How to Focus | 8 Proven Ways to Increase Your Brain Power
Articles,  Blog

How to Focus | 8 Proven Ways to Increase Your Brain Power


So in most videos we tend to focus on
the tools, the methodologies to improve your business, and in this video we want
to do something a little bit different. We want to focus on tools and
methodologies to improve the most important tool of them all: your brain.
How to improve the brain, how to stay focused, how to focus longer,
how to dive into deep work. We’re gonna take a short,
straight to-the-point dive into breathworks for neuroplasticity to
increase your human potential. Precision nutrition
to enhance the body. Nootropics to enhance your brain. Stoicism to calm your nerves. Meditation to be more creative and a bunch of other tips. Time is your scarcest resource.
It’s been estimated that you have approximately 80,000 hours
in a career and you want to use that time wisely. Most other videos you’ll
find on YouTube will give you some more conventional tips and you should
probably follow these. So, for example focusing on one task at a time, or time
restricting your tasks with the Pomodoro technique, doing the most difficult
things first – do the hard stuff at the beginning of the day, taking breaks, going
for walks, setting up your day the night before, or for example eliminating
distractions and time wasters. This is all great advice and you should follow
it but this video will be about optimising the foundation, your brain and
your body to reach this beautiful constant state of flow, as documented by
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in this book of the same name. And if you want to
research this state of flow even more you can also see this talk or this book
by Kotler. And as anything, see these as experiments – you can try them out, see
what works for you and see what doesn’t. So first let’s talk about breathworks,
also called holotropic breathing. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the
brain to partially rewire itself especially in reaction to learning or
experience. There’s strong literature to show that as we get older our
personality traits, our way of thinking tend to stabilise, they don’t change so
much anymore. Now neuroplasticity, creating new synaptic connections, is a
powerful way of building creativity. One proven way to achieve this is through
long periods of meditation, but meditation can be very challenging. I see
it sort of like a marathon. Breathworks is more like a hundred meter sprint. It’s
like meditation on steroids. You get the benefits in 1/100th of the time.
Maybe even 1/1000th of the time. Coined and created by Stanislav
Grof, holotropic breathing was recently popularised by people like Wim Hof,
and we see a whole movement towards it. This form of breathing allows you to
attain intellectual insights, even emotional breakthroughs and it’s helped
us to induce a state of flow. Not only will it induce more focus, it can
actually also give you more insights into art, politics, and science. As Peter
demonstrated to us, this type of intense breathing changes some structures of the
brain, and since these connections are changed, you actually address problems
with a different angle and with calmer concentration. So what is this form of
breathing? Well it’s basically intense breathing techniques that create hypoxia
– changes in oxygen levels in the blood. And by the way, we tend to be skeptical
of these things and this is not spiritual hocus-pocus. You’ll see that
the recent Nobel Prize winners in Physiology were all about this state of
hypoxia. So here are some tips on how to experiment with this, how to get
started. First we’d recommend checking out this video which will allow you to
do a small session of your own and remember be gentle with yourself. If you
want to take things further we’d also recommend reading this book and it’s a
fantastic journey into more understanding of the subconscious and
the deep subconscious. And if you’re really serious and I’d invite you to
look for and join a local holotropic breathwork session near you. For example
with Growth Tribe we organised a session internally with Peter from
Breath of Freedom. Give this one a shot and let us know in the comments if this
did anything for you. I’ve personally had some really strong breakthroughs with
these breathing sessions from a creative point of view, from a focus point of view
but even from an emotional point of view. You’d be surprised at what we’re
suppressing from within and how getting rid of those tensions actually helps
with work, focus, life, etc. So of course in the same
vein you have meditation. A recent study by Italian
neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni found that meditation changes
brain patterns, improves mental and cognitive performance. If you
haven’t done so yet give it a try, it’s a powerful way to calm nerves find more
focus and reduce task anxiety. Another recent MRI based study by Sarah W
Lazzara and her team found that 40 to 50 year-old meditators had the same
amount of grey matter in their cortex as the 20 to 30 year old ones. Now
if you want to get started it’s actually quite easy and you don’t need to do this
every day. Here are some tips. I’d first give it a try with this beautiful
meditation from Alan Watts. Of course there’s also a ton of free-to-try apps
to choose from: Calm, which has some nice background music, Headspace which has
really good methodology and voices and Waking Up by Sam Harris. And small tip if
you’re meditating for the first time I would actually suggest to do it on an empty
stomach in the morning if that’s possible. Speaking of an empty stomach,
let’s dive into fasting a little bit Fasting has completely improved our
focus, our productivity and our overall health. And although it might sound
difficult is actually not that difficult to get started. And even if you’re not
looking into fasting to actually lose weight, its benefits really deserve your
