I’ve been trying to drink more water and have been tracking with an app. Funny what it shows. Monday and Tuesday off to a good start. Then less and less each day of the week. My goal is 80 ounces a day. I have a lot of work to do with this habit. I have to maintain the motivation I have at the beginning of the week, when I try to “start again.”
I touched on this a little before:
There have been ebbs and flows with my discipline. I still contend (I’m not justifying “failures”!!!) that although I didn’t achieve all of my 2012 resolutions or my more purposely-vague-2013 no-so-resolutions, the introspection involved refocused and reset my overall trajectory. And I’ve made some significant improvements. What do I have to show for it? Perhaps more clarity and a lot less stress. Next step: step out of my comfort zone and make more of the added bandwidth.
I don’t beat myself up over “failures,” mistakes, and slip-ups anymore. They are all learning experiences. I find the easier I am on myself, the more aware I am BEFORE I repeat the same mistake again.
One thing I kind of let slip… The garbage in / garbage out theory. Consume garbage, produce garbage. I’m talking about the intellectual type here, although a true analogy is you are what you eat.
During the last 2-3 weeks, I took out the scalpel and cut out most time wasters. Things that add no value to my life and only serve to occupy what seems to be merely idle time. That idle time, however, can make or break my overall mindset. The science behind it is out there.
- Constant checking of Twitter for the 1/100,000,000 chance I find a golden nugget of good info. a.k.a. fear of missing out.
- Same for Facebook. Once a day is enough.
- Same for Google+
- Funny videos on Youtube.
- Morbid fascination with street fight videos on liveleak, et al.
- Aimless internet/Youtube searching.
- Aimless TV channel surfing.
- Unproductive daydreaming.
- Industry, in my case marketing, podcasts.
- Creative podcasts and blogs.
- Entrepreneurial podcasts and blogs.
- Try new things.
- Productive daydreaming.
See left sidebar for links to said resources.
Since refocusing on focus (Yogi Berra would be proud of that one) and filling my head with good stuff, I’ve been able to think more clearly at work, feel more on top of my game, articulate complex points better, etc. The difference is profound. Their are downstream consequences of junk food of the mind–for me.
I hope to continue to post more to the blog also.
Well it’s just a theory. I wrote about this here:
Adam Gazzaley articulates the theory here:
I definitely felt more focused during my 30 day challenge of no twitter, G+, etc. I have limited their use since. I need to be more mindful of other “clutter” that I default to when there is a split second of boredom. I truly believe in its negative downstream effect.
Here is a pretty good read from the NY Times on N-Back training. I does take a commitment as the article mentions:
I’m trying to document all of the areas that I’m zeroing on in my pursuit to think clearly and focused at all times. What I’m learning, and what I’m truly believing, is that the mind, body, and spirit work together in sync and influence areas like focus, concentration, memory and other areas like creativity, happiness, outlook, etc. Many overlap, but I tried below to put some of the tools, strategies, and theories into the 3 different buckets.
I’m not necessarily weak in all of these areas, but I do want to keep them in mind and not ignore any. And I will go through exercises even if I think I’m stronger in one area. Because maybe a “jumpstart” in an area of strength can boost an area of weakness.
While “spirit” scares some people off, I don’t think it necessarily means a religion or religious practice. The way I see it “spirit” revolves around a life with purpose.
In the spirit of visualizing the 3 as a cycle, there can be seemingly unrelated downstream consequences (positive and negative) to getting on or off track in one area. I’ll try to expand on each in later posts, but here are some:
Meditation – I haven’t started yet, but will start to spend 20 minutes a day in quiet meditation. Many of the sources I’ve found recommend meditation.
Mindfulness – Be conscious of your mood and state at all times. And ask yourself things like, what should (or shouldn’t) I be doing right now.
Brain and Memory Games – This might be on the bleeding edge, but I’ve been experimenting with games like dual n-back (and others), which some neuroscientists believe can stimulate and change important parts of your brain.
Choice of social circles – Birds of a feather flock together. Do your friends, co-workers, etc. help of hinder your pursuits?
