You’re working on a project and desperately need to concentrate. At that exact same moment a colleague decides that they need to ask you something. They interrupt. It’s urgent – for them, but not for you. Try as you might to politely signal that you’re busy, they’re not for budging. Your flow, your task and your patience have been mightily tested. How do you deal with colleagues unable or unwilling to decipher your subtle (and not so subtle) “Can’t you see I’m busy?” cues. Fanfare. Meet the ‘FlowLight’
The first in our series of July blogs live from New York examines the latest US research and takes a deep dive into the work we’re doing here with our clients. Here we look at the impact of being overqualified for your role.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re overqualified for your current role or felt that you just weren’t stretching yourself it may be causing you more than irritation. Are you just too big for your boots or is there more to it than that? New research from Florida Atlantic University has uncovered the ‘Big fish in a small pool’ syndrome. Being over qualified may be causing you psychological strain.
AI? Technology? We love it! But, on 1st January French law introduced the ‘right to disconnect’ for employees. A result of negotiations by French union SYNTEC in 2014 the new law means that French companies must negotiate with staff regarding the use of devices outside of working hours.
Open all hours
The Act aims to address the impact of technology, of being constantly connected (and available) on the agenda for HR and L and D professionals. We know from an ever expanding body of research that being connected 24 hours a day has an enormously negative impact on wellbeing. And yet we still do it.
If you are able to answer ‘Yes’ to the following questions you’re probably working in a culture that would benefit from disconnecting;
Can Mindfulness Boost Your Resilience?
Mindfulness. We’ve seen it grace the cover of ‘Time’ magazine and observed it being discussed in everything from ‘The Financial Times’ to the ‘Wall Street Journal’ to the Davos Convention. Panacea for the world’s ills or the latest fad?
Resilience and mindfulness – the research
Despite the criticism, behind all of the hype there is solid research taking place. But does thinking about your thinking really make you more resilient? Research by Badri Bajaj and Neerja Pande published in the latest Personality and Individual Differences Journal, Volume 88 suggests it may well do. They examined the effects of mindfulness on life satisfaction and resilience. 327 undergraduates completed a series of psychometrics to measure mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale or MAAS), resilience (Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, CD-RISC), life satisfaction (Satisfaction with Life Scale, SWLS) and how the reacted to life events (the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, PANAS). This comprehensive battery of assessments examined how quickly the students bounced back from negative life events to how mindfully they went about their daily lives, self scoring responses to questions like “I tend to walk quickly to get where I am going” to “I stay focused under pressure.”
Improved coping mechanisms
The results of Baje and Pande’s research were impressive. They found that resilience was elevated in the students who were mindful suggesting that this might be responsible for many of the benefits that we know are related to mindfulness. The researchers state that “Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down”. The results highlighted how the students with a high level of mindfulness were more resilient, reported being more content and ruminated less upon negative events than the less mindful subjects. Baje and Pande concluded that “Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting drawn into wallowing in a setback”. We know from the work of Carol Dweck and Martin Seligmann that the ability to learn from setbacks and then move on armed with this new learning is one of the key factors in building resilience, optimism and a growth mindset.
Begin your mindfulness journey with our free mindfulness podcasts
The hype (or some of it) might just be true. It seems then that from this study mindfulness may predict resilience and have a substantial effect of subjective wellbeing. If you’re wondering how to develop a mindfulness practice, take a look at some of our free podcasts to start your mindfulness journey.
Hear neuroscientist, Richard Davidson, talk about resilience and mindfulness:
We love to talk about all things mindfulness and resilience at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke mindfulness and resilience training for your organisation.
We uncover the uncomfortable truth about multitasking and why creating ‘Flow’ moments is the answer
The Myth of multitasking
Ever wondered why other people seem to master multitasking whilst you struggle to manage multiple tasks at the same time? If you’re envious of the seven-second attention span of a goldfish, flow moments are for you. Worry no more. Multitasking is and has always been, urban myth.
The truth is out. After decades of articles opining the benefits of multitasking, the ‘how to’s’ ‘Made simples’ and ‘Guides’ – we now know that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t neurologically possible. So when you’re checking your phone whilst talking, reading the paper whilst watching TV or driving and making a call using hands free, you’re not completely focused.
