Our lives are awash in digital. Each electronic pulse pushes us to respond instantly. Reply. Like. Share. There is seemingly no beginning and no end to the onslaught. But the beauty of the human brain isn’t its ability to render snap judgment and instantly weigh in on a topic electronically. Quite the opposite. Its greatest capacity is a higher level of thought: to process disparate bits of information, find patterns, and create meaningful dialog and action over time. All of this serves to boost our leadership skills.
This ability flows from our natural hardwiring. To benefit from it, you only need to slow down and let your inner genius emerge. To be sure, easing the pace of life is not so simple when bosses, subordinates, and family members assume you’ll be available online 24/7.
It’s time to slow down and reset expectations. But how?
Setting aside as little as 10 minutes a day to record your thoughts stimulates reflection critical to making sense of the fast-moving world around you, which is, in turn, essential to effective leadership. As a leader, you are challenged to perceive patterns from which opportunities and threats emerge.
Despite our current proclivity for keyboards and powerful computer processors, journaling is an activity best suited for pen on paper. In this case, analog beats digital because writing something down by hand triggers a part of the brain, known as the reticular activation system, to pay close attention, and may improve retention. Tapping keys doesn’t have the same effect.
Further, journaling engages the analytical, rational functions of the brain, which gives the more creative parts of your cranium space and time to work their magic. Neuroscientists have shown that this type of “mindful concentration” stimulates the parts of the brain that are active when not engaged in directed activity. This is why insights often pop up while you are in the shower, out for a run, or sitting with your journal.
In this way, journaling is an exercise that lets you articulate feelings, which can mitigate their stress-inducing effects; work through challenges; and test options. Also, moving away from your computer or smartphone relieves you of the distractions of email alerts and other digital noise.
At its best, a journaling practice creates sacred space for developing a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you, both at work and at home.
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