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University of Nebraska Medical Center

Brain Science and Productivity

Make one simple change to harness brain power and productivity: Make your mobile calendar your ultimate time (and brain) protector.

In an era of email, texting, virtual meetings, and Twitter, our brain is saturated with “connectivity.” Phones have become essential appendages that can transform into flashlights, reminders, scrapbooks, phone books, maps, libraries, and menus – just for starters. We have been subtly trained to check, sort, and respond to whatever our phones are pushing toward us while we are waiting, walking, or supposed to be doing something else.

Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, says, “Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects.”  If we examine just our last 24 hours, we can validate this reality. Levitin says, “Multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.”

So, the big question is, how do we protect our most important, focused, productive time? 

Make one simple change to harness brain power and productivity. Plan for it!  Use your mobile calendar to your advantage and reserve real time for real essential tasks.  Want to work on your academic paper?  Block regular 90-minute or less production blocks. Want to get something done during your personal peak time?  Schedule it and don’t waste your best generative hours sorting and reacting to email. Helping your brain to visualize blocks of time actually frees up brain capacity by reducing decision making quagmires. It also helps trim the time suck of “shiny object” small stakes distractions.

Creating, visualizing, and maximizing, focused, generative time helps your brain to efficiently and effectively produce the results that ultimately lead to success.

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