Input and inspiration – Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your head with junk, then junk will come out. Intellectually stimulate the mind, and good things (ideas, etc.) will follow.
Exercise – Exercise has been shown to enhance brain function.
Nutrition – Certain nutrients (like Vitamin D and Omega 3s) have been shown to enhance brain function. Others (like sugar, especially fructose) have growing evidence that show they are detrimental to overall health and brain health relating to mood, behavior, and habits.
Hydration – Drink plenty of water. So simple, but surprisingly I find it hard to stick to.
Sleep – Get plenty of sleep. I find this hard to adhere to also.
Healthy body weight, lifestyle, etc. – No brainers (pun intended)
Purpose in life – This can be things big and small. This is a very good place to start when setting goals.
Happiness and gratitude – Getting back to the “brain influences the mind, and the mind influences the brain,” studies show that practicing positivity and gratitude influence the “wiring” of the brain–thus influencing the entire cycle in a good way. Examples are keeping a journal or just purposely finding time each day to think about the good things.
Soon I will be posting more about each of these areas. “Stay tuned.”
I finished up The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, by Todd Henry, recently. I can’t recommend this book enough. My feeling though, is a book of this type can be seen as great or not depending on where you are with your knowledge of the subject at the moment. This one struck (me) while the iron was hot. I had all of the thoughts and feelings floating around in my head, and the book summed them up and articulated them perfectly. It also gave me some actionable advice.
First, the book was very well written and flowed very nicely. There wasn’t much fluff if any at all. It drove home points very directly. I find books that get right to the point easy to read and easy to absorb. I also respect that he cited other sources.
This is the third book on my scatter brain endeavor. All three books point to the same things you must do to gain focus and concentration (be mindful, deliberate, and have purpose). The Accidental Creative’s premise is that when you gain focus and concentration, creativity will follow.
The Accidental Creative in a nutshell revolves around 5 practices (FRESH).
- Focus – Define your challenges and pick the most important ones to concentrate on.
- Relationships – Choose your social circles wisely as they influence creativity.
- Energy – Plan wisely (whole life plans, periodic check ins)
- Stimuli – Garbage in, garbage out. So choose intellectually stimulating things to enjoy.
- Create a study plan. Reading list, etc.
- Have purposeful experiences (cultural, intellectual, etc).
- Hours – Carve out specific time for purposeful thinking and creative endeavors.
It is no surprise to me that these same themes are mentioned in not only the last 3 books I’ve read, but also in a lot of other resources I’m reading too. I guess what this did for me is drive home the theory that creativity depends on focus and concentration.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m done with my discovery phase. No more reading books on focus, concentration, memory, creativity. It’s time to put the other 40 books on hold while I put things into action.
From The Accidental Creative, I’m going to:
- Create a reading list of classic books. And read them (duh).
- Go to museums, art shows, etc. with the family.
- Come up with a career skills study plan. Define areas/skills where I need to strengthen.
- Capture ideas in a journal.
- Define and prioritize challenges (work/company and personal).
I’m getting there!!!
I’m not sure what this has to do directly with focus and attention, but I thought I’d post it anyway. Scatterbrained or not, I was always a great problem solver. Part of my strength, I think, is not accepting one cause (which may be a symptom). One tool that helps tremendously in getting to a root cause of a problem is to ask why 5 times.
So very simply, lets say your car runs out of gas.
1) Why did I run out of gas? I forgot to fill up. (duh, right?)
2) Why did I forget to fill up? I was in a hurry and didn’t notice. (hmmm ok)
3) Why was I in a hurry? I woke up late.
4) Why did I wake up late? I went to bed very late.
5) Why did I go to bed late? I was out partying…
That’s a very simple example. In practice, you probably won’t use it on such examples, rather in that case you can say to prevent running out of gas when I’m late, let me never go under 1/4 full. So rather than saying the partying caused me to run out of gas (which it did), I would say that carelessness did.
I did kinda sorta put this exercise on myself and challenges I faced and signs that would not normally be brought to light kept bubbling up to the top. Like focus, concentration, and attention.
