Daily Dispatch

Supercharge Your Brain by Going Offline

By | Jul.21.11 | Balance, Daily Dispatch, Productivity, Time Management

Have you noticed that your ability to concentrate has been on the wane over the past couple of years? As is it turns out, it’s not your imagination. For the 24-7 connected among us, the scatter is real.

Good habits with your connectedness can keep you sane and healthy. Scientists have started to examine the neurological effects from heavy Internet usage, and a body of scientific literature has emerged that paints a disturbing picture. MRI scans demonstrate that heavy Internet users and light Internet users activate different parts of their mind when they process the web, suggesting that we physically alter our brain structure when we jump around from topic to topic.

Heavy Internet usage actually creates new grooves in synaptic connections called neural pathways in a process called “neuroplasticity.” The net effect of these physical changes to the brain is that your thinking will work in the same changed way—whether you’re online or not. In other words, once the web has got it’s grubby little fingers on you, it doesn’t matter whether you’re checking your email 30 to 40 times and hour, trying to concentrate on a book or eating dinner with your family: Your brain is in constant interruption mode, jumping from distraction to distraction.

If you wish to learn more about this topic, check out Nicholas Carr’s 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

So how do you combat this Internet-induced ADD? Neurologically, you need to exercise different neural pathways by engaging in deep concentration.

  • Read a book (pick up The Hunger Games for an irresistable summer read).
  • Learn and practice meditation or yoga.
  • Start a continuous aerobic sport like swimming or cycling, where you can’t check your email.
  • Use the sabbath as an excuse to turn off your Internet.

Once you start exercising your ability to concentrate and begin wearing new neural pathways in your brain, you’re on your way to counteracting the cerebral hunter-and-gatherer-mode brought on by Google and Wikipedia.

Larry Port is the Founding Partner and Chief Software Architect of Rocket Matter, a web-based legal practice management and time tracking product. A speaker and award-winning writer at the crossroads of the legal profession and cutting-edge technology, Larry writes extensively for legal publications, including Legal Management, Law Technology News, Law Practice and ILTA’s Peer to Peer.

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