Are you paid to think? Leaders who are sustainable, or “built to last,” are paid to think and to do so effectively and efficiently, also know that being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.
The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking. However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring, what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.
David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose and I’d add play.
How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty? Here are some common signs:
1. (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli
2. Difficulty focusing
4. Unable to make a decision
5. Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)
Unfortunately, this pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:
Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)
Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)
Reasoning (if-then thinking)
Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)
Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)
In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.
5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:
1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program. Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.
2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A? Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a that means “I like it!” This might not fly for business emails. For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize? Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?
3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute “bathroom” break. Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.
4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.” Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.
5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged. Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.
How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work? Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.
… I’m off to recharge with a quick walk!
Free tools for Sustainable Leaders at Sustainable Leadership, Inc.