Try putting 5 whys to work for you.
This video explains neuroplasticity, which I mentioned in my last post. “The mind changes the brain, the brain changes the mind.”
If you want the long story, I wrote a very long post on my personal blog.
Here is the long story short(er) errr, not as long.
- Be mindful – be in and aware of the present
- This means not having your head buried in a smart phone and checking Twitter every 2 minutes. I’ve read enough studies that show how this behavior is detrimental to the brain. Yes, detrimental to the brain itself.
- Be deliberate – force yourself to ask “what am I doing now and why?” and “what am I not doing, and why?” and “what should I be doing, and why?”
- Have purpose – The previous series of questions should uncover productive things. If not, find something productive/enlightening/intellectually simulating/ social, etc.
- Like a couch potato, you should not let your brain become a potato either.
I had no idea how much downstream those methods positively affect. What I’ve learned recently is so, so, so eloquently described in a book I’m reading right now, The Accidental Creative. I highly recommend the book.
Also, one overarching method above all else is to DO. I’m not saying I’m finished with this endeavor, but I’m sure I’ve pinpointed my roadblocks. Had I not started to travel down this road full steam, I would not have stumbled into these critical realizations. There is a point where you need to put theories to the test. And if they don’t work for you, surely you’ll learn something else or be put on another path, and eventually the right path.
I’ve also taken the advice of the other books I’ve read. I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve identified and focused on what I’m passionate about. I’ve completely dropped any time wasters. And most importantly, I haven’t forgotten my current strengths while working on my weaknesses.
Also, I’ve stumbled on some far out stuff… Only time will tell if this stuff will prove successful. It doesn’t hurt to try, right? Through all of this, I sort of came across a relatively newer field of neuroscience (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night) that deals with neuroplasticity. In layman’s terms, just like you can adhere to a healthy diet and exercise program for the body, there are things you can do to influence and improve the brain (like meditation, positive thinking and certain brain games and exercises). I’ll post more about this in upcoming posts, but I completely believe in it and trust the neuroscientists on the forefront of this. I’ve started the brain games and will start meditation soon. One book I read mentioned, “the mind influences the brain, and the brain influences the mind.” So you can very easily put yourself into a downward vicious cycle of a spiral if you don’t do the right things to stimulate your brain–or vice versa.
Also, also… There is not doubt that there is interconnectivity between the mind and body. So physical exercise and healthy eating is a big part of this all too. You can read about my healthy living pursuit on my personal blog as well.
I recently finished up Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload by Lucy Jo Palladino. While it got great reviews on Amazon, I don’t recommend it. I was expecting a lot more detailed and thorough strategies and exercises to combat distraction. I guess every author comes up with some kind of analogy to build a theme around. She categorized strategies as keychains and keys, which at multiple points I found very confusing and distracting.
As with all other advice out there, the premise is to be self-aware and mindful. I don’t mean to belittle that point as it’s essential to change and improve anything (focus, weight loss, attitude, etc).
At some point on this blog, I’m going to put together a nice concise plan and advice to combat distraction. Duh, that’s the point, right?
The long story short of this book is to be mindful of your adrenaline levels. To help, you can try to visualize it on a scale of 1-10. If you are bored (adrenaline level low), and need to take on a boring task, you should look to raise the level (music, power walk, thoughts, etc). If you are too hyped up, you may need to calm down too. The idea is to find the right balance, or “zone”. HOW to get in the zone is completely left out of the book–or at least it completely escaped me. Rather the book gets you to be aware that there is a zone and has you strive to get in the zone.
There were some takeaways though, so it wasn’t a waste of time for me to read:
- To combat avoidance (procrastination), ask “what am I NOT doing now?” And why…
- Envision anxiety as a false alarm and ask is it rational.
- Focus on what you can control.
- Let goals guide you, not govern you.
- When you notice you are losing focus, ask why.
- To combat overload, don’t have FOMA – Fear of Missing Out
I can see why this book may be helpful to some. Like I’m sure with a lot of books, they can be either great or not depending on where you are with your knowledge of the subject at the moment.