Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

The ability to focus is an important driver of excellence. But can the opposite be true as well?

This week we look at how “unfocus” can help build creativity and better decision making (along with a few ways you can add unfocus to your day!):

 

Focused techniques such as to-do lists, timetables, and calendar reminders all help people to stay on task. The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.

When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. Using this new and previously inaccessible data, you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too.

There are many simple and effective ways to activate this circuit in the course of a day.

Using positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): PCD is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or guiltily rehashing worries. When you build it into your day deliberately, it can boost your creativity, strengthen your leadership ability, and also-re-energize the brain.

Taking a nap: Not all naps are the same. When your brain is in a slump, your clarity and creativity are compromised. After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert.

Pretending to be someone else: When you’re stuck in a creative process, unfocus may also come to the rescue when you embody and live out an entirely different personality.

 

Using these techniques to build unfocus into our day, we may be able to “preserve focus for when we need it, and use it much more efficiently too”.

Visit the Harvard Business Review for more.

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