Wellness Relief for the Fragmented Mind

Motivational Speaker Jody Urquhart

The Fragmented Mind

The other day I discovered I can simultaneously conduct official business on the telephone while waxing my car and drinking Kool-Aid. It’s true like most people I multitask a lot, but who can blame me? There are only 24 hours in a day. Sometimes I just need inspiration to get through 10% of my to-do list.

The trouble with doing more with less and the inevitable multitasking forces us to focus narrowly on doing several things at once. Studies show that the constant switching involved in multitasking increases the level of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and perpetuates the stress cycle.

Here is the real conundrum...

*****It is impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time. Try these quick math equations: add 15 plus 9 and 7 plus 12 at the same ( simultaneously) in your head. You can't. The human brain doesn't come with "dual processors" like computers do. Where multitasking works is with mindless activities that you can do without much thought. While you are doing these tasks you are switching focus from one task to the next( manual multitasking, not intellectual). Many studies suggest multitasking makes us less productive.

Through a variety of experiments using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity, Scientists have discovered the downfalls to multitasking.

Multitasking affects your brain in several ways. At the most basic level, the constant switching it requires—energizes regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. We concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on.

Multitasking shapes our brain to process information not necessarily understand or remember it.

Multitasking, a definition: “The attempt by human beings to operate like computers, often done with the assistance of computers.”

Downfalls of multitasking:

It increases errors and mistakes,

decreases productivity,

decreases our intellectual capacity and actual thought we put into our work a

nd decreases innovation.

What to do about it?

1)Limit multitasking to brainless activity where errors are less likely or fatal

2) Everyday spend conscious time being innovative, engaging a broad, innovative, positive perspective. Limit distractions while doing innovative work. Focus.

When multitasking and focusing narrowly, we often have little ability to accept unrelated thoughts. We ignore information, gut feelings and clear indications in order to stay focused( distracted really). In doing so we may completely miss signs that we are headed in the wrong direction and waste time and energy (Whoops- that’s not car wax its shoe polish). Mistakes happen.

As a result of our multitasking instincts- I believe throughout the day we categorize information, and label people, situations and events to give the world meaning, create distinctions and predict outcomes. These mental patterns become habitual and we no longer question our perception we just take it as reality (my neighbor keeps staring at me, he thinks I’m crazy)

Tunnel Vision

This compartmentalized thinking where you only see things the way you think they should be can completely ignore reality. This tunnel vision leads to outdated results, a build up of negative emotion and stress and relationship strain. Things may be going terribly wrong and you ignore all the signs (hmmm…my car is turning a funny color, this must be normal)

Applied Curiosity

The way to get out of this rut is to focus and spend time thinking about single innovative things. Challenge yourself to be curious and accept multiple possibilities.  Resist the urge to make quick judgments or assumptions about what people intend or want. (i.e. - Of course he’d think that- he’s an accountant) Seek multiple interpretations for people’s behavior. In other words, consciously manage how you take in information, how you interpret it, and how you react. You can't do this and  file your taxes or gossip with your mother at the same time.

Don’t become strongly attached to your ideas because this can become a crutch, consider other possibilities. Every now and again laugh at your ideas so you don’t take them too seriously (Next time i'll wear leg warmers and give him something to stare at).

Pay attention to your gut feeling. If your gut says something is wrong, listen to it. Most of the time it means you are ignoring reality. (I forgot to call my grandma on her birthday I’m sure she won’t care).

Engage a different part of your brain. When you are focused on detail, more often than not you have a short sided perspective. This is when you need inspiration and positive emotion.

All about the chemistry-

Inspiration, laughter or any positive emotion stimulates neural circuits that increase electrical activity in our left prefrontal cortex, leading to arousal of the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. Next, hormones are released including oxytocin in women and vasopressin in men. These activate another set of hormones that lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. The person then feels happy, optimistic, positive, or amused. Once in this emotional state, a person is more likely to perceive events as positive rather than negative. A broader positive perspective results and can change the course of your day.

Make positive goals. People often create negative goals that focus on the wrong thing. For example- My goal is to lose weight. This negative goal arouses defensiveness, stress and the sympathetic nervous system. Instead my goal should be to feel vibrant and look good. With a positive goal the parasympathetic nervous system can be aroused and provide positive energy for action. (Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence)

Organizations tend to focus on the negative (not meeting goals, decreasing budgets, turnover) which focuses our energy as a team on the wrong thing and perpetuates the negative cycle.

Laughter’s Charm

A key to staying positive is to laugh. Laughter give you control over your brain chemistry

Laughter has a purging effect on stress hormones. Nurturing your sense of humor is a key weapon in your arsenal against the stress hormone rushes.

According to a recent “Professional Work Force” survey by Peter Mc- Laughlin Co, a sense of humor helps on the job in three specific ways:

  1. People with a sense of humor are three times as likely to report top levels of energy as those who don’t have a sense of humor.

  2. Ninety percent of survey respondents believe that having a sense of humor helps them to perform better at work.

  3. People with a sense of humor are half as likely to get anxious or frustrated fixing a problem and are twice as likely to be able to pull themselves out of a bad mood.

Now I have an important business conversation on the phone, wax my car and laugh at my neighbor.

Things that make you go HMMM

Time spent in our life (averages):

 7 years in the bathroom

• 6 years eating

• 5 years in line

• 4 years cleaning house

• 3 years in meetings

• 2 years searching for things

• 8 months opening junk mail

• 6 months at red lights

• 40 minutes a day talking to our spouse

• 30 minutes a day talking to our kids

Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimate that some 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries may be caused by drivers on cell phones each year

 Regular Columns

1) Oh Lighten Up! Your quick, easy lighten up idea for the month

  • Protect your workspace with yellow "Crime Scene" tape!

2) Game Spot - a fun quick activity you can use this month at work

  • Tell a story in a made-up foreign language – and translate it as you go along. The first person begins the story with one sentence in a made-up foreign language. The next person in the circle offers an instant translation of that sentence. There is no such language, so you have to make something up inspired by whatever it is that the first person has said.

  • Now the third person gives us the next sentence in the foreign language. And the fourth person translates that. And so on, round the circle, until the story is complete.

3) Appreciation Station. A way to recognize, celebrate and appreciate people

  • Ask people how they like to be appreciated- When you are hiring a new employee, ask the people to share her most memorable recognition moment—when she was honored for above-and-beyond behavior. Ask what she did to earn the reward, what she was given, and how it made her feel.

  • Not only is this a great way to uncover an applicant’s strengths, it also can give you an idea of what types of rewards will be valued by this person in the future.

  • Remember some people WONT WANT to be recognized publicly, it could embarrass them so you have to ask. Others thrive in being in the spotlight

4) Art of the Unexpected- Some funny simple tasteful pranks and other unexpected things you can try if you dare to throw people off guard and keep it fun

  • Yell to someone, “here catch…”and throw an invisible ball
  • Stand facing the corner at work until someone asks you why
  • Write your name in permanent marker on all your underwear
  • Break into a friend's house and clean it

Jody Urquhart

Jody Urquhart is a professional speaker who compels stressed-out and fed-up professionals to rediscover their passion, purpose & sense of play. To discuss having Jody speak at your next staff retreat, conference or meeting please call us at 1(877) 750-1900 or email jody@idoinspire.com