Day 417, 10 Functions of This Part of the Brain Are Crucial for Managing Your Time

 
“Numerous special-purpose modules in your brain are at work, trying to sort out and make sense of experience.  Most of them are running in background.  When that neural activity reaches a certain threshold, you become aware of it, and we call that consciousness.  Consciousness itself is not a thing, and it is not localizable in the brain.  Rather, it’s simply the name we put to ideas and perceptions that enter the awareness of our central executive, a system of very limited capacity that can generally attend to a maximum of four or five things at a time.”
 
Daniel J. Levitin, The Organized Mind

Saturday Morning

 
Preparing For My Day
 
5-10 things I am grateful for:
  • weight loss down to 53.05 kg
  • the effectiveness of intermittent fasting
  • gratitude itself
  • courage and bravery without losing my inhibitions
  • being a woman
  • being able to use my prefrontal cortex for the organization of action in time
 
comments, feelings, ideas, moods, and empowering questions:
When studying alpacas at a women’s agricultural conference, I learned that the female alpacas were worth far more money than the male.  It was then that I started to realize the worth of being female.
 
mood and energy:
 
0-100
comments
mood:
80
feeling okay, just a bit sore still from the knee injury.
energy:
85
feeling good and energetic.  I want to walk, even though I cannot walk much.
 
accomplishments:
 
accomplishment
the reason it is important
next action(s)
1
I decided to rebuild JV Life Tracker to work on an updated Google platform.  (That will take some time and work.)
Programming ability.
Congratulations on your decision.  Get organized and set to get it accomplished.
2
I posted two beautiful blog posts about water and joy.
  1. Day 413, Joy for the Asking
  2. Day 412, How Precious Do You Believe Water Is?
Focusing on what is most valuable.
Share your joy with others.
3
Memorized the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).
Good values.
Incorporate these values with your top ten and make a top eighteen.
4
Got the groceries today.
Ready for mealtime.
Make good things to eat with them.
5
Made nut bread today.
Goodness
Weigh it carefully.  It is high in calories.
 

Saturday Evening

Time For Nut Bread

 
Today I made nut bread.  Here it is, ready for its 60 minutes in a 320 degree Fahrenheit oven.  I wanted some nuts for my afternoon repast, but they were so high in omega-6 fatty acids they required seven capsules of fish oil to balance, and that was not even counting dinner.  Nut bread, I thought, would have chia seeds, which are rich in ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid.  So I decided to wait another hour or so to eat and took the time to make nut bread.  It turned out delicious and had a great balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.  Besides that, I have delicious bread for the future.
 
We also got groceries today.
 

Intermittent Fasting for the Time Between Dinner and Breakfast

 
Perhaps the best thing of all is that this morning I weighed 53.05 kg, the lowest for the past 12 months.  The Achieve 50 kg program I am following is working.  I think intermittent fasting is especially important because it helps ensure that I do not go over my calorie budget.  I was not able to fast 15 hours at first.  I tried and tried and eventually, it got easier.  Today, I even fasted 16 hours.  So if you cannot do intermittent fasting at first, take heart, keep trying, and chances are you will be able to.  Keep a table showing the time of your last and first meal like this.  Give it some effort!  The results are worth it.
 
The most likely way to sabotage your diet is by eating after dinner.  That is when our will power goes down, and we do not want to track our food anymore.  We just want to relax and eat and tend to go over our calorie budgets.  Try intermittent fasting.  You will be amazed at how much more effective your diet becomes.
 
My knee is still sore.  I walked a bit today but much less than usual.  Even so, I may have overdone it because it feels sorer than it did yesterday.  I did not take out the trash or get the mail today and have not for days.  I want my leg to feel better first, but it may take some more time.
 

Organizing Our Time

 
I have been reading The Organized Mind:  Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.  I got my copy from the library, but since it is on sale, I am getting an electronic copy as well.  In the chapter, “Organizing Our Time,” Daniel mentions over and over that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for organizing ourselves in time.   I have sometimes called my medication, lithium, my “timing belt” because when I am manic, I lose the sense of time.  That is because my prefrontal cortex is not working.
 
Now I can change my bipolar disorder into bipolar order.  The key is keeping the prefrontal cortex working.  Lately, I have been using it a great deal more.  The functions of the prefrontal cortex include:
 
  1. planning
  2. organization and implementation of action
  3. decision-making
  4. judgment
  5. inhibitory control
  6. interference control
  7. inhibition and control of emotional behavior
  8. set or preparation for action
  9. working memory or executive attention and focus
  10. creative intelligence or inventing the future
 
Are these functions necessary for success?  They probably are, especially in our current age, when time management is more critical than ever.  Drugs and alcohol can compromise these functions.  It can feel liberating to be without your prefrontal cortex because it causes inhibitions.  However, without your inhibitions, you do not have very good judgment.  I know.  I have been there and not from the use of alcohol or drugs.  My body can do that on its own.
 
Let me explore each of these functions.
 
