How can I concentrate while studying and working?

 

Not an easy task, right? There’s constantly something that’s standing in our way as we’re trying to pay attention to the task in front of us: there are digital distractions like out mobile phones and incoming emails, and real-life situations like people or environmental noise that disrupt our work. To get around these obstacles, it will help if we practice techniques that can improve our concentration.

Here are 3 techniques that can help you concentrate better on work or study throughout your day.

Technique #1. Get laser-focused on your priorities super early in the day.

To boost concentration in whatever you do, ask yourself this question first thing in the morning: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? This technique trains your brain to focus on which goals are important to you right now, and it forces you to prioritize the goal you believe to be the most relevant in this moment.

Here’s how to do it.

  • First, write it down. Take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker.
  • Next, find a place where you’re most likely to look at it. It can be on your bedroom wall next to your bed or right in front of you when you wake up, or the bathroom wall next to the mirror.
  • Look at the question and ask it out loud. You can do that as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
  • Take a minute to consider what’s on your agenda for the day. Then, pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself.
  • Start working on your one thing early. If your schedule allows, devote the first hour of the day to it. If that isn’t possible, prepare so you’re ready when the time comes to work on it—think of the steps you’ll need to do, how long you expect it to take, and what you will do if you run into a problem. By thinking through the scenario, you set your strategy in place, making your task easier to complete once it’s underway.

Technique #2. Adjust your attitude so that you can remove your personal obstacles.

Before you start doing anything, whether it’s a completely new or a continued task, it helps to remove any obstacles in your attitude towards your work. The biggest benefits are that you get your brain on board with what you’re going to accomplish, you sharpen your focus, and you tune into the true value of the work you are about to do.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Instead of approaching your work as an obligation, turn it into a choice. Nobody can get excited about work if you describe it to yourself as too boring, too hard, or maybe even impossible. Instead, tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about.” The benefit? It gives you a greater sense of control about what you’re doing.
  • Remind yourself of the value of your work with this question: Why am I doing this? Make the connection with the initial reasons for working on something to begin with. It can be to learn a new skill, find out more on a particular topic you’re interested in, study to pass an exam so you can graduate and build a career you’re excited about, solve a particular problem you’re currently dealing with, etc.
  • Increase focus by visualizing what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model; you imagine in detail what you expect to see, learn, or read. Be sure to cover all the steps you will be doing. For example, if you are learning something new, visualize covering a certain amount of chapters, taking notes on the important concepts you discover, writing down questions to research later, etc. By telling yourself a story, you train your brain to anticipate next steps and map out the entire learning process so it’s much easier to manage.

Technique #3. Do your “deep work” early in the morning.

Deep work—any kind of analytical thinking that requires the most concentration, such as reading, writing, analyzing or problem solving—is one of those mental tasks that requires a different type of concentration from the other more tactical things we do on a regular basis. The benefits of tackling deep work early are that it saves you a lot of time, it taps into your willpower first thing in the morning, and it takes advantage of your energy as soon as you wake up.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Set aside 2-4 hours after you wake up for deep work. Many scientists say that this is the brain’s peak performance time. If, for example, you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. You can extend this time to whenever you have lunch, around midday, if you want to maximize your peak performance hours.
  • For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting, checking email, making phone calls, listening to the news, chatting with co-workers or attending meetings.
  • Re-evaluate your peak brain performance time. Think of ways to postpone tasks that are less important to your personal and professional development. If you like to stay on top of the latest news, save this activity for your lunch break. If emails are waiting in your inbox, don’t give in immediately to the urge to read them all—choose 2 blocks of time to read them, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your time, allowing you to concentrate on your top priorities.
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How can I find my passion?

 

Roll up your sleeves, and do a little detective work on yourself!

But don’t be afraid to do this. Actually, you probably already know what things you are passionate about, but this knowledge is hidden somewhere inside your mind. That’s where the detective work comes in, because it’s up to you to find what you’re passionate about and bring it out in the daylight so you can observe it better and see it from all angles.

