5 cognitive strategies to enhance your brain power (and productivity)
Do you have a hard time getting motivated at the office? Feel like you just can’t concentrate? You’re not alone. The good news is that you can do something about it.
There are a few simple strategies borrowed from psychology that can actually help you improve the way your brain functions.
Here are five cognitive strategies to enhance your brain power (and productivity).
Exercise your brain
Most of us are familiar with the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Well, the same goes for our brains. Psychologists have found links to improved cognitive functioning for certain activities and tasks following frequent use of brain games.
Brain games are based on the psychological concept of neuroplasticity, meaning our brains are capable of growth through the formation of new neuronal connections. Essentially, completing a few games each day challenges the brain by stimulating various centres that correspond to specific functions, such as short-term memory, information processing, attention, and language fluidity.
Though there are mixed reviews on web-based games (they can contribute to sedentary screen time), there is no denying the science backing them up. The key is to stay active and continue to challenge yourself by switching up the game once you notice an improvement. Just as our muscles need to be challenged in order to grow bigger and stronger, our brain should be stimulated in new and diverse ways too.
Try the Pomodoro technique
Concentration is essential in most professions, and can often mean the difference between productivity and procrastination. It’s possible to maximize concentration levels by using the Pomodoro technique, a psychological strategy that gradually enhances your attention span.
By using the Pomodoro technique, you are essentially completing an interval-training workout for your brain. Start by using the timer on your cellphone or computer and work for 25 solid minutes with no distractions until the alarm signals you to take a five-minute break. Repeat this three times and then take a longer break for 20 to 30 minutes. You will have worked intensively for two full hours while also respecting your body’s need for frequent, short breaks.
Regular use of this technique can help develop your attention span, allowing you to give projects and tasks undivided focus for longer periods.
Do mindful meditation
It is also possible to extend your mental functioning by adopting meditation techniques. Meditation is the practice of undisturbed, non-judgmental acknowledgment of thoughts and emotions without actually reacting to them.
Researchers at Harvard have noted that meditation reduces stress and anxiety, and is correlated with improved memory and mental clarity. This can help retain and analyze information, enhance decision-making skills, and decrease work-related stress and conflicts.
Simply put: implementing a few minutes of meditation into your day — whether it’s before breakfast, at your desk or even in bed at night — could significantly improve your mental well-being, productivity, and output.
Forgo the GPS
Many people use smartphones or GPS devices to navigate their way around road closures and traffic jams. Scientists, however, have discovered that a dependence on technology for wayfinding could actually be detrimental to brain function, hindering our spatial awareness and orientation.
Creating “mental maps” actually exercises areas in the brain called the amygdala and the hippocampus, which control spatial memory and long-term memory, respectively. Something as simple as your commute to and from work, or finding that new lunch spot without google maps, can help to keep your brain active and functioning optimally.
Neuroscience research has highlighted the impact visualization can have on learning new physical and mental skills. By maximizing the brain’s visual-spatial centres, visualization can improve information retention and recall and language learning.
When you need to learn new information or understand a new concept, combine it with a mental image. Instead of one centre of the brain working to store this data, multiple areas will be activated; this increases the odds that the data will imprint in your mind and connect with other ideas already stored, making it easier for you to remember it later on.
In summary, it’s possible to enhance your workplace productivity through cognitive strategies borrowed from psychology. By incorporating brain games, concentration techniques, meditation, and visualization (and by cutting back on Google Maps), you can improve your work output by actually improving your brain’s efficiency.
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