It is a tiresome saying, but quite often, we hear the weary utterance of the following phrase: “I wish there were more hours in the day.” Our daily schedules, our daily responsibilities, our daily objectives, can coalesce into an outright conflagration in the mind; circumscribing our ability to think with clarity, muddling our focus, decaying the prudence of our judgment. How best to manage the prosaic redundancies that flitter about your day? What strategies can you potentially implement to cleanse your headspace of irksome anxieties and tedious tasks? How can you achieve a degree of somnolence, quietude, and contentment within the framework of your cognition? We’ll examine here several ways to propitiously manage your cognitive balance at work, ideally in a fashion that allows you to dedicate mental resources to attaining long-term objectives that have long lain dormant or forestalled.
Organize Your Workspace – Cognitive Balance at Work
A cluttered physical space, whether it’s your bedroom, your automobile, or indeed, your workspace, can lead to a concomitantly cluttered mind. One of the first signs I notice about people is their physical comportment, the tidiness of their appearance, and it usually concords with the maintenance of their external surroundings. The two are reflections of one another.
The physical environment we occupy, how we individually choose to impose structure upon it, is a baseline indicator of a person’s temperament. There’s a reason your supervisors are so insistent on mandating punctuality, that they install dress codes, and that they assign deadlines. It is to inculcate discipline, a requisite forerunner to productivity. Working in a space without orderly regulations causes disarray and frenetic cognitive processing.
Some tips on how to staunch such disarray and clear your mind include:
- Organizing each drawer, each cabinet, for a specific role, a particular use and purpose.
- Structure your computer desktop. It should not present a cacophony of visual stimuli, and icons. Rather, your files should be compartmentalized in concordance with your myriad obligations. It is much easier to open a sub-folder, review pertinent information, and execute a single objective; than haphazardly browsing through a drive, containing multifarious items, thereby convoluting your cognitive focus.
- At the conclusion of each workday, review your office to ensure it has retained its proper homeostasis. It should be tidy, reflecting a functional internal state for the proceeding day.
Only minimal action is necessary to array your office in a raiment of procedural serenity. Define the protocol for organizing your workspace in your own proprietary way; but ensure that, first and foremost, every method you implement increases your mental clarity and expediency in order to produce a cognitive balance at work.
Decorate Your Office
If organizing your office is singularly imperative to crafting a cognitively functional mind, it is equally important to decorate your office in a way that promulgates serenity. For much of the workday, your office will be your home, as deflating as that may be to consider. And, during your daily encounters with stressors of every stripe, it can be comforting to glance around your workspace at sources of comfort and prosaic beauty.
Whatever it is that softens your rigidity, that bespeaks your own individuality, advertise it proudly in your office. It could manifest as pictures of your loved ones, a piece of art invoking your own creative spirit, or a canvass of quotes that motivate you to work more industriously.
Something as trivial as a sterile office can imbue you with feelings of stress and negativity, promulgating the release of cortisol, the seemingly ubiquitous stress hormone. If your office is a dark and morbid place, you will feel the inevitable, if not entirely tangible, consequences. Many studies, in fact, have determined that spaces providing natural light and greenery cultivate productivity among workers.
Take some time, therefore, to become the interior designer of your own workspace. Make it somewhere you would like to be, even if other destinations are perambulating about your mind. Conceive of it as a small reflection of your home, a place where you can process things seamlessly.
Sleep, to put it bluntly, is critical to your cognitive function. Sleep deprivation is known to inhibit judgment, proactively contribute to depression, elevate your risk of heart disease, and lead to the release of cortisol in excess. None of this is magnanimous for your overall health, let alone being a competent worker.
Matthew Walker, a Professor of Neurology and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, once plainly stated “In case you’re wondering the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.”
Living in the digital age already compromises one’s attention span. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and do not deviate from it. Heed the admonitions of your body and rest. Work will be there in the morning.
Have Healthy Snacks Available
There is no discounting the connection between proper nutrition and mental focus. A healthy diet can restore a beleaguered mind quickly. While It is tempting to bear our full weight into our work, rather than attend to quotidian things like diet; neglecting proper nutrient consumption can be harmful neurologically.
Dementia, and associated neurological disorders, are on the rise in the United States. Perhaps this may merely coincide with the “graying” of America, but there are nevertheless simple dietary strategies one can integrate in order to stall cognitive decline. Scientists have learned that individual nutrients, such as vitamins, polysaturated fatty acids and flavonoids display potential in improving cognitive performance. Moreover, evidence also shows that “single foods,” or “simple foods,” like berries, avocados, and olive oil are also effective in militating against neurological decay.
There are several “blue zones” in the world, in fact, where diet is regarded as the locus of their low mortality. One such place is Okinawa, Japan, where they primarily consume nutrient-rich “superfoods” such as sweet potatoes, whole grain, fish, and vegetables. More locally, here in California, Loma Linda is also considered a “blue zone,” and citizens who live there strangely place on emphasis on consuming nuts – Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc. As it turns out, nuts have been proven to lower cholesterol, inhibiting heart disease among elders. Any of these suggestions would prove to be a sufficient antidote to the doldrums of the workday, ripening your energy.
When you go to the grocery store, therefore, ensure you include in your shopping list a generous number of healthy snacks. “Snacking” has a negative connotation, akin as it could be to gluttony, but if one exercise prudence and judgment in administering the snacks at their disposal, it can be very beneficiary to your overall health and that important cognitive balance at work.
Turn Off Your Phone – Cognitive Balance at Work
The digital age is a conundrum. It certainly does improve the efficiency with which we can communicate. It also detrimentally ameliorates our ability to focus. Information can be diffused at such a rapid rate, it becomes impossible to effectively retain it, let alone extrapolate it to a constructive end.
I, for instance, am constantly quashed with texts, e-mails, Skype messages, and social media notifications. That seems a pithy complaint, but numerous studies have shown that such stressors can adversely impact your mental health. A UK study revealed that we check our phones, on average, at least 85 times a day, accumulating a total of 5 hours of screen time. This is seriously deleterious to your cognition. The brain is simply receiving too many stimuli to condense.
Allocate strategic time to turn off your digital devices. Identify a single high-priority task and do not turn on your phone, again, until the tasks you have identified are completed. Certainly, it is unrealistic to completely sever ourselves from the digital forum — Smartphones have almost become an extension of the hand. Still, it is of manifold importance, for your mental and emotional well-being, to set aside several hours where you are unencumbered by the urge to rhapsodically scroll through your phone and focus.