"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to mast anything in particular." Tony Robbins, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and life coach.
Can you tell if you are a dabbler? How do you know?
Are you running on full speed forward involved in starting or building your business while chairing a local community club committee, volunteer coaching on weekends for your child’s volley ball team, and sitting on the board of a charitable organization? Well, you just might be a dabbler. You might be energized by doing all this or, you might be exhausted and wondering why you don’t have the energy you used to and why you’re no longer having fun. Either way, with this type of schedule, it is almost physically impossible to have dedicated focus on your business.
Some people have a seemingly unending amount of energy and seem to have their finger in every pie. You may be one of these people, or you know someone like this. The issue is, with energy and brain power scattered over such a wide spectrum of activities, as much as you might want to think of it as networking and getting your business better known by contributing to community events, you are more likely to wear out before you build a sound, sustainable business.
Multi-tasking is something most people are familiar with. People used to brag about their multi-tasking abilities. Some still do. The problem is, with scattered functions comes scattered focus.
The latest brain research is telling us, that the brain fatigues just like our muscles. If we keep doing the same thing - whether scanning websites, catching up the book keeping, researching products and services, sewing til our fingers are raw, our brain will eventually tire, and our productivity will begin to fall dramatically. But…we may not notice.
How Your Brain Works
The human brain functions better when we focus on one thing at a time, for specific periods of time, then switch to a completely different activity. New developments in functional brain scans have allowed researchers to see, in 3D, the brain at work in real time. They can now see what happens to the synapses (electrical impulse connections in the brain and central nervous system) when we are doing something whether physical or mental.
Their conclusions about best practices for healthy brain function simply reinforces what some researchers had already determined in the field of education: the brain functions best when given rests and breaks to do something physical between periods of 20 - 45 minutes of mental activity such as studying, listening, reading, etc.
The optimum period for sustained mental activity appears to be 20 minutes. After that, the brain begins to fatigue - whether you notice it or not. Brain metabolism is the determinant here. the biochemicals necessary to brain function get used up, and brain function slows. Multi-tasking is not the way to manage this, according to the research.
Can’t Afford to Do One Thing at a Time? Think Again.
One thing at a time means complete focus on one demand on your thinking brain at a time. This does not mean we cannot be aware of what is going on around us. Those with home offices and small children (or puppies and kittens), know that our virtual antennae are needed to track sounds that tell us when they are into mischief or trouble. Similarly, our sense of smell alert system will tell us when the pot is boiling dry on the stove as we work to finish that last item for the business - or the last blog.
These interruptions can be both frustrating and, incredibly, a blessing, for the brain - if, and only if, you turn away from what you were just doing, and focus completely and wholly on the need in front of you - child, dog, burning pot, etc. Two minutes of this distraction can actually help your brain reboot so that when you return to what you are doing, your focus is actually improved.
In these scenarios, different parts of the brain, other than the thinking part of the brain, are engaged and on constant watch duty to alert you to danger. This happens in a completely different area in the brain.
So, depending of course on the frequency and timing, interruptions can actually improve your output. So reign in your irritation, and welcome those interruptions.
Primitive Brain and Alert Functions
These previous examples involve, as I have noted, a different part of the brain. The primitive part of the brain at the back of your head and neck area, is geared to constantly monitoring your surroundings and set to send out warning alerts that take little thought. Some central portions deep within the brain are also involved in immediate response actions - think fight or flight reactions.
The Thinking Brain - The Cortex
The Cortex (outer layer of the brain) is where thought processes take place. The Pre-frontal Cortex (PFC) behind your forehead is where decision-making processes, evaluation and analysis functions take place, particularly human interaction.
Our Brain Outcomes
If we continue to do one task to excess (greater than the 20 - 45 minutes optimum period), regardless of what that task is - physical or mental, we risk missing something, forgetting something, or losing the kind of top reaction time needed to deal with some emergent situations. When exhaustion sets in because you have been working 18 - 20 hours a day without a break, many of your central nervous system functions begin to deteriorate (More car accidents happen when people are tired than when they have had one too many drinks.).
The brain needs rest and change just like the rest of our body does. And just like every person, every brain is different. But the research shows that for all those differences, the brain function operates like a muscle: do the same thing for too long, and the muscle (or in this case, the brain) begins to tire.
Changing up your tasks after working 20 - 40 minutes on one task:
from reading to organizing your office
from accounting to walking outside for a few minutes of fresh air
from marketing analysis to playing with your child or pet
The examples above are all ways of relieving brain strain!
The objective is getting you back into a better groove when you go back to tackle the job, the business books, or the research you need to do.
Changing up your approach to your business and your life and time, will help you build resilience, so the chance that you will not only survive but thrive may make the difference between successfully building a business and living a life you love, and burning out and losing your business.