How strategic is your thinking? Do you crave information? Do you believe more is actually better? Do you desire data, data and more data?

If you hunger after more and better ideas at all cost, your info-craving habits actually zap your brain’s energy. The persistent pace of focusing on details makes it more difficult for your brain to decipher and understand the big picture.

DETAILS OR BIG IDEAS

According to cognitive neuroscience expert and author Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, when you focus on remembering minutiae and details, it adversely affects your ability to engage in strategic thinking.

The access to more information is not, on its own, making us smarter. More likely, quite the opposite is true, says Chapman. Exposure to large volumes of information steals and freezes your brainpower.

However, according to Chapman’s research, when you focus and engage in strategic, abstract thinking, you improve your ability to remember the details. You boost both your strategic and your detailed thinking!

DEFINING A STRATEGIC BRAIN

So what exactly is a strategic brain?

“When you use your brain strategically, it filters information by deliberately sorting input and output. In contrast a nonstrategic brain takes in all information,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman

The strategic approach is two-pronged:

  1. Attending to necessarily essential information while
  2. Filtering out extraneous data less critical to the task at hand.

You need to strive to build a strategic brain, not a detail-focused brain. A strategic brain is a brain changer. And, Chapman says, a life changer.

MULTITASKING CAUSES THE BRAIN TO LOSE BALANCE

Multitasking doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth.

What we call multitasking is actually alternate tasking. Shifting attention from one task to a second task and then back to the first one.

Each brain shift requires increased mental effort. As the brain shifts, working memory from the first task is lost. Instead of doing one task well, two tasks are done poorly.

Our need to respond quickly to emails, texts and phone calls, cross items off our to-do list and juggle countless demands is masked as productivity.

In reality, when we multitask and constantly respond to distractions, we are running over nails and broken glass that flattens our tires into mental exhaustion, says Chapman. We lose our brain balance.

IMPROVING YOUR BRAIN’S GATEKEEPER

Your brain’s frontal lobe acts as a gatekeeper: It can focus on certain information while blocking the rest.

One way to improve how you learn, ignite your imagination and boost your big-picture thinking is to practice strategic thinking. You have to adopt the principle that less is more, says Chapman. You have to engage your gatekeeper.

Here’s one way Chapman suggests to improve your strategic thinking: Practice focusing on one core task for a minimum of 15 minutes. Don’t let any interruptions distract you. Be hyper-vigilant to keep the focus on that one task. Then take a break.

Repeat that process several times a day for several days and weeks. Only with practice can the brain then filter out the superfluous information flooding our senses.

Chapman says, we must remember this ironic paradox: Your brain works smarter when you make it slow down.

Hat Tip to “Make Your Brain Smarter” by Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman.

Jeff’s article was originally published on VelvetChainsaw.com, and can be found here.

Executive Vice President at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

Jeff Hurt joined Velvet Chainsaw Consulting in January 2010 and currently serves as Executive Vice President, Education and Engagement. In 2012, he was recognized as the PCMA Educator of the Year. Jeff has worked in leadership roles with five associations, five government organizations and several companies in the education, events and meetings departments, including Meetings Professionals International and Promotional Products Association International, one of the top 50 shows in the industry.

He is considered one of the leading authorities in the meetings industry on adult education, conference design, digital events and social media for events and associations. He speaks and blogs frequently about meeting and technology trends, the future of conference education, adult learning and all things meetings at velvetchainsaw.com.

Jeff Hurt joined Velvet Chainsaw Consulting in January 2010 and currently serves as Executive Vice President, Education and Engagement. In 2012, he was recognized as the PCMA Educator of the Year. Jeff has worked in leadership roles with five associations, five government organizations and several companies in the education, events and meetings departments, including Meetings Professionals International and Promotional Products Association International, one of the top 50 shows in the industry. He is considered one of the leading authorities in the meetings industry on adult education, conference design, digital events and social media for events and associations. He speaks and blogs frequently about meeting and technology trends, the future of conference education, adult learning and all things meetings at velvetchainsaw.com.

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