What Is Neuroplasticity, and How Can It Improve Productivity?
They say it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and we’re all trying to find ways to keep up and improve our productivity. How many productivity hacks have you tried in the last year? From caffeine and other stimulants to herbal supplements and apps, there are tons of things out there designed to help allegedly improve your productivity at work and at home. There’s one thing most of these so-called hacks don’t consider, though, and that is neuroplasticity. So what is neuroplasticity, and how can it help improve your overall productivity?
According to the dictionary, neuroplasticity is “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience, or following injury.” In basic terms, that means your brain can change, literally rewriting its synapses when you learn something new or the brain itself sustains an injury and some pathways get damaged.
Neuroplasticity is what allows stroke patients to relearn how to walk — over time, the brain rewrites the pathways that control motor function to bypass the damaged areas of the brain.
On a smaller and less catastrophic scale, your brain also does this when you learn or experience something new. It’s how you form new memories, how practices become habits and how habits become second nature.
What does this mean for productivity, though?
Rewiring Your Brain
Learning to be productive can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible, especially if you’re working with neuroplasticity. Your brain is designed to learn, grow and require itself frequently throughout your life. The trick to using your brain’s neuroplasticity to your benefit lies in the creation of habits.
Common wisdom says it takes 21 days to turn something into a habit, but that’s a low estimate. If you’re lucky, you can grow a new pathway to create a habit in 21 days, but for most people, it takes between 60 and 300 days. If you manage to stick with your habit for the first three weeks, though, it becomes infinitely easier to continue and turn it into a practice that will stick with you throughout your life.
Pick up some productivity-focused habits and try them out. That could mean saying positive affirmations to yourself every morning, getting up earlier to work out or using time-management software to ensure your day runs smoothly. Using these tricks for an extended period will rewire your brain and turn them into second nature for you.
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Stop Stress in Its Tracks
We all know stress is bad for us, but most people don’t realize what a toll it can take. Just like good habits, constant stress will rewire your brain in a negative way. You’ll get used to having your gray matter pickled in adrenaline and cortisol, which isn’t a good thing.
Regardless of what the myths say, we do use 100 percent of our brain, so your stressful lifestyle affects 100 percent of your brain.
One way to help stop stress in its tracks is to replace it with something good — identify the stressful situation, interrupt your negative mental track and swap it out with something else like happiness or laughter.
It takes some practice, but over time — just like your habits we’ve already talked about — it will train your brain to stop stress before it can negatively affect you. Getting rid of stress isn’t the easiest way to be more productive, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Your brain isn’t just a big blob of gray matter that happens to sit inside your skull. It is also one of your greatest productivity tools. Rewiring your brain doesn’t happen overnight, but once you’ve figured out how to apply the concept of neuroplasticity to productivity, you may never go back to stimulants and apps again.
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