Monday, March 11, 2013

Less Noise More Signal: Training your Brain


Let’s face it.  We’re all addicts. 

The brain naturally desires the path of least resistance  From YouTube binges to Facebook obsessions our inner Id is always trying to take the easy way out.  It’s the mental equivalent of eating cotton candy all day long.

All the digital activities the mind gravitates toward tend to utilize a minor percentage of your processing power.  The more time you spend engaged in this type of activity the more your brain becomes accustomed to operating at this low level.  The more you engage in passive activities the harder it is to snap back to doing more active mentally challenging tasks.

It’s not a respite – it’s a relapse.

The mind operate off of a baseline and resists any deviation for the better. Each time you indulge in the guilty pleasure you train your brain to get lazier.  However, over time, it’s also possible to train your brain to gravitate to be active and seek out stimulation. 

Furthermore, from my experience (admitted backed by no science)the minor use of brainpower is the most pernicious state of being.  You don’t progress (learn/grow/build) and you don’t rest (recover/reenergize).  It’s a no mans land of passive decline.

So what’s the answer? Clean living! Remove the passive engagement portion of your life.  Train your brain to work or rest.  Not muddle in between.  You’ll find you get more done, feel less stressed, and will increase mental acuity.


Some tools to help you on your way:

image BlockSi  - A pretty good parental control toolset.  Block your most addictive sites (youtube/hulu/netflix etc).  It’s not bullet proof (since you’ll know the password), but having to go in and un-block something or open a new browser type will help break a habitual activity (alt-tabbing to FB/favorites).

imageRescueTime – A great desktop app that tracks all activity on your computer.  It provides analytics that let you know where you spend your time.  This is your answer to ‘where did the day go?’.  Also – it will help you align your intended priorities with daily activity (how much time do you spend on email vs eclipse/powerpoint/excel?)

Dubious?  Try it for a week.  It will be hard to stick to it 7 days straight, but at the end you’ll be amazed at how quiet the voice of temptation has become.

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