Being Brain-Smart

'Workers everywhere are experiencing an epidemic of overwhelm… for many, every day involves a constant, massive, and overwhelming volume of work.  As the world digitizes, globalizes, unplugs, and reorganizes, having too much to do has become our biggest complaint.’ (Your Brain at Work, David Rock)

Can you relate to this statement?  Sadly most of us working in the knowledge economy can.  Recently a friend was describing her state of overwhelm, which included 2,000 unread emails in her inbox!  How do we keep up?

David Rock suggests that to be effective in our job we need to understand how our brain works and to develop more brain-smart approaches to our daily work.

Like any other muscle, the area of the brain that makes decisions and solves problems tires from use.  It is a limited resource and like a battery it needs recharging. Some mental processes take up a lot more energy than others.  A repeated, routine activity takes much less energy than making decisions or processing large amounts of new information.  

So how do we respect and value our brain’s limitations?  Rock makes the following suggestions:-

  1. Make prioritizing a priority – prioritizing is one of the brain’s most energy hungry activities and should be undertaken when our brain is fresh and energized.  It is crucial to prioritize where to allocate our brain's peak performance.
  2. Use visuals – save brain space by getting the concepts out of your mind, onto paper or some other visual form.  Using your brain to store information uses a valuable resource.
  3. Break work into blocks of time, based on brain use – for example creative writing, meetings, routine tasks etc. Schedule the most attention rich tasks for when you have a fresh and alert mind. Give your brain a rest and time to recover by mixing things up.
  4. Be disciplined about what you don’t think about - don’t think about a project until all the information is at hand.  Or say no to tasks that are not among your priorities.

‘Your ability to make great decisions is a limited resource.  Conserve this resource at every opportunity.’

Question to Ponder:- What could you do to conserve your brain resource and be more effective each day?

(For more information on this topic refer to 'Your Brain at Work, David Rock, Act 1, Scene 1 – Juggling Five Things at Once')