Just a small tip: if you’re going to try this, then don’t forget to have some fun with it. It’s a creative endeavor. So use your imagination, try out different options, and observe carefully how you react to each one.

Here are 5 ideas to help you identify what you’re passionate about.

Idea #1. Befriend your inner child.

Just because you are now grown up (or if you’re like me, you openly say you’re never going to be one hundred percent grown-up anyway!), that does not mean you should ignore the child you once were and that is still in you. Let’s say you’re a college student, or you’re working on your career, or you’re a parent or an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re currently in, because when it comes to passion, age is irrelevant. That’s why it will benefit you greatly if you acknowledge that your inner child is still there, and ask what it wants to be when it grows up.

Here’s how.

  • Write down at least 5 things your inner child tells you it want to become when it grows up. Take an hour or two for this exercise to really think it through. Don’t limit yourself. Your answers can be as short or as long as you want them to be. The key is in writing it all down.
  • Look over your list, and pick items that still speak to you that you may have forgotten. One, five, or ten years ago, did you have big plans to be a writer, a teacher, a painter, or an athlete? When was the last time you did any of those things? How did you feel when you were doing them? Write this down too.
  • Make a plan to try something out. Specifically, make a plan for the following month to devote some time (for example, 1 hour in the evening, or twice a week if your schedule is full) to do one of the items you’ve selected from the list. If you chose painting, for example, go buy a sketch pad and some watercolors and start with a basic drawing of an object you like or a favorite animal. Or, if you picked a sport you were really into and still like to practice, make the time to go to your local gym and start working out more seriously.

Idea #2. Do something that really makes you feel good.

As a grown-up, it’s quite normal to feel that your life in adulthood is not at all what you once thought it would be. Do you feel like you now only have time for work but not for play? If so, you’re not alone—this is something we all feel from time to time. But there are things you can do to make a change and improve your life for the better. For example, you can create a ritual to follow every day that will give you pleasure.

Here’s how.

  • If you’re an avid reader, make the time to go to the library to pick a novel and read it for 30 minutes each evening before going to sleep.
  • If you love music, learn how to play guitar or drums or the harmonica when you’ve finished with your work or school assignments.
  • If you enjoy writing, make it a priority to write one page in your journal either early in the morning or late at night when you have the time to organize your thoughts over a cup of tea.

Idea #3. Make some space to let happiness into your life.

Here’s another area that goes along with becoming an adult. As we accumulate more responsibilities and our lives get busier and busier, we forget to focus on what’s important. Instead, we often find ourselves getting distracted by obstacles we see in front of us. And as we switch our focus to those obstacles, we become more critical of ourselves, we’re impatient when we don’t perform well, and we get judgmental in evaluating our skills, achievements, even our intelligence. All it takes is to make a couple of small changes to see a difference.

Here’s how.

  • Change your attitude towards yourself by practicing self-compassion. Forgive yourself for mistakes that you made in the past. They’ve already happened, and you can’t go back in time. You can learn from them, but don’t hold on to them. This applies to your relationships, your career, your education, and other areas of your life in which you feel you have underperformed.
  • Actively look for what you can do to become happier. One of Harvard University’s top lecturers, Tal Ben-Shahar, wrote a book called Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Happiness. He focuses on positive psychology and how to apply the concept of happiness to daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in our personal relationships.
  • Allow yourself some time to daydream. Not every minute of the day needs to be scheduled for work, study, personal, or professional responsibilities. Allow yourself to stare out the train window on your daily commute and watch the world go by. Go for a walk without a specific agenda, other than to let yourself be by yourself. Sit somewhere with your headphones and listen to music that brings you peace or gives you energy.

Idea #4. Identify a personal goal you can aspire to.

As you’re working hard to study for a college degree or to build a career, it’s important that you don’t neglect your personal development. Start by asking yourself some tough questions. For example: where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now? Who do you want to become? What is your ideal scenario—perhaps living in a different city or country, having a partner to share your life journey with, being surrounded by smart and interesting people who contribute to your personal growth, or mastering jiujitsu? Get specific, be honest with yourself, then follow up with some action.

