Our brain is a gem. A beautiful organ that, if treated properly, helps you to develop both professionally and personally. We ask a lot of our brains; it’s working nonstop to keep up with our lifestyle. In today’s society, the speed and diversity of our actions, and the tens of thousands of choices we make each day, gives our brains a real workout.
But when it comes to taking care of our brain, it actually receives very little attention – with some exceptions. Isn’t that odd?
How often do we use tactics or strategies to develop our brain, get into the right flow, gain new insights, or relax? If I asked, who wants a healthier brain that performs better? I bet few would say ‘Not me!’.
Because brain performance = business performance!
Well, shall I just give you a hand then?
Here are 5 tips for brain care in order to get a better brain performance.
Tip 1: Say no to multitasking
Are you someone that loooves to multitask? Do you like to do several things at the same time? Do you regularly switch between different tasks? And do you feel that this make you more productive? Then I have to disappoint you, because there are several studies that indicate that multitasking is anything but productive. It even reduces your productivity by 40%.
Want to know what actually happens when you shift your attention and focus from one thing to another? Well, you get distracted easier and there’s a higher risk for a mental crash. Of course, this doesn’t enhance your productivity. It is tiring and difficult for our brain to fly from one task to another. Our brain actually requires us to focus on one specific task. Therefore tip 2!
Tip 2: Get into your Flow Zone
You must have experienced a time when you were so immersed in a task – and were incredibly productive – that you completely forgot about time. Those are great moments, aren’t they? At that moment you were in the so-called Flow Zone. What is a Flow Zone? “A flow state is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”
I have deliberately underlined ‘energized focus’, ‘full involvement’ and ‘enjoyment’. Wouldn’t it be great if you experienced that during every task? Well, you can. There is a focus method that can help you with that. It involves three simple steps:
- Focus 50 minutes on one specific task. Don’t get distracted by anything, no phone (airplane mode?), no colleagues (do not disturb), nothing. Set a timer and concentrate fully on your task.
- Rest for 10 minutes. 50 minutes are up? Then it’s time to relax. Preferably take a short walk. Go to the toilet. Do some breathing exercises. Let your brain rest for a while – which means no email or social media!
- Repeat the cycle. (I understand that you can’t work the whole day undisturbed, so you can occasionally build in some time after step 2 for calls, conversations, checking your phone, etc., but do step 2 first!)
Try it out and see if it works for you.
Tip 3: The right food
It’s actually crazy when you think about it: If we want to achieve something with our bodies, for example a summer body, we go on a diet and visit the gym more often. If we have problems with our wrists, we get a scan. We know our body is our temple, so we take care of it. But when it comes to our brains, we hardly ever do scans and we’re certainly not used to training it, let alone putting it on a diet. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to eat healthy food for your brain. Most conscious eaters will probably already have the numbers 1 to 3 below in their diet. That’s why I also add three brain foods that are a bit more unfamiliar (thanks to a great workshop from Portia Asli).
- Hemp seeds
- Cacao powder
- Chia seed
- Bacopa Monnieri extract
- Ginkgo Bibba leaf extract
- Royal Jelly
Tip 4: A way to get more creative
While I said at the beginning that you should say no to multitasking, I now say that our brain appreciates what Tim Harford calls Slow Motion Multitasking. Slow Motion Multitasking is the simultaneous execution of several projects between which you move back and forth as the mood takes you or as the situation demands. Switching back and forth between short projects in a small period of time is tiring for our brain, but training our brain with bigger projects that you give attention in a larger period of time, stimulates creativity! It helps you to look at things from a different angle and to come up with new solutions.
Do you know who was a big slow motion multitasker?
He worked on several projects simultaneously. Similarly, Michael Crichton, creator of Jurassic Park, was also a doctor, and author of books on art, medicine, and computer programming. And Nathan Myhrvold, once Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, also founded Intellectual Ventures and authored cook books. So do you ever feel stuck in a project? Spend time on your hobby. Start a side gig!
Tip 5: Be consciously grateful
Mindfulness journals are popping up like mushrooms – and for good reason! It is very important for our mood and rest (yes, also sleep) to reflect on what we already have and own. To be thankful for the current situation and the results achieved.
The bible tells us to be thankful:
Philippians 4:6 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.
My tip is to buy a diary that focuses on this theme, or to start a diary yourself. Write down three things that you are grateful for every morning when you get up or every night before you go to bed. Put the book on your nightstand, so you don’t forget to fill it out. Try it for a year. The results don’t lie: More positive emotions, more optimism, and better and deeper relationships.
Our most important organ
Taking care of your brain is very important in a world like ours: a demanding world with very busy days filled with as many things as possible. In all the hustle and bustle, we often think “Another ‘must do?’”. I can imagine that you feel that way after reading this article, but remember that your brain is the most important organ you have and that it cannot be replaced. Without the brain, nothing works anymore.
Do you want to implement one of the above tips?
Don’t try everything at the same time, but start with just one! Or maybe there is something else I did not mention that you know you need to change – like getting enough sleep! Start with one thing today and don’t underestimate the power of incremental change.
Because: brain performance leads to (business) performance! Jesus knew that when He went for a quiet place to talk with His Father after busy days. He is our example. I guess I don’t have to say more.