I. Planning
 
Planning is more critical than I realized.  I learned from Time magazine that planning actually reduces stress rather than increasing it.  In this blog entry, I explore a few options for planning.  Perhaps you can think of many more.  Daniel J. Levitin mentions how extremely organized people use calendars, sometimes more than one at a time.  I have had difficulty effectively using a calendar for everything.  I have one that I use for appointments, and that is about it.  However, if my daily activities were tied to a specific time, perhaps a calendar would be more critical.
 

II. Organization and Implementation of Action

 
Daniel mentions the incredible logistics behind the Invasion of Normandy in 1944.  There was no harbor, so they had to build one.  The whole invasion involved thousands of separate tasks, which were planned out in advance in detail.
 
I have a hard enough time organizing the tasks required for my JV Life Tracker app, and it is a relatively simple program.  I used Goalscape.com for much of my planning.  Now I am faced with porting it to an updated Google platform.  That is an undertaking with many steps, most of which need to be done in a specific order.  Instead of hacking away at it, I need to organize it.
 

III. Decision Making

 
One tool I learned for making big decisions between two alternatives in how to spend my time is a rating chart.
 
A rating chart has:
 
  1. considerations listed in the first column.
  2. a second column for the rating of the importance of each consideration.
  3. a third and fourth column for scores for each of the two options.
  4. fifth and sixth columns showing the score from 1 to 10 for each consideration, multiplied by the importance rating.
  5. totals in the bottom row.
 
The big decision I grappled with was whether to pursue a job or stay home and focus on my blog.
 
This is what I came up with:
 
1.Considerations
2.Importance
Rating
1-5
3.Job
4.Home Blog
5.Total Job
6.Total Home Blog
Money
10
9
5
90
50
Money for Retirement (assuming he shares a portion of his savings)
20
6
3
120
60
Creativity
5
6
9
30
45
Time for Husband
5
2
8
10
40
Money in Case of Layoff
5
1
3
5
15
Time for lynda.com
3
1
5
3
15
Lower Cost of Transportation
2
1
9
2
18
Acquisition of Marketable Skills
5
9
4
45
20
Lower Stress
5
1
9
5
45
Ability to Get Enough Sleep
5
2
7
10
35
Making Friends
3
6
4
18
12
Time to Work on JV Life Tracker
3
1
3
3
9
Ability to do the Work
4
3
8
12
32
Less Chance of Manic Episode (assuming I am strict with my medication)
5
4
7
20
35
More Freedom
4
4
7
16
28
Keep Benefits
5
0
9
0
45
Ability to Keep Condo Straightened Up
4
2
6
8
24
Lower Impact of Eye Problems
7
1
4
7
28
Total
     
404
546
 
The totals were kind of close between the two options, but staying home with my blog was the winner.  I first did this chart in August, and as you can see, I have focused on my blog since.  I may have made that decision without this analysis, but now I have a rational basis for my decision that I can review if the issue ever pops up again.  Since August, it has not, and that has given me great peace of mind.  Instead of worrying about employment, I have put my effort into working on estate planning.  There is still more to do with that, but I know what my plans are for the future.
 

IV. Judgment

 
Working on the above decision involved some judgment such as how important each consideration actually is.
 
Judgment is needed in other areas of our life as well.  When I first came to Colorado to get married, I questioned my judgment in doing so.  My husband’s health was poor.  Soon after I got here, he could not even walk.  His prefrontal cortex was mostly gone from wine intake, so I had to make most of the decisions, all of the phone calls, drive, and keep him on schedule.  The housework was almost entirely mine.  Had I made a mistake?
 
I discovered over time that I had found love.  Love is about to be placed on my Top 18 list of values.  In Galatians 5:22, 23, love is mentioned first.  If I was to make a judgment between my former life without intimate love and the one I have now, what would I choose?
 
Is love one of my top values?  Is happiness important?  Would I probably get depressed again if I had stayed in Utah?
 
I do not believe I made a mistake.  Besides that, my husband can walk a bit now.  I still make most of the decisions, but I can get his input.  The housework is still mine, but he remarks on it.  He has enough money that we can get most things delivered, freeing me from much of the driving.  Most of all, we are in love.  He relies on me, and frankly, I rely on him.
 

V. Inhibitory Control

 
The prefrontal cortex keeps you from blurting out something really stupid in public.  It can even help you keep your clothes on when you go out in public.  Our inhibitions are pretty important.  I have sometimes feared my inhibitions are not strong enough, and I say things I should not.  Maybe I do.  However, I am getting more confident in myself.  As long as I stay on my medication, my inhibitions protect me.
 
Inhibitions are also important when dieting.  When we are ready to eat that piece of chocolate cake, we can set it down and say no.  Actually, I have to be cautious of picking up or even looking at a piece of chocolate cake.  Our inhibitory control can be protective, but it should not be relied on when prevention is better, such as keeping the chocolate cake out of the house entirely.
 
When I am manic, my inhibitions do not work at all.  I had to spend some time on the psych ward.  I cannot even describe how bad it gets, or it would embarrass me.  However, you can refer to a text on manic-depression to find out what people with bipolar typically suffer from when they lose their inhibitions.
 

VI. Interference Control

 
Interference control is critical for good time management.  I tend to be distractible.  One way I have minimized distractions is to disable the sound on my cell phone when an email comes in.  That way I can check my email twice a day instead of constantly as many people do.
 
