We all know by now that we shouldn't check e-mail in the morning. It only bogs us down in less critical tasks when we're at our freshest. New to me, though, was the idea of scheduling different blocks of time for different modes of thinking. Or new, at least, to think in such a way about how I think.
Leadership coach David Rock's book, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, is divided into neat subheaded sections to make absorbing the complex ideas easier. You needn't be anyone's leader but your own to benefit from these suggestions.
Among David Rock's many insights:
1. Prioritize when you're fresh. Prioritizing involves understanding new ideas, making decisions, remembering, and more. "It's like the triathlon of mental tasks," writes Rock. No wonder you ought to plan how to allocate your day first thing, before you've exhausted your "brain's most energy-hungry processes."
2. Make simplifying a habit. Take complicated ideas and simplify them into their core elements, suggests Rock. "When you reduce complex ideas to just a few concepts, it's far easier to manipulate the concepts in your mind, and in other people's minds." Think of how we're told to reduce a novel's or a movie's plot to a single line in order to pitch or sell it. Or the advantages of bullet-point explanations.
3. Find the right level of arousal. Ah, here we are back at "flow" again. In Rock's chapter on "searching for the zone," he explains that "the prefrontal cortex is fussy." Thus, it needs "just the right levels of two neurochemicals, at just the right point within billions of circuits." There's a lot we can do to affect those chemicals within our brains, including being aware of our levels of alertness throughout the day, visualizing a mild fear, and injecting novelty into a task.
Finally, know that simplifying doesn't mean dumbing-down. Your Brain at Work is intelligently and engagingly written, thorough, and filled with achievable strategies.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Susan K. Perry
Susan's latest book is her first novel, KYLIE'S HEEL, available from HumanistPress.com.
Follow Susan on Twitter @bunnyape.