August 10, 2014

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

Daniel J. Levitin for the Sunday Review:

Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network. The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

I love this explanation. I often find myself arguing for the power of not (as in, spending time purposefully not accomplishing tasks). American culture does not like this. It wants us to go faster, do more, always be on (why aren’t you responding to my text message???). As a creative professional, this pressure can be suffocating and damaging, especially as an organization grows. The worst part? I don’t think any of us really want to be this way.

If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.

I’d also add a vacation from social media. Take a break from your text messages, your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed, and your Instagram feed. Phone vacations are a real thing, and something we’re all going to have to master in our ever-connected world.