“Either you run the day or the day runs you.’ – Jim Rohn
By Lorraine Morris
I would like to zone in this week on the areas related to cognitive needs i.e. Focus Time, Time in and Down time. I am aware that it is purple paradise ie: many streets are currently layered with jacaranda flowers in full bloom and I have always believed that the Jacaranda tree should be called exam tree because it is when many people are sitting for their final exams of the year.
There’s an old saying in Zimbabwe, that basically says “if you haven’t started studying by the time the jacarandas have bloomed, you’re going to fail”. I’m hoping though that you have started studying and that with the few tips I am going to share with you today, you will indeed excel.
So, let’s talk a little more about Focus Time. In this zone, you need to spend uninterrupted time focusing on the task at hand.
It’s when you block out time in your diary to focus fully on the subject at hand e.g. studying for your upcoming maths exam.
It means putting your phone in the other room so that you are not distracted with notifications or Whatsapp messages, it’s really about you making yourself unavailable for things other than what you are preparing for. This is referred to as monotasking which makes you more of a productive person.
Many times, we have thought that multitasking is a “thing” but research has shown that when we try and multi-task it takes as much as 40% more time than focusing on one task at a time.
On average, a person can concentrate for up to 45 mins at a time, and then you would need to take a break before you start the process again.
The purpose of the break-in your routine is to help you create long-term memory.
The trick is to ensure that you have a routine, a regular habit that you follow. I remember when I was back in High School, I would get home from school probably around 4.30pm. I would have something to eat, take a quick nap (p.s. this is good for you as it enables your prefrontal cortex to grow), then I would study between 7pm – 9pm (with few breaks in between), by doing this daily what I did was create a rhythm and a habit.
I didn’t have to invest energy in deciding when I was going to focus because it was a habit that I had begun to do repeatedly.
Let’s zone in on downtime, It’s important to be intentional about what you plan to do e.g. will it be watching TV, exploring the outdoors or taking some time to detox? In the same way that you plan how many hours at a time you will study you need to plan how much time you will take to just relax.
I would like to stress the fact that relaxing during exam time is not wrong – you just need to plan when you will do it, the power is in the integration of your focus time and your downtime, if you decide its best to cut out all forms of downtime you will begin to associate education with punishment which is not the case.
The last zone in terms of cognitive needs is time in, the encouragement here is to add mindful moments to your day. Mindfulness is all about paying conscious attention to and becoming aware of the present moment, often using the breath, meditation on the work of God and prayer. When one meditates It teaches one the ability to accept and sit with difficult feelings in the same way that we can with happy ones.
It helps one to see things from a different perspective, without judgement and with kindness to oneself. If you have a diary, take a moment during this time to write down your thoughts and your feelings, journaling is a very powerful tool that helps one’s cognitive abilities.
I hope this gives you a few tips on what you can do to finish strong during this exam season, remember you run the day or the day runs you – the power is in your hands.
Just to summarise the 7 nutrients I introduced you to are:
- Focus Time: This refers to when we focus on our tasks in a goal-oriented way, it’s about ensuring that you do not multi-task (p.s. multi-tasking is not good for the brain).
- Physical Time: This refers to when we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.
- Play Time: This refers to when we allow ourselves to just have fun, be playful and be creative. When we play, we in actual fact help our brains to make new connections
- Connecting Time: This refers to when we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry. This is one of the things that we missed a lot during the hard lockdowns when we were unable to meet and connect with others.
- Down Time: This refers to when we let our minds wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge. Think of this as the time when you sit on the couch and watch your favourite soapie or are out in the garden just enjoying soaking in the sun.
- Time In: This refers to when we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.
- Sleep Time: This refers to when we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
Have a good week ahead, remember you can change only if you want to!
Lorraine Morris is Co-Founder Musikana Foundation – firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram @musikanafoundation
Revive and Thrive Hub – email@example.com Instagram @reviveandthrivehub
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