Here’s how.

  • Write down your top 3 personal goals. If you want to make sure you have enough time to focus on this activity, then set aside an hour or two this weekend to get serious about it.
  • Under each goal, write 3 things you would need to do consistently to get results. Want to get fit? Your three things could be to educate yourself on what types of food are healthier and can give you energy, set a schedule to work out 4 times a week, and start going to bed early.
  • Create a schedule for the week ahead. Nothing will actually get done unless you plan for it. Consistency is key, so you need to devote blocks of time ( starting with 30 minutes, for example) to make progress in the areas you’ve identified.
  • Do an assessment of the progress you made. A good idea is to review your efforts at the end of the week. Ask yourself, did some activities take more time than you anticipated? Why did they take as long? What could you have done better? Then make adjustments for the following week.

Idea #5. Fuel your motivation by jumpstarting your mornings.

To give yourself some extra time to pursue the things you’ve identified as your passions, you can consider mornings. Why? Because creating a morning routine can set the tone to your entire day, and give you a positive mindset to keep making progress on the things you feel passionate about.

Here’s how.

  • Start waking up just 15 minutes earlier. If you usually wake up at 7 a.m., set your morning alarm to 6:45. Keep this schedule for one week. The next week, set it again to 15 minutes earlier, this time for 6:30 a.m. Gradually increase the increments until you reach one hour. The benefit? You won’t feel the big change, and you’re more likely to keep the habit. An hour of free time for yourself is priceless!
  • Eat some brain food. Start the day with breakfast that will fill you up, give you energy, and improve cognitive function. Here are 3 breakfast ideas. Oatmeal mixed with peanut butter and fresh fruit, a parfait made with Greek yogurt and topped with granola and fruit, or eggs—they’re a powerful mix of B vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids keep your nerve cells functioning at optimal speed.
  • Do a short burst of exercise. Pick a fast, easy to follow, and targeted workout to help your body wake up and prepare for the day ahead. Here are some ideas for a 10–15 minute wake-up session: a morning yoga routine, a set of sun salutation poses, or a quick set of sprints in your neighborhood to allow your mind and body to stay on the right track and keep doing what you enjoy!

What habits did you change that have totally changed your life? And how?

 

Excellent question!

The secret to building any habit is this: devoting 5 minutes a day to it can add up so much that it will affect the quality of your life. That’s why it’s important to be selective about which habits we nurture, and which ones we need to change so they can help us on our path to becoming better versions of ourselves.

These 5 habits significantly improved the quality of my life in the past few years, and I wished many times I had started incorporating them sooner into each day.

Habit #1. Starting the day with a morning routine to give me energy.

How did it improve my life?

There are tons of benefits I’ve felt since switching to a morning routine. Unlike before, I don’t feel dread or overwhelm as soon as I wake up because of all the things I need to finish on that day. I feel that I’ve become the master of my own time because I select what I want to work on first. In addition, I feel more calm knowing in advance what my day will look like.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Hack your morning alarm. Create an alarm that is friendly to your sleepy self. Pick a ring tone that’s unusual but not irritating, make a recording of your own voice saying a positive message, or queue up some music that you find uplifting and energizing and schedule it to play when you need to wake up.
  • Meditate to reset your brain. It can help you cope better with the thousands of random thoughts that occupy you throughout the day and may contribute to your feeling stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. Download the Headspace app and practice for only 10 minutes; it’s great for absolute beginners.
  • Do a short 15–20 minute workout. It can be a morning yoga routine, a 15 minute bootcamp session, a set of sun salutation poses or a 20-minute power walk. It won’t take a lot of time, but you’ll feel the benefits for hours.

Habit #2. Asking one simple question every morning: “What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today?”

How did it improve my life?

