WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUL. 28, 2014
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7 Types of Activities for a Healthy and Productive Brain

We’ve all heard it: the woes of having a busy schedule, having to keep our minds focused on goals and data without ever really enjoying any down-time. Especially when it comes to working remotely—calls and emails arrive at all hours of the day and night when regular 9-5ers are generally enjoying dinner with family and friends. And even then, work in the virtual space never seems to end. We’re constantly connected to the workplace, and the biggest sacrifice we make is productivity.

According to a recent edition of NeuroLeadership Journal, the brain requires seven types of activities in order to function in a healthy way. While working and being focused is one activity our brains require, there are six other areas that employees (and employers) are often neglecting.

Known as the Mind Platter, this concept shows what kind of daily activities the brain needs to operate optimally.

The seven platters of the mind include down time, sleep, time in, physical time, connecting time, play time, and focus time.

Focus time is pretty self-explanatory. This is the time you use during the day to complete tasks, perform your job, etc. This is a goal-oriented time that forces new connections in the brain through challenges and problem-solving.

Down time is considered being non-focused and acting without any specific goal or purpose. Relaxing and daydreaming are excellent ways to untangle your mind and let your brain recharge. Being constantly connected to work through email, texts, phone calls, whatever, can be detrimental to your down time. Consider this: Volkswagen in Germany shuts down their Blackberry servers for 12 hours every day in order to give employees a break. This type of disconnect is vital in keeping workers healthy and happy as they might otherwise feel burnt out or overwhelmed.

Another type of activity is physical time. Ever wonder why some companies offer a reduced or even free gym membership? Some studies show that people who are more physically active are happier and more productive during the day. Not only does exercise and activity strengthen your body, but it can help strengthen your mind.

Connecting time may seem counter-productive when used in the context of disconnecting to relax, but there’s an important difference in socialising casually and professionally networking. Texting and making calls to friends is a very different activity than texting and calling co-workers; chatting with friends often creates a very different feeling.

Time in is when you take time to quietly reflect internally—yoga is a wonderful way to knock out two types of activity in one sitting—and focus on the way you feel, sensations, and creating ideas. Inner reflection is one of the healthiest things you can do not only to balance yourself as a person, but to improve yourself as a professional. Those who don’t take time to reflect internally may find that they feel out of touch with what they want, what they need, and what really makes them happy.

Play time is the time you allow yourself to be creative, spontaneous, and experience new things. These types of activities engage your brain in new ways, forcing it to exercise new connections. It can also stimulate your brain through new challenges.

Finally, sleep time is the time in which your brain shuts down to recover from the day and consolidate what it has learned. It’s important to get enough sleep so that you feel rested the next day, but not groggy or overly tired. Some studies find that buzzing alarms can actually wake you up too quickly, causing that groggy feeling. Try waking up to a radio station, or using a smartphone to create an alarm that gradually gets louder.

These seven areas of activity aren’t tailor-fit to each person, and everyone can adjust the time spent in certain areas to achieve their ideal mixture. However, it is important to consider the disconnect that occurs when we switch from one portion of the platter to another. For instance, don’t check your email during down time or time in—that’s specifically what focus time is for. Likewise, don’t socialise with friends during focus time. Any combination of these areas can work for anyone, but it’s important to include all seven into your daily routine. 

Creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by deadstar 2.1.

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