Ugh. I hope you can relate. Just when the Halloween candy was finally starting to go away, a wave of Girl Scout cookies hit our pantry. And of course I ordered plenty of boxes telling myself that it’s supporting a good cause. We finished the last of the thin mints…just in time for…the abundance of Thanksgiving! Not sure about you but after this I still have to navigate through cookie parties, gingerbread houses, and mugs of eggnog.
Of course the snowy weather that plans to descend on us only encourages one to stay tucked inside the office, cozy and warm, with tasty snacks on hand. A couple extra cookies, days spent inside…this behavior can drain your brain of its creativity and quietly sabotage your productivity.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
Think back to the last time you felt stuck on a project. What did you do? Stare at your computer screen? Drafting board? Notepad? Telephone? No matter how hard you willed your brain to think, your idea tank was empty. To add insult to injury, as you sat there the clock kept ticking, a persistent reminder of the approaching deadline.
Not a fun memory, is it? Here’s the good news: mental blocks are not a result of a wilted creativity but rather a function of how your brain is performing at that time.
The best news: you have complete control over the actions that will keep your brain and productivity functioning at an optimum level.
1. What to do: Move it! Unless your project is due, like NOW, the best thing you can do to guarantee your best effort is to leave it and go for a walk. Even a fifteen minute active stroll is sufficient.
Why: Studies show exercise improves cognitive functions. Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. According to Medina:
- Exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. One of the most interesting findings of the past few decades is that an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness.
- Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.
2. What to do: Have a glass of water. Even if you’re hungry.
Why: One of the first symptoms of dehydration is mental confusion and sleepiness. Plus, Americans often confuse thirst with hunger which only contributes to most of us not drinking enough water to keep our brains functioning in top form.
3. What to do: Stop multi-tasking!
Why:Multitasking decreases your productivity. True! Gregory Kellett, cognitive neuroscience researcher and author of the Lumosity brain blog explains, “Every time you switch to a different activity, you must give up a moment to shift your attention to the new task at hand. Overall, doing more than one thing slows you down.”
In other words, you lose time switching from one task to another and the amount of time increases with the complexity of the action. Studies show multitaskers lose up to 20-40 percent of their productivity.
So, take a walk, drink some water (not soda), and focus on one task at a time. Pretty simple. The hard part is remembering to actually do them when the moment calls.
That means I have to improve my memory! I think I’ll go get a glass of water.