This single habit is probably the biggest game changer for me. As soon as I wake up, I look forward to practicing it because I know it will boost my concentration. This tiny question simplifies my life, it helps my brain focus better, it makes me prioritize goals, and it streamlines my work so I don’t feel overwhelmed about having to accomplish too many things in a single day.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Write the question in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. The important part is that you can easily see it as you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot. The trick is to get your eyes on it so that it becomes second nature and you don’t even think about having to glance over to it any more.
  • Keep your answer top of mind as you go through your work for the day, so that you don’t get distracted by other things that might take you away from what’s important to you. It will be a constant reminder of what’s your top priority.

Habit #3. Saying “thank you” for what I have in my life right now.

How did it improve my life?

Practicing gratitude makes a big difference in how one feels about one’s life. If you’ve ever heard of the saying “you either see a glass as half-empty of half-full”then this practice is a real-life example of what it really means. For me, it’s trained my brain to focus on positive things that are already a part of my daily life, instead of focusing on what I haven’t yet accomplished or acquired. I feel that being grateful keeps me grounded in my personal life because it gives me time to think what’s good for my growth, or what’s beautiful about my immediate surroundings or an event I’ve experienced.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Do it early. When you start your day with gratitude, you will feel the effects throughout the day. All it takes is 5 minutes of your time, so you won’t feel it takes away from your hectic morning schedule. You can write things down, say them out loud, or just think about them.
  • Start small. Focus only on 3 things you are grateful for today. It can be the simplest of things such as having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, a friendship that is important to you, a dog or cat that you have as your pet, or an event from the previous day that made you happy.
  • Be specific. If it’s a friendship you’re grateful for, emphasize which qualities of your friend you are grateful for (they’re warm, gracious, kind, loving, incredibly funny). If it’s having a warm bed or your own room that you feel gratitude about, describe why this is important to you.

Habit #4. Doing my deep work early in the morning.

How did it improve my life?

Deep work (any kind of analytical thinking that requires the most concentration, such as reading, writing, analyzing or problem solving) is one of those mental tasks that requires a different kind of focus from the other more tactical things we do on a regular basis. I’ve noticed that when I switched to doing my deep work early (instead of leaving it for nighttime), I actually saved time the rest of the day. I also feel that it taps into my willpower to get the toughest tasks done first, so that I don’t run out of energy and motivation. And the best part? It frees up my afternoons and evenings to devote to socializing, working out, and coming up with better strategies to accomplish personal goals.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Set aside 2-4 hours after you wake up for deep work. Many scientists say that this is the brain’s peak performance time. If, for example, you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. You can extend this time to whenever you have lunch, around midday, if you want to maximize your peak performance hours.
  • For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news, chatting with co-workers or attending meetings.
  • Redesign your peak brain performance time. Think of how you can rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break or right after lunch. Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes; it can seriously overtake your day. Choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday.

Habit #5. Being very selective about how I feed my brain.

How did it improve my life?

Just like most people, I observed my limited free time go by very quickly with TV episodes, movies I didn’t find mentally stimulating, or listening to the radio on my daily commute. The worst part was that I didn’t really get anything of value from all that so-called entertainment. Over time, I realized that I needed to be much more selective about how I want to spend that time so that it is beneficial to my personal development (and in many cases, educational as well as entertaining!).

How can you start practicing it?

What’s the number one thing that motivates you every morning?

 
Easy. It’s this question that I ask myself every morning within the first 5 minutes of waking up:

What is the ONE thing I am committed to completing today?

Here’s an explanation of why it’s so motivating to me, and why it might help you if you’ve often found yourself struggling with getting motivated to do something that is on your to-do list or that is a necessary step in achieving a personal or profession goal.

ONE. Why is this question important to me?

  • It simplifies my life. I don’t overwhelm myself with too many choices I need to make on any given day.
  • It encourages me to think strategically about my life one day at a time.
  • It keeps me focused on my goals instead of getting distracted by other things.
  • It forces me to prioritize what it relevant over everything else that is not.
  • It serves as a personal promise to myself to do what I’ve identified as critical to my personal or professional development.

