Archive for the ‘attention and multitasking’ Category

Digital Devices Can Affect Our Ability to Focus

October 23, 2014

While about 4.5 percent of American adults are estimated to have ADHD, many more of us say we constantly feel scatterbrained, unfocused and unable to remember things.

The ability to focus is a secret element to success that often gets ignored. And yet, there’s probably never been a time in our history when we’ve had as many distractions threatening our ability to pay attention to things.

digitaloverloadWhile today’s computers, tablets and smartphones offer many opportunities to increase learning, they can also be distracting to students. Research shows that if students don’t learn how to concentrate and shut out distractions that come with the use of digital devices, they’ll have a much harder time succeeding in almost every area.

The brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature; it continues to grow until the mid-twenties. Young students need to build up the neural circuitry that focused attention requires. Psychologist Daniel Goleman believes that they need to be able to both use digital devices smartly and have the capacity to concentrate when they need and want to. “The more you can concentrate the better you’ll do on anything,” he says, “because whatever talent you have, you can’t apply it if you are distracted,”

According to Goleman, “The circuitry for paying attention is identical for the circuits for managing distressing emotion. The attentional circuitry needs to have the experience of sustained episodes of concentration — reading the text, understanding and listening to what the teacher is saying — in order to build the mental models that create someone who is well educated.”

He advocates for a daily “digital sabbath”—a period of time when kids are not distracted by devices at all. He’d also like to see schools building exercises that strengthen attention, like mindfulness practices, into the curriculum.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Help Your Child Concentrate Better

August 23, 2014

At a time when multitasking (texting, listening to music, surfing the Internet)— is becoming the new normal, you may find that your child is having trouble focusing on the task at hand.

If you can establish effective focus strategies and concentration skills at an early age, you will have provided a foundation for long-term success in high school, college and the professional working world.

Here are some practical and manageable tips parents can use to help their children focus:

Set expectations early—Explain to your children that just as you have many important responsibilities (at home, at work, in your community, etc.), learning is their most important “job” right now. Establish a routine for homework and studying by including younger children in homework by having them color or look at books while older children are doing homework.

Divide big projects into small tasks—Big projects can overwhelm. Splitting the task up will give your child the feeling of progress as the pieces are completed.

Manage distractions—Set up rules such as: no television, phone or computer until homework is done. Research has found that certain types of music such as classical and instrumental help people concentrate better, so consider playing Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.

Use time to increase focus— Sometimes setting a short period of time will help a child focus longer. Set a timer for a particular task that your child can work to “beat.” One rule of thumb is that a child can focus on a single activity for about one minute per year of age.

Establish rules for doing homework—Make a rule that your children’s homework and studying be completed (neatly and correctly) before going out to play. As seasons and activities change throughout the year, be flexible and adapt to changing schedules.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Some “Timely” Tips for Improving Your Productivity

March 9, 2014

busterclock3We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet some of us accomplish a lot and others very little.

Following are some simple changes you can make in your daily routine that are sure to give your productivity a boost:

Plan ahead—A little planning can go a long way and keeps you from constantly being in reactive mode. Take 15 minutes each Sunday night to review the week ahead. Then take just 5 minutes each evening to review the next day’s schedule. You’ll be more efficient and less anxious about getting things done.

Take care of the most difficult tasks first—When we procrastinate and let the most challenging projects hang over our head, the resulting stress hurts our ability to focus on what we’re trying to do currently. Tackle the big things first and you’ll be energized. The momentum will carry you forward through the rest of the day.

Focus on one thing at a time—Multitasking reduces focus and robs each task of your undivided attention, making it harder to do your best work.

Reduce touch points—Try to avoid going back-and-forth between tasks before finishing them. The fewer times you touch an item, the more productive you become.

Learn to say “no”—Your time is your most important resource. Say no to less important things, so you are free to conquer those that matter most.

Take a break—Our bodies are built for intense periods of performance, followed by a little rest—ideally 90 minutes of total focus followed by a 10-minute break.

Reduce distractions—Carve out distraction-free time, and put aside anything that can be dealt with later. You don’t have to answer every incoming text or email immediately.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. Be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com; and “like” us on Facebook.

Link Between Healthy Lifestyle and Fewer Memory Complaints

July 25, 2013

While research has shown that healthy behaviors are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, less is known about the potential link between positive lifestyle choices and milder memory complaints—especially those that occur earlier in life and could be the first indicators of later problems.

In a recent study, researchers examined the impact of lifestyle choices on memory throughout adult life, surveying participants about both their memory and their health behaviors, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was.

As researchers expected, healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few surprises.

Older adults (age 60-99) were more likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors than middle-aged (40-59) and younger adults (18-39). (For example, only 12 percent of older adults smoked, compared with 25 percent of young adults and 24 percent of middle-aged adults.) So this finding actually runs counter to the stereotype that aging is a time of dependence and decline.

In addition, while 26 percent of older adults and 22 percent of middle-aged respondents reported memory issues, it was surprising to find that a higher-than-expected 14 percent of the younger group complained about their memory too.

multitask1It’s possible that older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. At the same time, memory issues in younger people could be due to stress and the increase in multitasking that comes with the use of technology.

These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health—including memory by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Try These Mind Games for Mental Fitness

February 15, 2013

brainexercising1If, like many of us, you are a little nervous about your ability to remember things or stay focused on a project or activity, here are a few exercises you might want to try to keep your brain’s cognitive functions—memory, attention, language, visual/spatial skills and executive function—in good shape.

  • When listening to music, choose a song you don’t know and memorize the lyrics. This boosts the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain.
  • Shower or get dressed in the dark, or use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. These changes help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.
  • Change your route to work or reorganize your desk. These simple changes will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.
  • Combine activities like listening to an audio book with jogging, or doing math in your head while you drive. This will force your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time
  • Walk into a room and pick out five items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at www.optimindsct.com.


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