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Keeping Your Mind Sharp in the Stacks

January 25, 2019

Considering we just flipped our calendars to 2019 (Ok, it’s been a couple of weeks, but close enough) you probably still have your New Year’s resolutions fresh in your mind. Surely, you’ve thought of the obvious ones: Get a better job or a promotion. Read more Lose weight. Exercise more. But what about exercising your mind?

So much of what we do in the library strains our mental muscles more than our physical ones. So it should be just as important to focus on your brain to keep it, well, focused.

Here are some things you can do to keep your mind sharp and keep yourself on task as you move through 2019:

Practice Attentive Listening

When having conversations with colleagues and students, remain engaged when listening by recapping what they are saying and using connecting words like, “Ok”, “I understand”, and “Yes”. While this is a very important skill to help with reference interactions and conversations with faculty, administration, and vendors, it will also help build and maintain focus.

Mindful Mediation

Mindful meditation is a form of relaxing your mind and refocusing your attention on the here and now. Meditation can come in many forms, such as a meditative body scan, focused breathing, and movement meditation (such as yoga). It can be very helpful in dealing with the anxiety of keeping track of all the things you have going on.

Read Long Books Slowly

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Reading a book or novel slowly may help us keep and build our attention spans. We often read so many short emails and articles online, that we often begin looking for the information we need quickly before moving on to something else. Reading a long book at a slow pace can help us move beyond basic facts and focus on more complex thoughts.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

While it may be hard to devote your attention to only one thing with so much going on, it can often be more productive. Instead of allowing yourself to be pulled in many directions, focus all your attention on completing a single task before moving on. This can often save time, and your sanity.

Take a Short Break

Even though we are often asked to do so much, there is also only so much that we can do. If you feel overwhelmed or can’t find your focus, take a 5-10 minute break to meditate, go for a walk, or just look out a window. It allows your brain to reset and recharge so you can come back more engaged and more effective.

Exercise (with your body)

Yes, this is a list about mental exercise but one of the most effective ways to keep your brain focused and in shape is by keeping your body in shape too. Studies have shown that even moderate exercise can help people ignore distractions better than if they didn’t exercise at all.

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