attention. So fasting is basically not eating for an extended period of time.
Intermittent fasting is alternating periods of eating and periods of not
eating. In a nutshell, the longer you fast the greater the benefits, with the limits
of course. So what happens when you fast? Well fasting stimulates the production
of a protein that’s found in nerve cells and this protein is called the brain
derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF plays a very important role in learning, in
memory and in generating new nerve cells in the hippocampus. That’s the part of your
brain responsible for things like memory. BDNF also makes your neurons more
resistant to stress. Now fasting also kicks off a process called autophagy.
That’s when cells clean themselves by removing damaged molecules and
dysfunctional mitochondria. Autophagy also turns off cell growth.
So during fasting neurons go into a sort of resource conservation and stress
resistance mode. Now what happens is when you start eating again,
the neurons they go back into growth mode. They start making a lot of proteins,
they grow and they form new synapses. And what’s beautiful is these on-and-off
sequences, these cycles they may optimise neuroplasticity, learning, memory
and the resistance of the brain to stress. Now if you’re interested it’s actually
not that difficult to get started. And by the way don’t worry this
doesn’t mean you’re gonna eat less, You’re gonna get the same calorie intake you were getting before just during a
shorter period of time. Also, it’s totally fine to drink water, tea, or coffee,
anything that doesn’t have calories so no added sugar to your tea or to your
coffee. It actually makes it a lot easier There’s basically four or five different
types of fasting plans that you can do and we’ve ranked them from easy to hard.
So basically you’ve got the 16-8 which means that for 16 hours you don’t
eat and you eat during an eight hour period. This basically means that you
just need to skip breakfast and we’ve put this one as being easy. If you start
to feel the benefits from this you can try the 18-6. 18-6 is basically eating
for six hours and fasting for 18 hours and we’ve put the difficulty at medium
because it means that you either need to have an earlier dinner the night before
or push your lunch to a later hour. Then there’s the 20-4. This is the one I’m
currently on after doing about two months on the 16-8 and another three
months on the 18-6. The 20-4 is a little bit challenging but I’m really
feeling the benefits and that’s where you eat between for example 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
So you fast for 20 hours and you eat for four hours. We’ve put this one as
hard, it’s not just hard on the body it’s also hard from a social point of view
for example I don’t have lunch with colleagues anymore and sometimes I take
a cheat day to be able to eat with the family. Then you’ve got the next one
which is also really hard, it’s called the OMAD which stands for One Meal A
Day. That’s basically where you’re cramming all of your calories into one
single meal during the day. And finally one that’s really been growing in
popularity, it’s called the 5-2, it means you do five days in normal and then two
days during the week you’re gonna eat less than 500 calories. Typically it’s
suggested to do this on a Tuesday and a Thursday because Monday you’re kicking
the week off and because Friday maybe you want to party or go out with friends.
So two days during the week you eat less than 500 calories. Now if you want to
dive into a little bit more about the why and the what of fasting I would
recommend the small compilation from people who came onto the Joe Rogan
podcast. It’s a mix of MMA fighters and doctors and it’ll really highlight some
of the beautiful experiences they’ve had. I’d also recommend watching this small
lecture by Dr. Longo, and then as a last tip I’d like you to try this
small experiment: I’d like you to try fasting for one week just by
skipping breakfast. So all you got to do is for one week you skip breakfast every
single day. It’s probably gonna be a little bit hard the first day, it gets a
lot easier the second day and then day three, four, five I think you’re gonna
start to feel the benefits. You’ll get into this sort of zone. You’ll feel a
lot lighter and a lot more focused. And then as I mentioned before
your body’s used to getting food in the morning so you want to drink a lot of
water, or maybe some tea, or maybe some coffee to fill it and make it think that
you’re giving it food. But don’t forget zero calories so no sugar or cream or
milk. I hope this was helpful and let us know what type of fasting regimen you
follow in the comments. Now apart from fasting are there other ways of
improving your focus and your brain? Yes – nootropics. Now nootropics are a wide
range of natural and synthetic compounds that are thought to improve cognitive
function. From very common products like caffeine or fish oil to more risky
products such as modafinil or psychedelics, nootropics are here to
enhance your cognitive abilities. Now although meta analyses on these
nootropics are sometimes inconsistent, it’s sometimes hard to find the
literature that will back up with findings the effect of these nootropics…
Personal experience of myself and people around us have shown us that these do
actually work. So for this video we’re gonna stick to some safe natural
compounds as examples. First example is DHA CAP, that’s found for example in
fish oil and that has been proven to lubrify the synapses and increase
memory retention. There’s also lion’s mane which is an
incredible beautiful mushroom that’s proven to clean amyloid beta plaques
that affect brain function and it helps with overall cognitive function. Then
there’s L-Theanine that’s been shown to reduce anxiety. It’s a really nice
combination when you’re taking coffee, tea or caffeine pills.
If you’re ever like me and get a little bit of jitters from coffee try and pill of
L-Theanine to reduce the jitters. By the way L-Theanine and caffeine are
