Come on Brain, Wake Up!
Everybody needs self-compassion to stay awake, while they are studying or at work. Picture this. Stale coffee in one hand, your eyes slowly close, and you shake your head from left to right to try to wake up. The words on the page blur, and your mind begins to wander.
What should I eat for dinner? I definitely should have bought those shoes. I wonder if they still have my size. I should check. No, I need to study. I should probably get some highlighters or a better pen first. Wait, what was I reading?
This usually goes on for long stretches of time, normally with wannabe short breaks on social media and Youtube that somehow swallow your study time until a deadline shows up, and scares the focus into you. You get your work done, but forget what you have learned immediately. This is the problem with cramming information. It leaves as fast as it enters.
It makes me laugh, when I hear older people telling younger people that they can remember when they had these problems. Wait, when you had these problems? These same people are glazing over at their jobs or at their own businesses, and wondering how they can best maximize their time. You can stay awake, and learn what you need to. You just need three tricks. Maybe, you will need more in the future, but try not to be greedy. Let’s start with three.
Trick 1: Start At The End
The First Trick: Start At The End. Write down what you need to learn. It does not matter at all if you cannot chart this perfectly because you do not know the subject material. It does sound like a great excuse though! If you have trouble writing it, picture it. Then, write down what you need to know.
It should be a list of no fewer than 3 things, and no more than 6 things. Three is an easy number to remember. How many sides does a triangle have? How many golden rules are there? No more than 6 things because short-term memory research says that we can only remember 7-9 things. They are being generous. Be proud if you can remember 6.
Feel free to change this blueprint as necessary. Just remember that you need to know what adventure you are pursuing to perk your faculties up, and to get excited about what you have in front of you. Every Indiana Jones title starts with his name, and is followed by the adventure we are about to go on with him.
This is not a mistake. It is simply great motivation. Your brain is not dumb. It wants to go somewhere fun. If the task is not fun, make it fun. I once made up a calculus obstacle course, where I literally gonged myself, when I got an answer incorrect. I hated calculus, but nobody was gonging me, not even me!
Trick 2: Hold An Uncapped Pen With Your Dominant Hand
Second Trick: Grab A Pen, And Hold It Without The Cap On In Your Dominant Hand. This trick tells your brain that you could write down something important, something life-changing, something earth-rattling at any moment. Your brain cares about this stuff, and it pays attention.
Of course, it does. What if the next idea you have nets you a million dollars or cures cancer? You think the pens that figure that stuff out are different than your own? They are not, and your brain knows this. Be ready for greatness. If you are not ready and the light in your brain is not on, greatness will walk past it like the creepy house on Halloween.
Oh, I guess Janelle is not home. I guess I am going to have to make Monica a millionaire, and cure her grandmother’s glaucoma. Will an awesome pen help? Maybe. But, remember you are the awesome one. The pen is just your copilot, and as long as your copilot has ink, he will not fly you into the side of a mountain.
Trick 3: Take Active Breaks
Third Trick: Take Active Breaks. That is right. Get up from your desk, and go somewhere else. No, not the refrigerator. You want to recharge your brain by reconnecting to your body. The fridge just has stuff that will require digestion, which will make you more tired. If you want to eat, plan that out. Otherwise, you will be tired, have few ideas, and even more pounds to work off when you put on your snazzy gym outfit.
Take a short walk. Juggling is a great way to actively engage your body and mind, so that it cannot continue the exhausting process of considering big ideas. The yo-yo, the Rubik’s Cube, Biofeedback breathing, or meditation are also beneficial, active ways to take breaks. If you are beginning to complain about not being good at any of the aforementioned exercises, then you are even luckier than you think.
If you were good at them, they would give you ample opportunity to let your mind wander back to work, which is what we do not want. Interesting fact: yoga positions were designed to still the mind. More complex exercises evolved as people began to master the simpler ones, and found their minds wandering back to work and their problems. And, you just thought they existed to make us look awesome in our Instagram posts, and Snapchat stories. Wrong again!
Lastly, make sure this break does not last more than 15 minutes. Be honest, after 15 minutes of relaxing, who wants to go back to work? You’re right. Psychopaths do, and you are not a psychopath, so get back to work!
You Are On Your Way!
With these three simple tricks, you should be well on your way to learning more, and spacing out less. Remember that they exist because we want to acknowledge how difficult it is to learn something new, and bring kindness to our experience by giving our brains the tricks that make this work the easiest for them.
If you still find yourself falling asleep, and are out of the earshot of others, just make really loud noises. It shocks the system, and wakes you right up. That old body of yours still has genetic coding from the dinosaur age, and believe you me, it does not want to be dinner for some angry Tyrannosaurus, who has not been able to scratch his back all day.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 126. In The Books.