How to Work with Your Brain

I was having a conversation with a director of an organisation the other day. She said to me, “Colin, I feel like I’m getting dumber in my old age.” And as we started to explore it, we discovered that she was actually breaking a few of the brain rules that help you function best in your organisation or in your business.

So what I want to share with you right now are the 3 fundamental brain rules that you must be aware of to function at your highest performance.

In the Productivity Academy, I talk about how you use your brain most effectively. These three brain rules are part of what makes up someone’s mindset around being effective and being productive.

So I started to discuss the following rules with my executive client, and what we realised was that she was breaking a lot of them, here they are below:

In other words, you need to be writing everything down. Your brain was not designed to be a filing cabinet. It was actually designed to be a calculator. What that means is that instead of trying to remember every single thing in your schedule, in your calendar or what you have, or what you have to do, you got to make sure you’re writing stuff down.This particular client has three young kids and a lot of responsibility,

1.You need to forget remembering. she was at a point where her brain was just overloaded. She was getting very foggy. She thought that she was getting slower in her older age, but it actually had nothing to do with how old she was. It actually has to do with the complexity of her life. She was trying to jam it all in to her brain.

Your brain is designed to be a calculator, not a filing cabinet. So, you need to forget remembering. Write every single thing down.

2.Your brain only has limited juice. 
What this means is that there’s a part in your brain called the prefrontal cortex, it is the logical processing part. It’s the part that does the cognitive, linear, analytical thinking. Now that part of your brain only has limited amount of juice or energy. Research shows that you can literally use up your pre-frontal cortex energy in around 20 minutes. If you are doing some really intense thinking or conversation, you can exhaust your thinking energy in around 20 minutes. It’s not very long, right?So if you are working on really in-depth ideas for long periods of time, you’re going to be exhausted by the afternoon. That’s why they call it “3 o’clock-itis”. But really, what they’re saying is that your pre-frontal cortex is exhausted. You haven’t taken a break.

3.You can only process one complex task at a time.  
What I mean by that is that your brain is designed to process one complex idea, one complex thought at one moment.For example: if you are watching a presentation and the person is showing a slide that has a lot of words and you start to read the slide, what tends to happen? You stop listening to the person. In other words, you’re either listening or reading.

If you’re writing an email, that’s a complex task. If you’re having a conversation with someone, that’s a complex task. You can only do one complex task at a time. When you try to process too many complex tasks, your brain actually starts to task switch and you don’t get into a state of flow.

There’s some research done around it. And what they found is that if you’re task switching regularly for a period of two to three hours, your brain gets extremely tired to the point of, they found out, the focused attention was actually as high as someone smoking marijuana. So basically, you’re on drugs. I don’t advocate drugs, but what I do advocate is focusing on one complex task at a time.

So get off the drugs. Stop smoking the weed. And focus on one complex task at a time and that will help you to get focus, momentum and flow.

I trust this has been helpful.

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