Your Brain At Work helps you overcome the daily challenges that take away your brain power, like constant email and interruption madness, high levels of stress, lack of control and high expectations, by showing you what goes on inside your head and giving you new approaches to control it better.
Dr. David Rock is an expert when it comes to the state of high performance. He’s trained over 10,000 people thanks to his background in neuroscience and leadership and showed them how to get the most out of their brain.
Your Brain At Work is his most popular book, which dives into the brains of Emily and Paul, two fictional characters. As they go through their day they face a lot of challenges, like information overload, lack of focus, emotions boiling over and trying to give feedback to others without criticizing them.
The book breaks apart what happens in the human brain in situations like these and helps you deal with those very same challenges in a better way in your own life.
Neither Emily nor Paul have made it into Blinkist’s summary of the book, but there’s still a lot to learn from it. Here are the 3 lessons I liked best:
- Your ability to think is limited, so don’t multitask.
- When you compete against your own self from the day before, you boost your brain power.
- Don’t give feedback, help others find the answer on their own.
Ready to kick your brain into the next gear? Time to learn!
Lesson 1: Your ability to think is limited, just like your willpower, so remove distractions and don’t multitask.
You might know that your willpower is limited, and that all you can do to get it back after a long tiring day is rest, get plenty of sleep and recover.
Well, your ability to think and solve problems is the same.
A study way back from 1898 had its participants exert physical force on something called a dynamometer, while solving a tough mental task in their head.
When people thought hard about the problem they had to solve, they lost up to 50% of their physical force.
Yes, thinking is exhausting, and eventually, your brain needs to take a break.
Things get even worse if you multitask (lucky for you I wrote the number 1 guide on the web to stop doing it), it lowers your IQ by up to 10 points.
The effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep and is caused by your brain being in “alert mode” for too long, until it loses its grip on things.
Rock suggests 2 solutions to this:
Ruthlessly prioritize your tasks (which is a thinking act in itself and will take a mental toll, so do it in the morning when you’re still fresh).
Turn your most important tasks into habits and let them run on autopilot, thus conserving energy.
Lesson 2: When you compete against your own self from the day before, you boost your brain power.
“Ha, I told you I was right!”
Feels good to say that sometimes, right?
Of course! You can admit it. It’s ok.
We all crave a little status sometimes. That’s why we buy fancy designer clothes, spend hours arguing with our friends about who’s right, and feel better when we see someone who’s a few steps behind us in their journey.
That’s because feeling a sense of elevated status leads to higher dopamine and serotonin levels (2 of your happiness hormones) and lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
This even helps you think better, because thanks to those hormones, your neurons can connect faster, meaning you take less time to process information.
Some computers have an overboost function, where the processor can go beyond its usual speed for a little while. This is similar, but it’s your brain on steroids we’re talking about here!
Here’s where it gets interesting: Because your brain uses the same neurons to perceive yourself as it does when it assesses other people, you can just increase your status over your own, past self, and trigger the same effect!
Honing your skills, for example by improving your game on the basketball court a tiny bit every day, will release more happiness hormones, due to feeling better than yesterday’s self, and help you learn faster.
Talk about a lifehack, eh?
Lesson 3: Instead of giving direct feedback, help others see the solution on their own.
Yes, we all need some tough love sometimes.
But have you realized how hard it is to convince someone to do what you suggest, even when they’re openly admitting their problem to you?
You might tell them straight up: do X, Y, and Z, and your problem will be solved, yet they will take forever to implement it.
That’s because they didn’t come up with the solution on their own. Only when we discover a solution or insight ourselves do we truly understand it and can implement it without hesitation.
Giving advice only helps 8% of the time.
Instead, be people’s coach. Guide them towards their own insights. Ask the right questions and elevate their status, for example by saying “I’m sure you did your best, let’s sit down together and work this out!” and acknowledging their skills.
Reduce their anxiety and stress and foster a positive attitude and make them feel in control and soon, they’ll see the solution just as clearly as you do.
My personal take-awaysThis book is too damn packed with good information