking to improve your concentration to perform better at work, or simply to make everyday life easier, you will find these ideas useful.
It only takes a few minutes to completely clear your head and restore higher-level thinking.
Recognise and name your state of mind
At our best, we feel calm, confident, focused, enthusiastic, and optimistic. That’s when we’re most productive and get along best with others.
At our worst, we typically experience self-doubt, impatience, irritability, defensiveness, and pessimism and we tend to lose focus.
Most of us move along the spectrum between our best and our worst all day long, depending on what’s going on around us.
Ladders is now on SmartNews!
Download the SmartNews app and add the Ladders channel to read the latest career news and advice wherever you go.
To maximize your output and make the most of your brain energy, it’s important to recognize your state of mind at any point in time.
Naming your emotions tends to lessen the burden of being at your worst.
The physician and psychiatrist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.”
David Rock argues that when you are experiencing significant internal tension and anxiety, you can reduce stress by up to 50 percent by noticing and naming your state.
In “Your Brain at Work”, David Rock says, “Without this ability to stand outside your experience, without self-awareness, you would have little ability to moderate and direct your behavior moment to moment.”
He writes, “You need this capacity to free yourself from the automatic flow of experience and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director, you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit.”
Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking
Our brains have two modes. When you are doing creative work, learning something new, or working on your most important tasks, you are in the “focused” mode.
Your brain assumes “diffuse” mode when you are relaxed, taking a walk, or daydreaming. Studies have shown that activity in many regions of the brain increases when your minds wander. Your brain solves its difficult problems while you daydream.
Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman argues that “mind wandering serves multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (versus cramming), and creativity.”
According to engineering professor Barbara Oakley, author of “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra),” in addition to this “focused mode” — which relies on your brain’s prefrontal cortex — we also learn through a “diffuse mode,” rooted in the operations of a variety of different brain regions.
In fact, the brain switches back and forth between these modes regularly.
Barbara explains “When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”
Schedule purposeful breaks
According to research, the brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. You lose your focus and your performance on the task declines.
Studies have shown that workers are most focused and productive when following the rhythm of a work/rest ratio.
When faced with a long creative problem, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task and improve your idea generation approach. A structured downtime can help you do your best work.
We tend to generate redundant ideas when we don’t take regular breaks. If you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression. Your brain needs downtime to remain industrious and generate better ideas.
Your brain needs downtime to remain creative and generate its most innovative ideas.
A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and that skipping breaks can lead to stress, exhaustion, and creative block.
Idleness is not a vice, it is indispensable for making those unexpected connections in the brain you crave and necessary to getting creative work done.
If you are struggling to solve complicated problems might be better off switching to “diffuse” mode and letting their mind wander.
Take proper breaks, often. Sometimes you just need a break — a chance to reboot the system.
Take a walk. A few minutes stroll can increase blood flow to the brain, which can boost creative thought. Charles Darwin took long walks around London.
Dickens wrote his novels between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. After that, he would go out for a long walk. He once said, “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.”
Find time to doodle. Let your mind wander as you embrace pen and paper, again. Research shows that doodling can stimulate new ideas and help us stay focused. Make time to exercise. Exercise can give you more energy and help you gain focus. Try this 7-minute workout.
Embrace meditation. Meditation lowers stress levels and improves overall health as well as creativity. Take a nap. A number of studies have established that naps sharpen concentration and improve the performance.
Completely clear your mind and begin again. Your next big idea depends on it.
My new course, Thinking in Models is LIVE. It’s designed to help you to think clearly, solve problems at multiple levels of depths, and make complex decisions with confidence. Join a community of people on a mission to think clearly, work better, solve problems at multiple levels of depths, and make complex decisions with confidence! Click here for details.
This article first appeared on Medium.