During stressful times, our prefrontal cortex becomes overwhelmed. This is the part of the brain that’s responsible for rational decision making, reasoning and problem solving. So in times of stress, we often behave and respond in ways that are automatic and reactive rather than doing so in a more thoughtful and strategic manner.
Being bombarded by constant information is not new. Technology has been around for years now. Gone are the days when no one could reach you after working hours.
However, with the recent COVID-19 crisis, the amount of information coming in seems exponential. People are spending more time on social media, connection can only be from a distance, which means more Zoom and phone calls and free webinars are everywhere you turn.
When our brains are overloaded with information, they inevitably become overwhelmed with all there is to process. This can lead us to feel stressed, which, in turn, can lead us to a more automatic way of functioning.
We pick up our phones when we had never had the intention of doing so. We share our frustrations in ways that are less respectful than usual. We focus on tasks that don’t actually align with our priorities.
Have you noticed any of this at all lately?
Perhaps you feel more sluggish and you’ve having a hard time focusing. You might be more worried about whether you’re making the right decisions. Perhaps you’re lacking some of the creativity you’re used to experiencing. These are all signs of the stress that our brains are under and how much we are truly processing.
After all, we’re faced with constant changing circumstances right now.
But the thing is, there is one thing, one single thing that you can commit to today that will help you to improve your focus.
Learn to drown out the noise.
Drowning out the noise doesn’t mean pretending that we aren’t living in a world of uncertainty or that everything will be just fine. It simply means making conscious decisions about when and for how long, we expose ourselves to the noise.
As this crisis started a few weeks ago, I too found myself back into my reflexive patterns. I know how hard it is to feel like you don’t know what the future holds. But if you take these steps, you’ll slowly be able to start stepping out of the automatic patterns in your day that are not serving you.
1. Be conscious of how often you’re exposing yourself to the news.
While all want to know the current COVID-19 news. It affects our health, our employment and our financial situation. Being up to date helps inform our own personal decision making as circumstances change. However, there’s a difference between knowing what’s going on and knowing all of the details of exactly what’s happening in every region, right as it happens.
Limit yourself to reading news updates once a day. Then shut it down from there. Step away from reading everyone debate their opinion about news updates on social media. I promise that won’t take you to good places. If you find yourself reading article after article on the same topic, that’s a good sign that it’s time to shut it down.
2. Examine what’s driving your decisions.
It’s tough knowing where to focus our attention right now. No one can predict the future, so no one knows with certainty which decisions are going to take you in a direction that will align with how this crisis will eventually end. There are simply no answers. Stop for a moment before making decisions and ask yourself if it takes you in the direction you want to be going. Don’t just follow the crowds. Do what makes the most sense to you, for your business.
3. Schedule your priority business tasks into your agenda first.
Rather than responding to everything that comes in, block times in your agenda to focus on the tasks that are most important to you and your business. Set your priorities, schedule them and stick to it. Don’t let others be in full control of your calendar, leaving you no time to focus on what matters to you most.
If you can even take baby steps towards drowning out the noise that’s coming at you from all angles through this crisis, the biggest thing it will bring you is increased calm and focus. This will put you back into a state where your prefrontal cortex is brought back on-line in your decision making, so that you can make the decisions that make the most sense for your business during these difficult times.
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