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Procrastination got the better of you?

Procrastination got the better of you?

Technology has its advantages, there is no doubt about it. However, in a world where we are seemingly bombarded with distraction & stimuli (whether it be yet another notification about Boris’ new depiction of a ‘work event’, or the incessant dopamine fix that comes from strolling through social media), attempting to remain focused & concentrate on the tasks at hand can be wildly frustrating. For those of us who have a natural proclivity to wander or have an active brain, it can often seem like a mission impossible to overcome. Concentration is the ability to hone your attention in on a particular task or aspect of consciousness, i.e. reading a book. Focus is slightly different; it is generally an act of will (unless there are complications involved such as ADD or ADHD) and the ability to stop your mind from daydreaming. That being said, daydreaming is not always a bad thing - it often enhances creativity as thinking needs space. However constant distractions and interruptions use up your mental bandwidth, making forming memories more challenging. Besides technology, there are a few other things which can affect focus, and therefore our productivity, one of which being sleep. Sleep has a vast effect on one’s ability to focus, concentrate and form long lasting memories; good quality sleep is necessary to refuel our bodies and rejuvenate our minds. Emotional stress is another key influence in the disruption of focus. During stressful periods (or when we are in ‘fight or flight mode’) our brains release adrenaline. Whilst adrenaline creates high levels of energy & focus when initially secreted, its effects are temporary; the brain then releases cortisol (the stress hormone).

So what happens if your alarm button stays on & you are subject to multiple phases of elevated stress?

Your brain will have a large/constant presence of cortisol, which can disrupt the natural state of the hippocampus (prefrontal cortex), where you apply logic & reason to decision making. When the prefrontal cortex is operating at normal capacity, the ability to focus is increased and vice versa, if not, it can lead to poor concentration, focus and memory loss. Now we’ve got the doom & gloom out of the way, let's delve into a few ways in which we can alleviate stress & promote sleep, therefore improving our focus, concentration, and thus forth - productivity.

1. Brain exercises

So we have established that technology has its ups and downs, but one of the great tools which tech provides are brain and memory exercises. Choose an app which works well for you, but avoid using your device at night as unnatural light can cause sleep disturbance and delay your natural release of melatonin.

2. Sleep

I find myself always hammering on about sleep, when I’m most certainly not the best at keeping to a routine myself. Practice what you preach ‘ey. However, focus on what I say, not what I do…The mind needs time to rest in order to reset and store new information. Try to establish and maintain a bedtime & rising time, even on the weekends. Unregulated sleep can cause more disturbance as your internal body clock is easily shifted out of array. Good quality sleep (between 7-9 hours on average) is one of the most effective ways to combat lack of concentration & focus.

3. Exercise

Research shows that daily physical activity can help your brain avoid distractions. Exercise specifically in the morning/before engaging in tasks that require focus is thought to be best. The part of the brain that responds to exercise is the hippocampus, and it is proven to grow as you become fitter. Therefore, the more you move, the higher your chance of improving memory and decision making.

4. Diet

Your brain and digestive system are connected, so it should come as no surprise that what you consume can heavily impact your ability to maintain focus. This is why it is vital to implement a healthy & nutritious diet. Too little protein or fat in your diet can deviate your blood sugar levels, meaning you are more likely to pick up that all too tempting bar of milk covered sugar. Diets high in omega-3s and good fats are thought to be the best for boosting brain activity, but we must not forget the importance of pre & probiotics. These guys promote healthy gut bacteria which are vital in creating & influencing neurotransmitters. They also produce serotonin, and create SCFAs which can influence brain activity.

5. Screen time

I guess this is a somewhat obvious point, but I will stress it nevertheless. Not only does excessive screen time present issues with regards to distractibility, it also messes with our dopamine receptors, meaning that we need more stimuli to keep us engaged. As previously stated, constant unnatural light also affects the release of melatonin and can in turn disturb our sleep pattern. Viscous old cycle. If your work consists of you sitting in front of a screen for the majority of your day, there is even more incentive to put down your phone. Oooo, a notification…

6. To-do lists

Writing down your daily tasks/keeping to-do lists can be extremely helpful for some to keep track of their day and what they are managing to accomplish. Often when you set your intentions, you are more likely to stick to them as you practice self discipline.

7. Meditation

Fixating on the past for worrying about the future can be overwhelming at the best of times. Being present is a particularly important factor in maintaining concentration & focus. Concentrative mediations are designed to combat exactly this. These types of mediation encourage you to fixate on a certain point, whether it be internal i.e. breath or external. The goal is to stop your mind from wandering, and if it does, you actively bring your attention back to that place, hopefully with practice, improving your focus.

Sleep, eat, (exercise, meditate) repeat ????.

As always, we wish you the best, and hope that this information will bring you a little closer to an improved, healthier and happier version of yourself.

Good luck! POW Team x
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