Learn why we misplace things and how to improve your focus
By Janet Ashforth
Every day it’s the same. You wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and get ready to head out for your day. You’re right on time. Then you spend five minutes looking for your keys. You walk out the door and realize you almost forgot your lunch. So you lose another two minutes going back to grab your lunch. You hit the road, finally on your way, and realize you don’t have your cell phone. Ugh! Now you’re running ten minutes late. Sound familiar?
Distracted is The New Normal
So why does it seem so difficult to get out of the house on time? And why don’t you remember where you put your stuff at night? According to researchers, it’s because you’re distracted. Why are you distracted? In a word, technology.
Technology has certainly made life more convenient, but the price you pay is distraction. Our modern tech requires your brain to process multiple streams of information at once, which your brain is very bad at. In fact, the ability to multitask is a myth.
Technology tempts you to switch tasks frequently. While you’re at work or in class, you may be tempted to check your email. Or you check social media to see how many likes your latest posting has received. But, your frequent task switching could have permanently negative effects on your brain.
Switching frequently from one task to another is a form of multitasking that has high costs. According to researchers, there’s a “switch cost” you pay every time you change tasks. Since your brain is not designed for multitasking, it goes through two distinct phases every time you switch tasks. The first stage is known as “goal shifting” (deciding to do one thing over another). The second stage is known as “rule activation”(your brain switches the rules for one task to the rules for the next).
And multitasking actually lowers your IQ. In a study conducted at the University of London, researchers found participants IQ scores were lowered by as much as 15 points. That’s the IQ difference between an adult and an eight-year-old. Multitasking is also thought to possibly cause brain damage.
The cognitive impairment associated with multitasking was thought to be temporary, but Neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh found that multitaskers show less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area that controls empathy, emotional control and cognition. In addition, multitasking can actually make you worse at performing single tasks.
Improve Your Focus
There is good news. You can take back your brain and slowly improve your ability to focus. Improving your focus will help you keep track of your house items. Researchers suggest you set aside blocks of time for your work, school, or anything else you need focus to accomplish.
During these blocks of time, commit to turning off your cell phone, email and text alerts. Log-off of your social media accounts and focus on just one task.
This may feel uncomfortable at first. So start with shorter blocks of time and gradually increase the length of time you spend distraction free. After a focus block, reward yourself by taking a break and checking all the tech you have been ignoring.
Get Your Stuff Together
There are a few tricks you can employ to help you keep track of your stuff. The most effective way is to assign a home for every single item that you find yourself frequently misplacing. And then put that item back where it lives every single time you’re finished with it. Be patient if you forget. It will take some time before this becomes a habit for you.
Keep a bin or basket by your front door and toss items into it that need to go with you the next day. Your purse, briefcase or backpack. A water bottle or laptop. And even your lunch box will all be in one place when you head out for the day. You can even tag important items with a Cube tracker to ensure you’ll always know where your stuff is.
If you only get one important take-away from these tips, it should be to protect your brain. You don’t have a backup. Modern life demands more than your brain is designed to cope with. And you’re the only one who can decide when it needs rest and how much work it can accomplish for you.
Janet Ashforth is a certified Personal Trainer, Licensed Massage Therapist and meditation instructor. She has worked at several popular gyms and owned her own fitness company. Janet helped countless individuals maintain or regain their health and wellness. She also writes about food, nutrition, cooking and baking and is a “real food” advocate.