Working faster but producing less
Research by Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California found that when we’re continually distracted we may work faster but we produce less. That would explain the plethora of mistakes we typically tend to make when we’re not completely focused on the task at hand.
Leaving mistakes in your wake?
Dr JoAnn Deak author of ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” states that “When you try to multitask, in the short term it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually at least double the number of mistakes.” Worse still, researchers at Stanford University found that regular multitaskers are particularly bad at it, suggesting that serial multitaskers are easily distracted. Known as ‘switchtasking’ quickly jumping from one task to another, leaving a slew of mistakes in its’ wake. Rather than making us more efficient, switchtasking makes us less accurate and slows us down. The problem is, we’re so convinced that it’s possible, we just don’t notice our performance has suffered due to our lack of focus.
Feeling focus fatigued?
Switchtasking can also elevate our stress levels, ramping up the pressure, feeding into the feeling that there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Research by René Marois at Vanderbilt University, using fMRI found that the brain responds to multiple tasks with a “response selection bottleneck” slowing us down as it attempts to prioritise tasks. Little wonder then, that multitasking impacts our learning and leaves us feeling even more fatigued, contributing to the release of stress hormone nasties like cortisol and adrenaline. Left unchecked, the long-term effects upon our health can be catastrophic.
The negative impact of distractions
It’s all thanks to the default mode network (DMN) a cluster of brain areas that become active when we’re not actively focusing on a specific task. It’s just the way that we’re wired.
David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work says, “A distraction is an alert. It says, orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.” The digital world that we now live in offers a multitude of distractions “It reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ. We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn’t, or spell things wrong.” To add insult to injury, multitasking makes us less intelligent than we might otherwise be.
During a Harvard study examining mind wandering by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert 2,000 adults were tested throughout the day. Killingsworth and Gilbert found they were distracted for a whopping 47 percent of the time. What’s more they were less happy as a result, typically experiencing stressful thoughts or negative rumination. All excellent reasons to ditch switchtasking.
How to focus
So if multitasking is dead, how do we focus? The good news is your brain is a muscle, just like any other muscle in your body. The trick is to train it. Flow is a state of optimum performance and you can develop it. Here’s how.
- Minimise distractions. That means turn the TV off, put your phone down and concentrate on one task at a time. Don’t start a new task until you have finished the last one.
- Identify and work with your circadian rhythms. Keep a log of your energy levels and engagement in tasks throughout the day. Work out when you energy levels best support your focus and plan your day accordingly. Tough tasks that require focus and mental energy should be scheduled at peak energy times, less demanding tasks for when you have a dip in energy. Even better, try and schedule a walk when you know there will be a slump.
- Build that critical brain mass with mindfulness. Start with one breath at a time, focusing on the breath, not breathing deeply or changing your breathing, simply noticing what’s here, right now. Notice your breath as you inhale, feeling the breath moving over your top lip as you inhale, the coolness around the tip of the nostrils. Exhaling, feel the warmth of the breath around the nostrils. If you find that your mind wanders, just notice the distraction and bring your focus back to the breath. The more you practice this mindfulness of breath meditation the more you’ll see results in terms of your ability to focus. We know from research that experienced meditators are better able to quieten down an area in the DMN called the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) than non-meditators. That’s it, now you’re training!
- Get moving. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that aerobic exercise improved the areas of the brain related to attention, both long term and short term. Whether it’s walking, jogging, playing tennis or hitting the gym, investing in physical exercise will reap multiple benefits.
- Drink more (and no, we don’t mean alcohol). A 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration increased levels of inattention in test subjects. It took as little as a 2% drop in hydration to negatively affect the subjects ability to concentrate on cognitive tests. Make sure that you keep hydrated, drinking between 7 to 8 glasses of water a day.
Positive Change Guru are experts in performance at work. We offer bespoke training, mindfulness, resilience and positive psychology courses as 1 day, bitesize espresso or organisational consultancy. Check out our events page http://positivechangeguru.com/events-2/ Contact us at email@example.com we’d love to here from you.
Image courtesy of Patrick Tomasso and those lovely people at Unsplash.