Fortunately, my husband often likes to watch television with the sound turned off.  I would shut the door to my office too, but he does not like it when I do.
 
Perhaps the most important interference control I try to practice is getting important yet not urgent things done before they become important and urgent.  I keep a notebook with to-do items, which I update regularly.
 
Timeliness is one of my top 10 values, so it is time I learned how to manage time even better by using my prefrontal cortex for interference control.
 

VII. Inhibition and Control of Emotional Behavior

 
I tend to keep a very tight lid on my anger.  I cannot always hide it entirely, but I keep my voice under control.  The prefrontal cortex does not work very well when we are under stress.  That is one reason we are more emotional in a time of stress.  There is a connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala (our emotional brain module), an inhibition.  It is very important because otherwise, the amygdala would rule our lives.  See my brain map for more detail on this connection.
 
While manic in 2016, my inhibitions did not stop me from buying a Cadillac, which I could barely afford.  It set me back financially by thousands, and I did not even need a new car!
 

VIII. Set or Preparation For Action

 
Ready, set, go.  Without getting set, the action never occurs.  The prefrontal cortex gets us beyond ready, it gets us set.  When I am manic, I am very active.  However, my actions are disorganized and not on my long-term goals.  In the summer of 2016, I drove from place to place, just where I will never know.  I even got stopped by the police, and they called a taxi for me to take home I was so disoriented.  Consequently I almost lost my Cadillac.
 
I interacted with many strangers, had a great time, but what did it accomplish?  I do not know.  I felt free.  That is because my inhibitions were gone.  Now I think I would rather be set for action in keeping with my long-term goals.
 
In 2017, I started this blog, doing my project management with post-it notes on the freezer door.  My mania was gone by then, hopefully for good.
 

IX. Working Memory or Executive Attention and Focus

 
Focus is another key for time management and success.  Attention is in short supply.   Without the prefrontal cortex, there is no focus.  There is only distraction.  I hope my readers will not see this blog as merely a distraction but as a call to focus their lives, to use their prefrontal cortex, to protect it from drugs, alcohol, and head injuries.  Dealing with my own tendency to get distracted by my husband’s hospitalization, I posted a blog on entry on focus.  That was in July when I also read Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.
 
Goleman mentioned a poster used in schools to help children focus that looks something like this:
 
 

X. Creative Intelligence or Inventing the Future

 
Last and probably most importantly, the prefrontal cortex is where we derive our creative intelligence.  When I was running around aimlessly as a manic individual, I did not create anything.  Work on all my projects came to an abrupt halt.  I could not focus.
 
Without lithium, I would not have been able to write my cookbook, publish my app, JV Life Tracker, write Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!, or any of the other books I have written.  I would not be able to write this blog.  I look forward to being even more creative in the future because it is from my creativity that I derive much of my life satisfaction.
 

Conclusion

 
What would we do without our brains?  Little did I realize for years, that I was functioning very often without a very important part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.  With the help of lithium, that part of the brain is working.  Is it completely normal?  I do not know.  However, by exercising my brain with the above ten functions, all of them interrelated, I can organize and set up my actions in time.  I can become a contributing member of society.  Mental health patients who refuse their medication hamper their lives because they cannot adequately perform these functions.  It might feel good to live without inhibitions, but in the end, their lives are disorganized and unsuccessful.  They cannot plan.  They cannot do anything with complexity; they are not creative.
 
If you or a loved one is like I used to be, stubborn about your medication, I implore you to read this blog entry again and gain a new appreciation for what medicine can offer you.
 
To your creative self!
 
Love,
 
KaeLyn
 

Prayer

 
 
EVENING Prayer
 
Dear Lord,
 
Lord, even though I still hate many of the side effects of lithium, I have gained a greater and greater appreciation for what the prefrontal cortex can do and understand that lithium inhibits protein kinase C, an overabundance of which disables the prefrontal cortex.  Just why I have too much protein kinase C, I do not know.
 
Lord, the ten above functions are critical for success.  They may not be essential for life, but they are needed for success.  Who wants to just live?  Let’s thrive.
 
Lord, will you help me to be more creative?  One of my ten values is creative productivity.  Help me to get better at what I have started. Already, I think my blog posts are getting better.  (I hope my readers agree.)  Help me to get better at sharing them with readers who would benefit from them.
Lord, lately my life has been a journey through many of these functions.  Maybe they are so critical to me because my husband’s prefrontal cortex is impaired.  Mine has to work for both of us.
 
It is getting past bedtime, when my inhibitions may start to slide again.  Not only is medication important to my functioning, so is sleep.
 
It has been a good day today.  I was especially happy this morning that I lost some weight and can continue the journey to lose 15 pounds.  It has already been more than a year, but that is okay.  My weight is already well within the normal range.
 
Lord, bless my readers with the ability to understand what I have written.  Encourage them to follow the links because I have a ton of good material behind the scenes.  Bless them with the functions of their prefrontal cortex and let them master their actions through time.
 
Amen.
 
If you would like to join me on this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One.
 
 
 

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