Manage Your Brain to Meet Deadlines

Nowadays everyone seems to suffer from lack of time. You can find thousands of tips how to manage your time better. But before putting those tips into practice ask yourself the following question:

Do I have a power to manage time?

Let’s check the definition of time first. The first result from Google says that time is: “The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”

It doesn’t look like something manageable, quite the opposite — time flies and we can do absolutely nothing about it. So the answer to the question should be:

No, I don’t have power to manage time, but I have a power to manage something else! It’s my brain!

So, what should you do to meet deadlines and be super-productive? Ok, let’s face it. It won’t be easy. I know you’re probably looking for 100 quick and easy tips, but I won’t give them to you. If all these 1001 ways how to [type anything] worked for everyone, we would all be rich, successful and happy. There’s no point in getting frustrated trying to implement all those golden rules, there’s no guarantee they’ll work for you. That’s why I’ll try to show you a different way. A slow but effective one.

The best thing you can do when it comes to becoming successful is investing time and effort in yourself. So try to treat reading this article and implementing the rules described in it as such an investment. Be patient and persistent.

Train Your Brain

The best way to train your brain is by creating habits. It has to take some time to get used to particular behaviors (it is said that a behavior has to be repeated 21 times, day by day to create a habit), but it’s worth an effort. Here are some habits that are proved to increase productivity based on how our brain works.

FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME

From psychological point of view, there’s no such thing like divided attention. You may of course listen to the radio while driving a car, but it doesn’t mean that you’re focused on the former and the latter. Your attention is constantly alternating, jumping from one task to the other. Therefore, divided attention is a myth. Only when focused on one particular task and goal, the brain is able to be efficient. How to stay focused on one thing then? To-do lists are great solution. Choosing one point from the list gives brain a signal that for the next couple of minutes or hours we’re doing this particular thing. The rest of the points is there, waiting patiently.

There’s one benefit of using to-dos that is often forgotten. What it might be? Are the to-do lists useful for organizing multitasking? Perhaps. Are the to-do lists a way to delegate tasks? Perhaps. From my point of view the biggest benefit is that making to-dos from the list disappear is rewarding. Imagine a moment of crossing out all the points from the list — satisfaction and relief. The best thing is that the brain memorizes such moments and connects them with positive emotions. Effort leads to reward. Once you’re brain gets used to it, the motivation to work will be like a snowball. There are only few steps to achieve this:

  1. Make a to-do list.
  2. Work!
  3. Cross out the points on your list.
  4. Repeat it until you’ll be doing this without thinking (it’s a sign that you’ve just created a new habit).

WORK FOR 25 MINUTES

Every 25 minutes you deserve a short break. Again, it’s the matter of how attention works so to be truly focused on a task a break is an absolute must-have. There’s even a simple, funny time management technique called Pomodoro. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you can read about it here: http://pomodorotechnique.com/. What to do during a break? Well, there’s many possible options, but personally I would recommend a few easy ones:

  1. Change position: stand up, if you’re sitting; sit, if you’re lying. When you work in front of the computer (I bet you do, most of the time) the break should be free of interaction with it.
  2. Breathe: take three deep breaths. Brain needs oxygen to work, so give it additional portion during your break.
  3. Drink: take a sip o water. Water makes your blood deliver oxygen faster. You want to work efficiently — drink water.

DO DIFFERENT THINGS

Nowadays, working demands that you are creative. Some professions require it more, some less, but there’s a need for a bit of creativity in every job. To keep yourself in creative mood, the activities we force our brain to do have to vary. Otherwise, we quickly become bored and as a result the ability of creative thinking decreases. You can only be creative when you’re truly interested in and passionate about your work. How to keep that interest? By constantly learning new skills and trying different activities.

I found learning new skills very refreshing. When I started to teach at the university, it was a challenge for me, but at the same time it was extremely rewarding. Before, my day was like: client, project, research, wireframe, design, client, project etc. And suddenly I had to organize my knowledge and „sell it” to students. My brain got this additional activity which forced me to think in many different ways — my creativity increased! What would be my advice then?

  1. Take up a new hobby. Learning new skill makes your brain produce more connections within cells and it gives an amazing result!
  2. Learn. Gain new knowledge throughout your whole life. It’s the easiest way to stay sharp.
  3. Meet new people. It may sound obvious, but yes, meeting people and getting to know their points of view is refreshing.

FIND YOUR GOLDEN HOURS

It is said that during the whole working day the brain is extremely efficient only for two hours. Theoretically, the are supposed to be in the morning but it depends on individual preferences and daily routines. You can discover when your pick of efficiency is by observing yourself and your productivity. It won’t perhaps be easy, but the answer will come sooner or later and it will really be worth the effort. Once you’ll find your golden hours follow these steps:

  1. Assess the difficulty of your tasks.
  2. Schedule the most challenging or important tasks for your golden hours.
  3. Get it done!

Final Thought

Managing the brain isn’t an easy task. Nobody said it will be. It’s a complex project that needs to be in progress throughout the whole life. But it is rewarding. Do you want to be smart and successful? Give it a try!