If you feel as if your brain runs at full throttle, overwhelmed by an enormous task list with insufficient time to fulfill those obligations, you are not alone. In fact, brain researchers in a recent University of Helsinki study discovered that these instances create an informational overload in the pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s control center, which reduces attention span and inhibits your brain’s capacity to process and retain information. While this busyness can generate an illusion of greater productivity, this phenomenon actually decreases it while increasing errors and overall stress.
At a time when many families struggle financially, necessitating household members to take on multiple jobs, this is vital information. Balancing employment and household productivity while also actively engaging in multiple social media platforms creates a daunting situation. The risks associated with brain overload increase in younger age groups. The pre-frontal cortex does not fully develop until the age of 25, and overwhelming it with media interferes with one’s ability to make sound, logical judgement later in life.
If you feel strained by your task burden and your mind seems scattered and confused at times, the following suggestions can help restore your brain, allowing you to think more clearly.
1. Don’t look at your phone until you’ve eaten breakfast and arrived at work. Your pre-frontal cortex becomes bombarded with information once you check email and begin scrolling. Minimize this unnecessary stress by postponing these activities until you arrive at your desk and prepared to begin your work day.
2. Protect your most focused time during the day. When a deadline approaches or you feel intense pressure to accomplish work activities, unplug from everything and power down your phone. If you work in a dedicated office space, hang a do not disturb sign on the door. Set clear boundaries by removing time terrorists’ access to you will help you avoid distractions and focus your mind.
3. When you want to focus lose your phone. It’s awfully tempting to watch a movie or read a book during intermittent breaks while scrolling your phone. Brain researchers warn us that this activates the pre-frontal area and begins the process of overload. The healthier approach is to allow your brain to focus entirely on the movie, book, or task at hand.
4. Plan your day by listing all the tasks requiring your attention. One of the reasons we feel tempted to multi-task occurs when we entertain tasks as they enter our thoughts. This increases our anxiety and thoughts of urgency as our attention diverts away from the work at hand. Remind yourself of the importance of concentrating on your current project; you will find time to focus on other tasks at another time.
5. Practice and teach your children good work habits early. Set an example for your children by freeing your desk area of clutter and minimizing outside distractions during homework time. When parents create a space conducive for good study skills, they teach their child how to mentally declutter their thoughts and build a space to focus on education.
While many factors in life are beyond our control, we are capable of controlling our thoughts, the actions we take, and the amount of time we permit thoughts to dictate our behavior. By asserting mindfulness to the time we allot to social media scrolling, texting friends and family, and the information bombarding our thoughts, we take the first step to learn how to declutter and focus our minds on the important parts of our lives. Life is about creating special moments and treasuring them. You will discover greater enjoyment of these moments when your brain is not overwhelmed with clutter from multitasking overload.