What if I could tell you that your subconscious brain could help you work smarter and become more efficient?
I had the pleasure to talk all things brain with Dr. Mike Dow. He is a New York Times bestselling author, brain-health expert, and has been called “America’s go-to therapist.” He is trained in both psychotherapy and functional nutrition to provide his readers with an integrative and holistic approach to health and happiness.
In the latest episode of the Make an Impact show, we explore ways we can reclaim your time off by using the power of our brain and our subconscious.
When we look at the history of psychotherapy back in the era of Freud, the subconscious was something that stored these suppressed urges that we should’ve been ashamed of.
Hypnosis has been used for hundreds of years, and old-school hypnosis was very directive yet the misconceptions about the subject are incredibly deep: “people in the UK are very open to hypnosis, and I think in most of Europe, but, in America at least, there’s this idea that hypnosis is this magic Las Vegas circus show.”
In our chat, he talks extensively about “brain” over “mind”, a simple shift in semantics that has helped with opening up the conversation around the whole subject and those misconceptions.
This is especially true in terms of the difference between the subconscious and the conscious brain:
”I wanted to use the word brain instead of mind because when people hear the word brain they trust it more. When they see my brain scans, they can see my brain at rest in a ‘conscious state’, and then they can see the different ways that it lights up in a ‘subconscious state’.”
As a tangible proof of this substantial change that happens in our brains, it reminds us that when given the right tools, our subconscious has our back.
When you’re driving home on the freeway, even though your mind is busy thinking about something, your subconscious takes the wheel and gets you home safely.
The science (which is extensively explored in his book “Your Subconscious Brain Can Change Your Life”), is fascinating. As well as walking through some visualisations, in the book you can also see examples of brain scans and the effect hypnosis has on anyone’s brains.
We could say that, on some level, hypnosis is Jedi-mind-tricking the brain into thinking that it’s doing something—which is incredibly powerful. Yet, how can we use some of those principles to help us with our quest to reclaim some time off and let our brain “rest”?
Simple techniques to work with our brain
I asked Dr. Dow how our subconscious brain can help us work smarter, not harder.
One of the simplest practices you can implement is single-tasking with intention.
“Every single day make a list of 7 to 10 most important things you need to do” explains Dow “you start at number one, you give all your attention, and only your attention to number one, and then you cross it off your list. You move to number two, and so on.”
”Anything you don’t get done, that’s fine, you just move it up to the next day’s list.”
How is this simple process encouraging us to become more efficient?
From brain scans of “multitaskers” he was able to analyse a couple of things: “we know that multitaskers are not “really” multitasking, what the brain is doing is rapidly switching back and forth, so you could say you are single-tasking rapidly.”
”The more complex the tasks get, the more time you are losing in efficiency because your brain takes a little bit of time to switch back and forth.”
“I think a lot of people say ‘multitasking helps me to save time’, but actually, that’s not true, in the long run, is taking your time away”, he observes.
How to work around our personal rhythms
When it comes to dispelling myths, there is a bad stigma associated with a short attention span. Yet, Dow points out that you don’t have to be somebody who can sit at a library studying a book for eight hours in a row to be successful.
”It all comes down to the idea of time-chunking. If you have a short attention span, let’s say it is only 15 minutes, that’s fine, give yourself that 15 minutes, take a little break, and get back to another focused segment of 15 minutes.”
This idea connects with something that is deeply rooted in his practice, and that is reflecting on your behaviours.
“Know yourself. You have to examine your life” he explains “they say an unexamined life isn’t quite as worth living. I think that’s very true. When we can examine and know ourselves with insight, we realise our strengths, weaknesses, who we are, even getting to know our attention span.”
How mindfulness can make us more efficient
There is a lot of time dysmorphia for so many of us, especially these days, as we are working from home. We underestimate the time it takes to complete a specific task, and that often makes us feel overwhelmed, and does not allow us to focus on a task at any given time.
Mindfulness and rest are at the forefront of the work Dr. Dow has been carrying out in the space of therapy and psychology.
“I think a lot of people when resting are thinking about work. Conversely, when they’re working, they’re thinking about rest” he points out. “Think about how much that steals from you.”
If work is at the back of your mind (no matter whether you are out for a jog or having a meal with a loved one), you’re always working, in a way, even when you’re resting or playing or trying to cultivate peace: “you’re robbing yourself of the purity of that experience.”
From hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy (and to some extents even meditation) we’re returning to focus on how to integrate energies and systems that are all interconnected (our physical body, our mind, our rhythms) in order to reclaim our time off.
Being able to make time to examine our patterns, learn how to be more flexible with the way we approach time management, and appreciating how to be ‘in the moment’ can be powerful, especially when activating the ways our subconscious mind can work through visualisations.
What if one of the keys to working smarter was linked to working more mindfully? Imagine what a change that will make in the way we go about running our days.
Looking for more inspiration on how to reclaim your time? Don’t forget to check Fab Giovanetti’s book Reclaim your Time Off.
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My name is Fab Giovanetti and I am a writer, author, marketing consultant, founder of the Creative Impact Group and professional troublemaker. I help people grow their online audience and monetise their content and unleash their potentials as creatives.