TWO. How can you incorporate this question into your daily life?

  • Write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters.
  • Hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall so it’s easy to see.
  • Make it part of a unique background for your computer or cell phone.
  • Use it as the main heading at the top of your journal entry for each day.
  • Ask the question aloud as you are brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Give an answer on the spot out loud, or write it down in your journal.

THREE. How can this question make a positive impact on your life?

  • You train your brain to focus on what is most important to you, and you don’t waste it on things that are trivial, irrelevant, or distracting in any way.
  • You gain a sense of purpose when you are focused on your personal commitments: it gives your life meaning, helps you understand you have something of value to contribute, and improves the quality of your day-to-day life.
  • You save time when you know in advance the work you need to accomplish, so that you don’t waste hours evaluating multiple priorities throughout the day, which can be exhausting.
  • You help your brain perform more optimally when you’re committed to just ONE thing, so that it becomes freed from cluttered thoughts and it has more space to concentrate on what you consider the most important goal of your day.

How do I avoid losing focus on my goals after waking up?

Oh, you’re not the only one who loses focus after waking up.

All of us have experienced this many times. Maybe we start the day with great ideas or big plans of what we want to do. Maybe we get a rush of energy just thinking about these things. And then something happens: we find ourselves rushing in the morning, we are running late on our way to work or school, we forget to bring things along with us, we start feeling overwhelmed with the volume of tasks on our ever-growing list. Or maybe none of those things happen, but we find ourselves procrastinating about getting started with the day, and next thing we know, it’s lunchtime and our focus is just gone—plain and simple.

Sounds familiar, right?

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a big difference between having an idea and acting on the idea, just as there’s a big difference between beginning the day with good intentions and actually making things happen.

And that, right there, is how you can get out of this situation.

Start making things happen.

Here are 5 ideas that can help you get there.

Idea #1. Confront your procrastination by replacing the words “I can’t do this!” with “Why not try it?”

Hey, we’re all guilty of procrastinating at some point in our life. It doesn’t require a lot of effort, and it’s almost a default reaction to something challenging.

How do you do it?

  • First, ask yourself if there is something else hiding behind procrastination. Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something successfully, not being able to be better at it than other people, or maybe not even understanding why we are doing something to begin with.
  • Next time you feel like procrastinating, rather than immediately reacting with “I can’t do it”, ask yourself where the resistance is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Start with providing an explanation, for example by saying, “I can’t because….” Then you’ll know the source of your resistance.
  • Think of what you gain when you say “Why not?” You win over fear and you start thinking beyond obstacles. There is something powerful when you leave a door open to explore possibilities, instead of shutting that same door in your own face. It’s a subtle change in your attitude that can have a big impact in your life.

Idea #2. Train your brain to focus by asking yourself this question every morning: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”

It’s a simple brain training technique that makes it easy for your brain to focus on goals that are important to you right now. It also boosts your critical thinking skills because it forces you to prioritize what’s most relevant.

How do you do it?

  • Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
  • Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot.
  • Follow up by taking action and by reminding yourself throughout the day about the commitment you made.

Idea #3. Get your brain on board.

Before you start doing anything new, get your brain on board with what you’re about to do. It helps you get motivated to take action and become fully absorbed in whatever is in front of you.

How do you do it?

  • Instead of approaching something as a chore, turn it into a choice. Tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about!” The benefit? It gives you a greater sense of control about what you’re doing. That’s much better than feeling like you’re reacting to things or you’re obligated to do things that are not your idea.
  • Remind yourself of the reason for action with this question: “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection with the initial reasons for working on something to begin with. It can be to learn a new skill, research a topic you’re interested in, study for an exam so you can graduate and start your career, explore a business opportunity, solve a specific problem at work, etc.
  • Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model, where you imagine all the steps you’ll be taking. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material, taking notes on important concepts, and writing down what you’ll need to follow up on later. By telling yourself a story, you map out the entire learning process so it’s easier for your brain to understand it.

Idea #4. Make your personal goals a top priority.

