Flexing the Brain Muscles:

The Power of Focused and Un-focused Mind

This year, I finished my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I have always been fascinated with ways to improve my intellectual self as well as other aspects of my life. In order to do that, I have tried multiple ways to achieve better results. Only one plan really stuck with me and worked very well.

I used a program called Pomodoro (The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s). It is pretty simple, you have 25 minutes that you focus on a task then take a 5 min break then start another 25 minutes Pomodoro and focus on another task. At the end of the week, you count the amount of time you spent and evaluate your performance and improve.

One of the important aspects of Pomodoro is its 100% commitment to the 25 min on task. In our everyday life, we are always distracted by cellphone notifications, social media etc. One of the suggestions is to put the cell phone in the silence mode during this practice. The other helpful task is to write down the distracting thoughts that come to mind if they are don’t help your set goal. You can go back to them in the 5 min break or set a few Pomodoros to address them.

I also integrated Pomodoro into my walking habit which also was a very important thinking and relaxing tool.
Putting a Pomodoro for 50 min (work) followed by a 10 min (rest) in our social life can be interesting too. It can relatively force you into avoiding distraction but also the 10 min breaks can make you review about what you learned and apply the learnings to make the social meeting more productive.

Now distraction is not always bad, many great ideas that I had was when my mind was wandering in another space. If you are interested in learning more about the science behind how the brain learns, I recommend checking out Dr. Barbara Oakley’s Coursera page. https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn
Lastly, Focusing and Un-Focusing can help you exercise your brain and unleashes your creative self and more importantly helps you in being more productive. One important ability that Pomodoro’s give you is the practice of consciously being self-awareness about your thoughts which helps you in successfully controlling/redirecting them next time they come around.

Food for Thought:
Can these methods be used by Deep Neural Networks to make better AI (the method of learning and making temporal random connections)? This can possibly lead to an amazing AI system, I would call this system a Curious Deep Mind (CDM) and I am interested in making it if it does not exist already.