You know the feeling when a deadline is approaching and you need to get the work done, now? The more you try to push it through, the harder it seems to get. And finally, when you have managed to get the work ready, you know you could have done better. The challenge here is often that you couldn’t have allocated more time on the job. So what could be done?
Doing mental work demands energy
The human brain is a fantastic organ, when working well. The human brain has also it’s shortcomings one of which is the huge energy use of the specific part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, which is the key area of the brain working when making decisions and solving problems. The prefrontal cortex demands a lot of energy, and the energy available is limited. So when doing mental work, you are using your limited energy resources, and at some point you run out of energy. Your thinking gets ’stickier’, and it is harder and harder to make a use of your past experiences and get new ideas. The situation may feel like when a battery is running out of your flash light when walking in the dark; it is difficult to find your way forward and you start to stumble.
Gaining new energy for the brain
The key to get new energy for mental work is to do something else than ’thinking’. Taking a walk during a day is very beneficial in many ways; you get fresh air, get physical exercise and your ’thinking’ brain rests resulting with lots of new energy for mental work. But what if your time is very limited, and it often is? How to boost new energy for your brain in a couple of minutes? Here are some examples what you could do:
1. Do something fun and light. How about some dancing and singing along when listening to a catchy tune?
2. Call your friend or go to your work mate to chat about something that has nothing to do with your work.
3. Walk to the coffee room, toilet, corridor… just to get yourself away from your work, physically.
4. Quiet your mind. Using mindfulness-tools could be a great help here.
The key here is that you take a break from the mental work and do something that does not demand ’thinking’. Switching to some other ’mental work’, for example starting to answer your emails is not a right thing to do as it does not bring you fresh energy for ’thinking’, vice versa.
Working from my home office I have plenty of possibilities to switch from ‘thinking’, like loading the washing machine or the dish-washer. The challenge when working from home office is that may end up using too much time on the domestic work, if you do not pay attention.
How do you feed your brain?
The writer is highly inspired by David Rock’s book ’Your Brain at Work’.