Whether you’re a student, working full-time, or taking time off to be a parent or start your own business, you should do whatever is possible to work on your personal development. If you don’t, it will eventually catch up with you and may leave you feeling unhappy or overwhelmed with ordinary daily activities.

How do you do it?

  • Start thinking about the big picture. Ask yourself—where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now? Who do you want to become? What is a dream scenario for you: a life in a specific city, having a partner to share your life journey with, being surrounded by smart and interesting people who contribute to your personal growth, being fluent in another language? Get specific with the description of your ideal life.
  • Second, narrow it down. Set aside an hour or two one evening to do the following:
    • Write down your top 3 personal goals.
    • Under each, write down 3 things you would need to do on a consistent basis to get you closer to each goal.
    • Then, make a plan for the week ahead so that you can devote blocks of time to making progress in the areas you’ve identified.

Idea #5. Keep learning, keep improving, keep hacking your life.

Now that you’ve started to incorporate some changes into your life to remain focused on things that are your top priority, all you need to do is continue moving forward. Life is not static, and your efforts should also not be static. Think about ways to improve what you’re doing each day.

How do you do it?

  • Measure your progress. Find ways to measure how you’re moving forward. Maybe you’ll set aside 30 minutes each day to focus on learning a new skill. If so, add up the hours at the end of the week and see if you can add more time each day, even if it’s just a few more minutes. Then see how many hours you’ve devoted to it in a month.
  • Evaluate how you’re doing. Ask yourself a few questions to understand how you’re keeping up with the goals you’ve set for yourself. For example, did some activities you started doing take more time than you anticipated? What could you have done better? Where can you make adjustments to stay on track?
  • Take time to appreciate the change. Yes, it’s important to make progress, to stay focused, to reach that important goal. But every step of the way in getting there is super important too. So find the time each evening to pause and reflect on what you’re doing, and give yourself some well-deserved praise for all those efforts. It really does feel good to be aware that you’re on the right track!

How can I force myself to have the discipline and motivation to become the best version of myself?

If I were you, I would start by changing the words I use when talking to myself.

We don’t think about it often, but words are powerful. They shape our thoughts, they affect our personal growth, they impact our confidence. And they can be one of the most critical factors to our success in life.

And honestly, I don’t like the word force. When I hear it, I think of aggression, violence, pain, feeling passive and helpless. None of those feelings can get me motivated to do anything. So why would you want to force yourself to do anything? And more importantly, how do you imagine sticking to any action or habit if you force yourself to do it?

I’ll tell you what I like: the words brain training. When I hear them, I think of positive things—discipline, motivation, achievement, mastery, success. Even better: I feel like I have the power to do things and change them. This makes me feel much better about taking action and moving towards becoming the best version of myself.

So let’s go back to the original question and rephrase it:

How can I train my brain to have the discipline and motivation to become the best version of myself?

Much better!

The answer? There are many tips you can practice every day.

Here are 7 tips to get you started.

Tip #1. Build your unique daily routine. This practice will help you become the master of your own time. In addition, you’ll experience a greater sense of calm knowing in advance what your day will look like. It could be a simple morning routine to get you energized and start the day on a positive note, or doing your most complex work early in the day when your brain is well rested, or doing your most creative work late at night when you can be alone and away from distractions. The key is to plan it ahead and then do the same type of activity at the same time each day. You’ll create a routine customized to your specific needs, your goals, and what you believe to be most relevant to you.

Tip #2. Do your deep work early in the day. If you do, it will help you better deal with your procrastination habit. According to scientific research, the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up: so if you wake up at 7, your peak times are 9–11 a.m. Doing deep work at this time allows the brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from our environment, and with a lot of energy that we’ve gained from a restful night. All you have to do is adjust your mornings a little. Stay away from checking emails before noon, leave calls and meetings for the mid to late afternoon, and listen to the news later in the day (while driving and running errands, for example).