naturally found together in matcha tea. Yeah, because caffeine is also a
nootropic. Three years ago I switched from coffee to green tea. They both
contain the same thing, caffeine, except the caffeine release of tea is a little
bit slower and a bit more stable. So I found it helpful to make a big jug of it
and just drink this steadily throughout the day and it gives me this smooth
steady flow of energy from the beginning to the end of the day. Then there’s a
last random one we’d like to recommend which is ashwagandha. It’s sort of a
miracle plant that helps calm the nerves and helps you focus. And it’s
really helped me to dive more into deep work. Now these are just a few examples,
you need to find what works for you and you need to experiment with these and if
possible experiment with the safer ones. Now for a full list of effects of
nootropics you can see the results from this small, predominantly male, yes, but
still interesting survey on Reddit. It’s interesting to see some of the products
where there’s strong consensus and if you really want to dive deeper and
you’re interested in this I’d recommend following this full guide on nootropics
which is also found on Reddit. It’s great for beginners, it tells you the
what, the how and it outlines some of the most popular supplements. Now speaking of things you put into your
body let’s talk about precision nutrition. We ran a little survey to find out what
percentage of people feel energy dips during the day. We found that 73%
of our respondents felt that four or five times a week in the afternoon. That’s a huge number. Why are we getting
these dips in the afternoon? Some of these dips are caused by blood sugar
spikes. Spikes of sugar in your blood and insulin levels which lead to a sharp
rise in energy, boom, followed by a steep crash. We often call these afternoon dips.
It turns out studies at the Weizmann Institute in Israel have demonstrated
that humans have personalised reactions to food intake. Now what does that mean?
You know all of those tips to eat less fat, don’t eat dairy, don’t eat red meat,
don’t eat wheat, eat fewer carbs, limit your alcohol, limit your caffeine… they
actually don’t hold true for everyone because we all individually react
differently to different foods because of three things: because of
differences in our DNA, because of differences in our gut’s
microbiome and because of differences in our lifestyle, we react differently to
different foods. Some people will get a spike in blood sugar levels from ice
cream and others won’t. Some will spike from white wines and others not at all.
Now the best way to actually know what works well for you is actually to
monitor your blood sugar levels. Using a sensor such as this one
which you can wear for two weeks you can actually start correlating
certain foods with spikes in blood sugar and insulin. And then you
can start selecting or removing certain foods at certain times from your diet
and for me it’s helped me become more healthy and remove almost all spikes and
dips in the afternoon. And it was interesting for me to see that I should
avoid this, or this, or this, and that things like wine, although still bad for
my liver, weren’t causing sugar spikes. Now if you’re interested in learning
more about this I’d suggest you check out this beautiful TED talk which
explains why we have different reactions to different foods. I’d also suggest you
check out this video about the microbiome, about your gut. And then a
last tip is that you can also look into whether there’s a precision nutrition
program around you. We took part in the Clear Health program here in Amsterdam
and now we’re working on offering this to the rest of the organisation. Now this one’s a bit more
personal and it’s also a bit more vague but it still yields
some powerful results. We’re gonna dive a little bit into stoicism. To describe it
harshly, for me stoicism is a little bit like Zen Buddhism but perfectly adapted
to people from the Western world with really analytical minds like mine. The
basic idea is the same. We spend too much time trying to optimise external sources
of happiness. What we buy, who we hang out with, where we go on holiday, what we own.
And we spend way too little time optimising internal sources internal
variables of happiness. If you optimise internally, the same situation, the same
outside world will actually look more beautiful. You’ll feel less dissatisfied
and then you’ll have more headspace for deep work and focus. Some basic concepts
of stoicism are to, for example, focus only on what you can control and accept
what you can’t control. There’s also the idea to take action. The
true philosopher is a sort of a warrior of the mind who actually takes action.
Another one which I really like is to practice misfortune. Ask yourself what
could go wrong. And then a fourth nice concept is to turn obstacles into
opportunities. Some people call this resilience. Perception is actually key.
And if this sounds like a little bit of life coaching… okay sure,
it is a little bit of life coaching. But it’s just a tip, an experiment that
you can try. Now here are some practical mind exercises that I’d love for you to
try for the next week. Now you know how you’re sometimes dissatisfied with what
you currently have and you’re always wanting more? Some people call this
hedonic adaptation. Well for once try to wish for something you already have.
You’re trying to create a desire for something you already possess. It could
be family, friends, a phone, a warm place to sit. So right now I’m gonna wish that
I had a nice video studio in a great city with an amazing video producer to
produce some nice insights. Hey, we’re doing it right now! This actually feels
great. Another tip I sometimes do is to try to imagine the beauty and taste of a
glass of water after a long trek in the sun. Try this one out it’s kind of fun.
The second tip is to try something called negative visualisation. Try to
