Have you ever had a puppy? I love watching puppies bounce around. One minute they are racing and jumping in circles, filled with excitement and energy. The next they are completely worn out, asleep on the floor. They can’t quite regulate that energy – it’s either too much or too little.
Executive Function #3, Effort, is the function of our brain that helps us regulate alertness and sustain effort. It keeps you from feeling bored and drowsy but also stops you from going too fast and making mistakes. Like the puppy, your alertness might be too much or too little.
When you have learning and attention issues, your brain seeks new and interesting input. If a task becomes dull and boring, you might feel drowsy or off-task. Alternatively, your brain may be impulsive, rushing through the work without paying attention to the details and, therefore, making careless errors. In order to give the task the attention it needs, you have to find a balance.
Unfortunately, we all have tasks that we don’t like to do. We need to have tips and tricks up our sleeves for the moments we begin to lose focus. Try these…
Incentives & Treats 🍬
Rewards aren’t just for kids. If you think about it, we all work for a reward most days – a paycheck! But if the paycheck comes too far away, we may need more immediate incentives and treats. Incentives are a reward for completing a task – I get to _____ after I _____. Treats are something you gift yourself just because. Treats can happen before, during or after a task. Either may boost the energy and alertness you need for a task. Next time you are faced with a task that you find boring, consider an incentive or treat.
Background Noise 🎧
Though some people find environmental noises to be distracting, others find it a necessity for regulating alertness during boring tasks. It provides the balance they are seeking – not too drowsy and not overly alert and impulsive. Background noise, such as the constant whirring of a fan, lo-fi music, or the drone of a coffee shop, may block out other distracting noises. Researchers are also looking at how low-level noise may stimulate or arouse parts of the brain.
Ball Chairs, Cushions & Balance Boards 🧘♂
If you are a fidgety person or can’t sit still, you may find it helpful to choose a chair that lets your body move. When your brain is focused on maintaining balance, it allows you to focus on the task at hand. This is because there is a relationship between proprioceptive skills (the positioning and movement of the body) and brain function. This is a trick I used during my years of teaching and I personally witnessed distracted kids maintain focus and have sustained effort while sitting on a bouncy ball chair, cushion or balance board.
Do you struggle with Executive Function #3: Effort? I’m here for you. Let’s create some strategies to help you figure out how to sustain effort and remain alert. Schedule a free Discovery Call to see if working together would be a good fit for you.