Tip #3. Always have a goal to aspire to. When we have specific goals we want to achieve, everything we do in our daily lives will have a greater sense of purpose. It’s what makes the difference between just living life day to day, and living a life that has meaning. To help you focus on your goal, start each day with the question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? This question forces you to prioritize, helps your brain focus better, and streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day, so that you don’t feel stressed, tired, or overwhelmed with making too many choices.

Tip #4. Think about the big picture of your life. Focus on the work you’ve planned to complete today, but always keep your eye on at least two steps ahead. Don’t see any action you’re making today as an isolated incident. Think about its implications and potential consequences. Is your behavior geared towards achieving a one-time effect, or will you feel benefits in the long run? Is what you’re doing today going to help you become who you want to be next year, in 5, in 10 years? Become strategic so that you can achieve long term results that your future self can benefit from.

Tip #5. Replace saying “I can’t” with “why not?” whenever you’re faced with a challenge. Much like replacing the phrase, “how can I force myself” with “how can I train my brain”, this is yet another small adjustment in how we speak to ourselves that can have a positive effect on our life in the long term. We’re much better off if we spend a little time figuring out where the resistance is coming from (why do we think we can’t?), rather than give in to it immediately without a fight (“I can’t and that’s that!”). When we replace that phrase with “why not?”, we leave things open-ended. There is something quite powerful when we create that open space because it means we keep our mind open to possibilities, whatever they may be.

Tip #6. Improve your relationship with your mistakes. There’s a lot of truth in the statement: you either learn to fail or fail to learn. Making mistakes is a normal part of life. It’s how you approach them that matters. Try a different strategy of viewing your past by forgiving yourself for mistakes that you made. Reflect on them, learn from them, but don’t hold on to them. This applies to your relationships, your career, your education, and other areas of your life in which you feel you didn’t achieve what you wanted or underperformed in some way. By changing how you relate to mistakes, you will give yourself more freedom to manage your future more successfully.

Tip #7. Always, always be persistent. The writer Seth Godin said, “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.” How true! What this means is that you should do your best to fight the urge to give up whenever things get tough, hard, or even ugly. Know the difference between what feels hard to do right now and what’s good for you in the long run. And let’s face it: nothing really big and truly amazing happens in one day or even a month. So next time you fail or fall, do your best to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

What 10 minute daily activity would sharpen my mind over a year?

Here’s one thing you can do in 10 minutes or less that will keep your brain focused, sharp, and working optimally for you.

Ask yourself one powerful question first thing when you wake up: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

And here are 5 reasons why it’s good for your brain:

  • It simplifies your decision-making. Our brain functions so much better when it’s not bogged down with evaluating priorities, considering the pros and cons, and going back and forth on small things that can be a huge waste of time. If you have to make a choice on something, you should do it as early in the day as possible.
  • It taps into your willpower bright and early. We all have only a finite amount of willpower that we can distribute on what we want to do each day. It’s not negotiable. So, in order to maximize it, it’s best to have a plan of attack early in the morning so you know exactly where to focus your energies, and why.
  • It encourages strategic thinking. In order to accomplish something that is of value to you, you’ll need to assess what needs to be completed on that particular day. Maybe you know there’s a deadline at work for one project that you can’t delay any longer, and asking the question will push to you think about what you need to do right now.
  • It keeps you focused. Once you ask the question, you’re much less likely to give a frivolous answer, and instead you’ll push yourself to be honest about what’s top priority for you. Maybe you didn’t give it a lot of time or maybe you procrastinated, but that’s over now. The question is out there, and now you have to address it and move on to the next step, which is action.
  • It boosts your critical-thinking skills. By posing the question to yourself, you’ll come up with a few scenarios of what the answer might be. Maybe it’s starting a difficult task, or analyzing a problem you haven’t been able to solve for days, or finishing up an assignment that’s 90% done but needs some fine-tuning. Either way, you’ll need to assess your why and how before you give an answer, and that will keep your brain on its toes. Which is exactly why you want to train it this way in the morning, so it knows how to run smoothly the rest of the day!