imagine that you lost what you currently have. Loss of possession or lost of loved
ones for example. And rather than making your outlook gloomy, this will actually
make your current situation more satisfying. You’ll appreciate it more.
There’s this notion that most of us are already living the dream, we just don’t
realise it yet, and it has to do with perception. And here’s a third tip, this
one’s kind of nice. At some point during the week I’d like you to increase your
comfort zone. How do you increase your comfort zone? It’s by putting yourself in
an uncomfortable situation. For example, maybe try walking shoeless for a
while, or maybe wear a t-shirt in really cold weather. Wearing t-shirts in cold
weather or opening your code a little bit will not just make you stronger, but
it’s also gonna make you appreciate the comfort of warmth even more. So if you
want to take this further than these three tips I’d recommend reading
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which is basically the day in the life of one of
the most powerful people in the world who also happens to be a stoic. Next we’re gonna talk about timing. Not so much focusing on what to focus on but
when to focus on it. Daniel H pink has studied the fact that our cognitive
abilities sort of fluctuate during the day. These daily fluctuations are more
extreme than we realise. How we do during the day actually depends on what
we’re doing and when we’re doing it. Now when these moods and
performance oscillate during the day it turns out that for most of us, mood
follows a common pattern: a peak, a dip and a rebound. Now in the mornings during
this peak, most of us tend to excel at analytical work that requires sharpness,
vigilance, focus. This deep analytical hard work. Later in the day during the
recovery phase after the dip most of us do better on insight work that requires
less inhibition. Things that are bit easier, a bit more repetitive, maybe things
like admin work. And then a bit later in the day when the cognitive abilities
start to go up again, that’s where you can get more creative, more social, with
meetings for example or applying your creativity. A lot of us at Growth Tribe
have been applying this for the past two, three years and it’s really shown its
effect. People like Job or Stefan have actually blocked whole chunks of
their calendars so that they don’t get meetings in the morning and can focus on
the deep work. If you want to go further with this you can watch this beautiful
RSA video by Daniel Pink or just read his book in detail. Now we’re gonna go a
little bit faster into some small basic tips that can also help you with focus.
So we know that a great way to help focus is by removing audio distractions
like by having sound-canceling headphones for example. What we tend to
forget is also visual distractions visual cues. Our brains were hardwired a
long long time ago to react to things moving, in case it was a dangerous tiger
trying to eat us for example. So when you’re working or when you’re trying to
focus you also want to remove as many visual cues as possible. We do this by
being in areas where there’s not continuously things moving in our plane
of sight. Try to remove any and all visual notifications from your life.
Imagine that you’re trying to get deep sleep and someone keeps tapping you
every five minutes. You’re never gonna get deep sleep. It’s the same thing with
these visual notifications or these visual cues. One you might not have
thought of is all those extra tabs in your browser, they’re also visual cues.
So try to remove as many tabs or applications as possible because they’re
constantly reminding you that there’s something else going on that you can be
working on. So kill those tabs! Another small tip is to have accountability
partners – people or things who hold you accountable for what you said you would
do. This can be a boss of course, but it can also be a virtual deadline you
create for yourself, it can be a friend. As Anssi has pointed to me in the past
having an accountability partner really helps. We are very social creatures so
having someone who holds you accountable for whether or not you’ve achieved
something is very helpful. So this one’s a bit more vague but it’s
the idea of developing self-reliance. The less you rely on other people to get
things done the less you’ll actually need to communicate and get distracted. Self reliance
means continuously building on your skills. Your analytical skills, your design
skills, your copywriting skills, your data skills, your interpersonal skills… try to
have as many skills as possible so you don’t have to ask other people or hand
over projects to other people then you can stay in the zone and keep focused.
Here’s another small one, it’s to postpone communication. As soon as you
get the urge to communicate to somebody to ask them a question on a project you’re
working on, don’t do it now. Just write down that question and do it a little
bit later. Because if you start communicating now you’re gonna get out
of the zone, out of the focus zone. You can always write it down and do it a
little bit later. And then of course the last two tips is to exercise, but you’ve
heard this one before… One small tip is try to do exercise that
you really enjoy. Don’t just do it to hit numbers for your tracker. Actually do
an exercise you’re passionate about or that you enjoy doing. And then the last
tip is to get some really good sleep read this book by Matthew Walker or
watch this lecture by Matthew Walker and you’ll see the importance of sleep for
your brain, for your cognitive function. Having said that, this is probably the
tip that I haven’t been able to follow yet so I’m gonna practice this this week.
If you think this was helpful support us by sharing some of your tips in the
comments. This of course wasn’t a deep dive, we skimmed the surface on these
subjects. If you want us to go with deeper into the methodology and the why and the
how, let us know in the comments. And of course, happy focusing!

