Focus Your Mind, Improve Your Learning5:09 with Alena Holligan
Learn how your brain uses "focused" and "diffused" modes of thought to learn and make new neural connections. Use strategies to reduce distractions, improve focus, and learn better.
Tips to Engage Your Mind and Stay Focused
Prepare your body
- Exercise: exercise pumps oxygen to our brain, and can even generate new neurons
- Food: healthy fats like eggs, nuts and avocado energizes and increases production of neurotransmitters in your brain
- Caffeine: use it carefully. Exercise can be a better way to wake up in the morning.
Prepare your Mind
- Mix focused and diffused modes. Your brain wants roughly an hour of focus and 15 minutes of diffused activity
- Try the Pomodoro Technique to help you create a pattern of focus and break times
- Decide exactly what you want to focus on, before diving into focus mode
Prepare your space
- Turn off distractions: no cellphone, close unneeded applications and notifications on your computer. find a quiet space to work (if possible)
- Wear headphones: noises can be distracting. Try listening to nature sounds, white noise, or music without lyrics.
Hi, I'm Alena, a programmer, teacher, and lifelong learner. 0:00 Along with programming a computer, I'm fascinated with the programming of your 0:05 brain, and how individuals can reach their full potential. 0:09 Our brain uses two modes when it comes to learning, focus mode and diffuse mode. 0:14 In focus mode you're concentrating on the new skill that you're attempting to learn. 0:20 To be most effective we need to ignore distractions and 0:25 be able to give our full attention to the task at hand. 0:29 This is probably what you think about when you hear the word learning. 0:32 But diffuse mode is also important. 0:37 In diffuse mode you let your mind wander. 0:40 This allows your brain to jump from concept to concept, and 0:43 connect the dots to build the larger picture. 0:46 Without these neural connections, 0:49 you can only gain a narrow understanding of a new idea, or skill. 0:52 And will have a hard time making use of that knowledge. 0:56 You may be able to solve a specific problem, but 0:59 be unable to use that same knowledge to solve additional problems. 1:02 You need both the mechanics of how the new concept works as well as a broad 1:06 understanding of how the new concepts fits together with what you already know. 1:12 A focused beam of light works well for 1:18 allowing us to see the details of an individual object. 1:20 But when we diffuse that light into a broader beam we can more easily see how 1:24 all the objects in a room fit together. 1:29 It can be challenging to develop a strong mode of focus 1:32 because of the distracted environment in which we live. 1:35 With all the interconnected smart devices and 1:38 social media, we're continually bombarded with information overload. 1:41 Add to that the fact that multitasking is seen as a positive quality, 1:46 plus the dopamine rush each time we complete small tasks on our to do list. 1:51 Sometimes we also mistake busyness for 1:57 productivity, when we're just moving information around. 1:59 Then there's our old internal struggles with procrastination. 2:04 Instead of writing that report that we've been dreading, 2:07 we suddenly feel very motivated to clean our workspace or 2:11 organize the music collection we've been putting off for years. 2:14 These distractions cause us to live in a state of continual partial attention. 2:18 This is followed by feelings of failure when no matter how much time and 2:23 will power we exert, we are unsuccessful in producing high output and 2:28 preventing procrastination. 2:33 So, how do we train our brains to prevent procrastination and 2:35 more fully engage in focus mode? 2:39 And how can we best use diffuse mode? 2:42 I've collected some of the best tips for helping you do just that. 2:45 First, you should prepare your body. 2:49 Exercise clears toxins from your brain to allow us to think more clearly. 2:53 It also infuses our brain cells with the oxygen they need to operate. 2:58 Fueling your brain with healthy fats such as eggs, nuts, and 3:03 avocado supplies energy and increases production of neurotransmitters. 3:08 Which are the vehicles of communication within your brain. 3:13 Caffeine is a drug and should be used accordingly. 3:17 Try exercise to help you wake up, and 3:20 not having your first cup of coffee until mid morning. 3:22 Next you should prepare your mind. 3:26 Our brains crave routines and schedules and 3:29 can benefit greatly by knowing what to expect. 3:32 Break your time into chunks of focus and diffuse time. 3:36 Your brain wants roughly an hour on 15 minutes off. 3:40 Another popular method people use successfully is the Pomodoro technique, 3:44 a set pattern of focus and break times. 3:49 Within each focus period make sure that you decide 3:52 exactly where you're going to apply your focus. 3:56 And finally, prepare your space. 3:59 Turn off distractions. 4:03 Turn off your cell phone or leave it in another room. 4:06 If you're working on a computer, disable the Internet. 4:10 Or, maybe just close applications you don't need, and turn off notifications. 4:13 Find a clean, quiet space when possible. 4:18 Wear headphones. 4:23 The sounds we hear can also impact our productivity. 4:24 Try listening to nature sounds or white noise. 4:28 You could also try music without lyrics or 4:31 check out some specific playlists designed to help you focus. 4:34 Repeating the back and forth between focus and 4:38 diffuse mode will help your brain perform at optimum capacity. 4:41 I have two final pieces of advice. 4:46 Learn something new before bed. 4:49 Your brain does some of its best diffuse work while you're sleeping. 4:51 And finally, get started. 4:55 Take something that you've been putting off and push yourself to work on it for 4:57 just five minutes. 5:01 Often, this will help you get over the hurdle of procrastination and 5:02 on to actually completing the task. 5:06
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