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Christmas exercise in Cognitive Fitness

If you have participated in any of my coaching or mentoring, you will know how much I emphasis the ‘framework for success’ that I have shared in the past.

It is rewarding to find others now talk about the themes within the framework and not least how to really build strength and depth in the way your mind works to help you.

The attached classic article from the preeminent Harvard Business Review makes for validation of our discussions, but also gives you some additional pointers to remind you how to keep your focus on implementing the suggestions we have covered previously. The simple steps outlined, and critically the numerous benefits they will bring to your personal effectiveness at work, can only be motivators to read, assimilate and act upon the suggestions


Step 1: Understand how experience makes the brain grow.

Step 2: Work hard at play

Step 3: Search for patterns

Step 4: Seek novelty and innovation.

I hope you have the time to read the article. Perhaps, just perhaps, as the Christmas season approaches and moments of calm present themselves when you can sit, relax and read, file this article for some in depth reflection and thoughts about how you might achieve all the steps outlined prior to the new and busy year ahead in 2014. Let’s face it, a bit of ‘cognitive fitness training’ is not a bad thing! I know you will find it helpful with your personal development.

Working smarter – not harder

A perennial question I am asked is "How can I do all I need to do when there isn't enough time?" Followed by, "I just wish I had time to focus on improving my personal performance."

Well the old adage of appyling the Pareto rule still stands the test of time.  A study published in the Psychological Review looking at the difference between good and the bet performers showed focused practice makes perfect!

Summary of the findings published in the Business Insider reads:

Try this for a day: don't answer every phone call. Stop checking your email every two minutes. And leave work early. You'll be astounded at how much more you'll get done.

According to a study published in the Psychological Review conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericcson, the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Then give yourself a break before getting back to work.

skills practice

The trick is staying focused. Ericsson and his team evaluated a group of musicians to find out what the "excellent" players were doing differently. They found that violinists who practiced more deliberately, say for 4 hours, accomplished more than others who slaved away for 7 hours. The best performers set goals for their practice sessions and required themselves to take breaks.

Looking at the chart, you can see that the best violin students practiced with greater intensity just before the lunch hour and then took a break before starting up again at 4 p.m. — whereas the other students practiced more steadily throughout the entire day.

The researchers found that successful people in other professions had similar habits:

"While completing a novel, famous authors tend to write only for 4 hours during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation. Hence successful authors, who can control their work habits and are motivated to optimize their productivity, limit their most important intellectual activity to a fixed daily amount when working on projects requiring long periods of time to complete."

While this may be alright for those working in the arts, it does have very really and tangible application to those in business. it's not that you should save your energy for 3pm or fixed times stated, but more knowing how best you work, combined with application in the time you do use.

Timothy Ferriss gives similar advice in his New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. He stresses the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 law, which is that 80 percent of outputs come from 20 percent of inputs. So stay focused, and you'll do more in less time.

To immerse yourself in this area and find some practical and helpful insights into achieving excellence and the power of practice, I would highly recommend Matthew Syed's book: Bounce.


Recovering from information overload

When we are constantly bombarded by information, when do you find the time to stop? Multitasking decreases productivity so have you found time to hit the ‘reset button’? This article examines why and how we should tackle information overload.

Dean, D and Webb, C (2011) Recovering from information overload. McKinsey Quarterly.

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