9 Comments

  • Growth Tribe

    You can check out the all the resources that we mentioned in the video below!

    1. Kotler on Flow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG_hNZ5T4nY

    2. Wim Hof on holotropic breathing session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW1C_3OXhEs&feature=youtu.be

    3. Alan Watts guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPpUNAFHgxM

    4. Joe Rogan on Intermittent Fasting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiwOpZeXxWA

    5. D. Longo, fasting lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvx38rYU9yE

    4. Nootropics articles from Reddit: https://darktka.github.io/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/nootropics/wiki/beginners

    5. What’s the best diet for humans? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z03xkwFbw4

    6. Lecture on microbiome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iKHMyWzclM

    8. Daniel Pink RSA video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbicgT4KrWc

    9. Matthiew Walker on sleeping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MuIMqhT8DM

  • Mehmet Pala

    I love your videos, thank youuuuuuu
    I hope you guys continue to post content like that forever O.O

    1 Question:

    Can you maybe make a Video of Behind the Scenes, for example how you made this Video?

    1. What im mostly interested in as a Marketer is how and why you edited the Video as you did.
    2. The Research involved
    3. The Time it takes to make a Video like that
    4. The Communication and Management involved
    5. And everything else you did, to make this Video as it is here today

    Would be really nice, thank you

    Like if you also want to know guys

  • Dharminder Singh

    In 2020; I am aiming to find an escape from the rat race and since I don't have any idea other than I want to do it, inspirational and guidance videos like this really motivates me to try harder and smarter. Thanks a lot for making these videos. ☺️😊😍

  • Raghu L K

    Simply love the content & presentation from Growth Tribe, I am from India..although can relate to most of the proven ways mentioned in this video..personally did not heed to them all this while. I will try to incorporate Meditation & Fasting techniques to start with that my grandfather was practising (he lived a healthy life until his 98th year). Here is the list of equivalent Indian terms of the proven ways mentioned in the video..(you can google these words..) i.e Breathing/Meditation = Pranayama, Fasting = Upavasa, Ashwagandha = Herb often used in Ayurvedic Therapies, Being Content = is closely related to the concept of Karma Phala..All these were followed by Sages & others since centuries in India.

  • Anatolii Ulitovskyi

    Focusing on one thing is essential for everybody.
    People always try to cover everything: learn a few languages at one time, play games and work, etc.
    However, you can't be a successful sporstman, signer, dancer, speaker.
    Choose one topic and pay all attention to achieve results there.
    Jack of all trades, master of none.

  • Rahul Gupta

    been a big follower of growth tribe's videos for a while now, however, this is by far my fav one. Just a quick suggestion– at times I thought to myself, boy, this is a long one, but at the same time, I wanted to know more. So perhaps make these types of videos in parts, where you guys can maybe add more details (or reasoning) even. But again great content! Waiting for more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *