We rely on having a sharp mental capacity in order to produce and succeed at work. Executive functions such as focus, memory, time management, and organization are key to accomplishing our goals each day. When we are unable to recollect information, events, and names it can jeopardize our effectiveness at work, as well as our relationships.
According to neuroscientists most people are born with a good capacity for memory, productivity and focus. However, even the sharpest among us can have trouble mastering, much less maximizing our mental capacity, given all of the stressors and distractions in our environment.
Let’s take a look at some of the signs that your mental capacity may be struggling, and what you can do to reignite it!
Red Flags That Your Mental Capacity Needs A Boost
. Repeating the same questions
. Forgetting names or commonplace words
. Taking longer to complete routine tasks
. Missing deadlines
. Misplacing items
. Getting lost while walking or driving to familiar locations
. Experiencing random mood swings
Some Strategies to Increase Your Mental Capacity
Whether you are a manager, employee, entrepreneur, student or just someone who wants to increase your brainpower, there is good news! Like any other muscle in your body, the brain can be exercised and new connections can be formed. In addition, by incorporating some improved work habits and health habits into your life you will be able to work smarter!
1. Eliminate Distractions. It seems that our phones and computers are constantly alerting us to incoming information, and that can be hard to ignore. Yet so often those notifications that break our flow of concentration turn out to be nothing more than mindless annoyances. Try setting your phone to “airplane mode” and only checking your emails every few hours. When colleagues stop by for a chat, kindly let them know that you need to complete something and will catch up with them later.
2. Manage Stress. Constant stress has a physiological impact. After 30 minutes of persistent stress your body will stop sending extra blood to your brain, resulting in a declined ability to stay alert and focused. Once you relax, your brain connections will regenerate. Give yourself breaks throughout the day to close your eyes, clear your head or meditate. Take a walk, listen to music or go to a relaxing setting such as a park during your lunch break.
3. Prioritize Your Work. Before you begin working, organize tasks in order of importance. By breaking down long-term goals into short-term goals and ultimately into a to-do list; you can focus and manage your time more efficiently. Try to avoid multitasking. Complete one task before beginning another.
4. Use Mental Exercises. Simple mental exercises can form connections in your brain. For example try using your non-dominant hand when combing your hair or buttoning your coat. Drive a different route to work or when running errands. If you tend to forget names or facts, try using visualization so you can associate the name with a physical feature or image.
5. Repeat Names and Facts. By verbalizing, you use a different part of your brain. Did you ever notice that you tend to retain information more effectively when you read aloud? When introduced to a new person, try to use their name a couple of times during the course of the conversation. This will not only “lock the name in” but it also helps to forge a connection with that individual. People naturally respond to the sound of their name and appreciate being acknowledged.
6. Start Your Day with Exercise. Just 20 minutes of activity will get your blood flowing and give you the head start you need to tackle the challenges of the day. Consider getting up a little earlier so you can take a walk, do yoga or even stop at the gym.
7. Include Some Good Fat in Your Diet. The brain is made up of approximately 60 percent fat, and can therefore benefit from healthy fats in your diet such as nuts, avocados, salmon and eggs. It is important to your health in general, to choose whole foods and limit processed foods, sugar and alcohol.
8. Get Adequate Sleep. A good night’s sleep is critical to your physical and cognitive health. When you are not rested it is difficult to think clearly, focus, or find the energy you need to perform even the simplest and most routine tasks.
9. Fun Brainwork Activities. Playing board games such as chess, Scrabble or Boggle provide some good exercise for the brain. Or you may opt for more individual choices such as crossword puzzles, jumbles or Sudoku. There are also many brain-challenging games available online.
The demands at home and at work can seem to multiply overnight and become overwhelming. With so much to juggle, your brain can go into “overload” and the ability to focus and organize can become challenging. But the good news is you can get off the treadmill and start moving forward. With some minor adjustments to your self-care and work routines you can increase your mental capacity and work smarter every day!