Peak Mind – Amishi P. Jha
How to train your attention and be more productive
Core Practice: Find Your Focus
Get ready, sit in an upright alert posture, shoulder back chest open and be comfortable.
Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)
Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!
Tune in to the breath related sensation, imagine the air entering your lung as you breathe in slowly, and exit your lung as you breathe out
Notice when your mind wanders and focus back to the breathing exercises. It’s normal to wander and always use constructive words when trying to refocus
When we try to do two things at once that both require our attention, it’s really hard to do either of them well
Think of it this way: You only have one flashlight. Not two. Not three. And your one flashlight can only ever be shining at one thing at a time
When you’re trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once that require your focused attention, what you’re actually doing is moving your flashlight from one thing, then to the next, then back to the first one.
To get a sense of what this means for your cognition, imagine a studio apartment. There is only one room. Every time you want to use the room, you have to completely change out the furniture. Want to sleep? Set up a bed and nightstand. Want to host a party? Take down the bedroom and set up couches and coffee tables. Need to cook? Drag that all away and set up a stove, counter, and cooking supplies. Sound exhausting? It is! And it’s the same for your cognition, when you switch from task to task.
Working memory is where you hold the micro-intentions and deliberate aim of having a desired outcome for each and every task you engage in
All the decisions, planning, thinking, actions, and behaviors you do over the course of a day: anything you set out to do
You lean on your working memory to maintain your goals and subgoals, update them, and scrap them for a different goal, on a continuous, moment-by-moment, task-by-task basis.
Hold a goal in mind, and then take action based on that goal. That’s how working memory works, and also why it impacts you so profoundly
Working memory is the essential partner to attention: it’s what allows you to actually do something with the information your flashlight focuses on. But if attention keeps piping in salient and distracting content, that will become a big problem for goal maintenance, let alone goal accomplishment.
Why? Because you only have so much space to work with. Just like a real-life whiteboard, your working memory has limits.
The Floodlight: How Acute Threat Impacts Working Memory
The floodlight is a metaphor for the way our attention is automatically “captured” by something salient. When this happens, the more exciting content overwrites what was previously being maintained in working memory. However, under acute threat or stress, the alerting system temporarily blocks access to working memory to prioritize basic survival behaviors.
Road Block – The alerting system can be set off by feelings of threat, even when there is no real danger. This temporarily cuts off access to working memory and impairs any functions that rely on it.
The Juggler: Managing Goals in Working Memory
The juggler is a metaphor for how we keep our current goals active on the whiteboard and update them as circumstances change.
Ball Drop – Overload, blanking, and distraction in working memory can derail the juggler and lead to lost goals and misguided behaviors.
Episodic Memory: How Attention and Emotion Impact What We Remember
Episodic memory is our memory for experiences and involves selective encoding of only those aspects of experience that were most attended to and held in working memory. Additionally, our episodic memory is deeply wrapped up in our autobiographical take on what we experienced and our emotional experiences will influence what we focus on.
Semantic Memory: How Prior Knowledge Impacts What We Remember
Semantic memory is our general world knowledge for facts, ideas, concepts, and is similarly selective. What we remember is based on what else we’ve previously learned.
How To Make Memory: Rehearsal, Elaboration, and Consolidation
To make memory, we need to do three critical things: rehearsal, elaboration, and consolidation. Rehearsal is when we study with flashcards, elaboration is relating new experiences or facts to knowledge or memories we already have, and consolidation is when the brain replays information, laying down new neural pathways and strengthening those new connections.