We’ve all been there.
It’s Thursday afternoon, and it seems like something as simple as an incoming email could break the camel’s back and send you into a downward spiral of fatigue and frustration. The computer screen fades in and out of focus, and although it’s the only thing you’ve been looking at for the past 6 hours, it’s the last thing in the world that you want to think about right now.
But there’s work to do! How are you going to drag yourself out of this slump? This blog post calls for your attention through a simple brain shift. Your mind, body and productive self will thank you.
It’s all about your biology, and it requires your attention. Everyone has patterns: times during the day when productivity and motivation is through the roof, and times during the day when the seconds seem to tick like hours and progress comes to a standstill. It’s important to understand these patterns in yourself, and govern your day accordingly.
- When are you most awake?
- When is the best time to make a phone call or write a memo?
- When do you need to do something mindless like deleting emails?
- And most importantly, when do you need a break?
In the front part of the brain sits the prefrontal cortex (PFC), often referred to as the CEO of the brain. Your brain’s CEO is responsible for executive function, required for things like differentiating conflicting thoughts, determining good and bad, better or best, same and different, future consequences, and predicting outcomes or expectations: any tasks that aren’t yet hardwired (like habitually driving to work). Things like writing reports, talking on the phone, producing / editing documents, and managing staff or resources are all functions that take place in the prefontal cortex, which means that YOUR brain’s CEO is likely working very hard all day long. And just like any other part of your body, it gets tired and needs a break. Imagine doing arm curls or squats for 8 hours a day…you might need to take a break now and then right?!
The best thing to do when your brain needs a break: TAKE ONE
This doesn’t mean that you need to lie down for 20 (although it could possibly be the best thing you do for yourself mid-afternoon). A brain shift is a simple thing and your brain's CEO and your sanity requires it. Here are some things to try:
- Stop, listen to the sounds around you (the office hum, the sleet on the window, your own breathing, etc)
- Read something non-taxing (humour is good)
- Go for a walk
- Hit the gym
- Take 5 DEEP breaths
- Call a friend or family member
- Do office yoga!
Managers, please remember that your people need breaks too. Your job is to create an environment where you can get the best out of your people. It’s YOUR environment, so do what it takes! Take the time to understand the biology of your people too. (Hint: we’re all pretty similar). Talk to them and allow them to admit when they’re tired and need a break. Encourage them to take 10 minutes to let their PFC relax. That 10 minutes away from the desk will result in an extra hour of productivity—far more useful than trying to force your PFC through 30 minutes or more of the daily afternoon slump.
What are some other ways that you get the best from your brain and the brains of your people? Let us know if you have a gem that may help others.