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An epidemic of overwhelm

2nd June 2017

OverwhelmWe live in a world where we are bombarded with information all of the time;  emails, social media, TV, requests from your team and family members, not to mention the random thoughts that go through your head.

Our brains are always on!

Your brain is an amazing instrument and we take it for granted. It runs our body, controls our movement, enables us to speak effortlessly and provides us with the capability to plan, problem solve, create and prioritise. How often do you take time to give it some maintenance or TLC? For most of us this happens when we are asleep, assuming of course you get a good nights sleep.

With all of the research in the neuroscience arena we have more information on how the brain works. With some conscious choice over how you engage your brain you can manage the overwhelm. You can change your habits and strengthen your mind to improve your professional life. One of the best books I’ve come across is by David Rock Your Brain at Work

Your brain has 5 key functions

In it he explains your brain has 5 key functions:

  1. Understanding new ideas
  2. Deciding, making choices based on what we know
  3. Recalling information
  4. Memorising, paying attention to something long enough that it is embedded in long term memory
  5. Inhibiting, preventing some thoughts and actions

These combine to enable us to plan, problem solve and communicate. However, our brains can only hold a small amount of information at anyone time. Despite what we may think!! Some recent research by Nelson Cowan at the University of Missouri, found that it’s likely to be 4 items and that depends on the complexity of the four items.

Thinking uses up energy and prioritising is one of the most draining activities we can undertake, it uses up glucose and oxygen fast! When we are overwhelmed we are likely to trigger more adrenalin and cortisol and too much of this can be debilitating, especially when it sends us into our stress zone.

So, on a day-to-day basis what can you do to manage your brain, and therefore your energy, more effectively?

Declutter your brain

Here are 4 things you can do to engage your brain more effectively:

1. Capture your thoughts on paper, on an electronic note pad, rather than holding them in your head. Remember your brain can only hold 3 to 4 ideas at any one time, so give your self the space to think. As a coach of mine once said ‘your brain is a thinking device not a storage device.’
2. Finish one task before you start a new one. The brain can’t perform one conscious process without it impacting your performance or accuracy. This will mean managing any distractions such as switching off your phone, email alerts and letting people know you are not available.
3. Simplify and chunk more effectively. Your brain learns complex routines by automatically grouping things into chunks, so break complicated ideas into their core elements so they are easier to manipulate.
4. Automate more of what you do by creating routines. This uses less thinking energy as routines become hardwired into the brain. Think about how you use your computer, my guess is there is little conscious thought goes into how you use it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and would like some additional support email me to set up and free discovery call to explore how we could work together.

“There is no such thing as multitasking, only task switching … it can feel as though we’re super efficiently doing two or more things at once … in fact, we’re just doing one thing, then another, then back again, with significantly less skill and accuracy than if we had simply focused on one job at a time.”
Christian Jarrett

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