1. Stop checking your phone the minute you wake up. Phone first things means starting your day in a reactive mode, and increases the chances that you’ll procrastinate later in the day.
2. Disable all digital notifications – your laptop and your phone. Each ping or pop-up diverts precious neural resources and causes a perilous drop in IQ.
3. Check your inboxes no more than once an hour. More than that and you’ll not only be distracted, you’ll also be running the risk of elevated cortisol levels and perpetual anxiety.
4. Work in 60-90 minute *uninterrupted* sprints, and then have 10-15 minute breaks. When you have a break, have a proper one: get up, stop working, shift state, do something different.
5. Have a deadline for work each day, and stop checking your inboxes after that. Healthy boundary setting is key here, so have the conversations with your team, if you’re unclear about ‘permission to disconnect’.
6. Stop multimedia multi-tasking (watching TV with your phone in your hand). This is the equivalent of training your brain to be distracted. It shrinks your anterior cingulate cortex, further eroding your brain’s ability to sustain its attention.
7. Put your phone away when you’re with other people. Be fully present with the people you care about. Remember the philosopher, Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
8. Give your brain at least an hour with no phone before bed. This screen-free window before sleep will aid melatonin production and speed up sleep onset.
9. Do a ‘brain sweep’ once a week: get a pen and paper (or equivalent), and clear your mind of all to-dos, tasks and errands. This is absolutely necessary to manage cognitive overload and internally fragmented attention.
10. Practise meditation or mindfulness. Studies show these can increase the grey matter density in your anterior cingulate cortex and consequently strengthen your focus. These practices are the most effective forms of ‘brain training’ exercises we know of.
* Your attention is the most valuable thing you’ve got – and it’s more fragile and limited than many people realise. Be exceedingly deliberate with how you use it 🧠💪
What are the strategies that work for you and your brain?