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4 Scientifically Proven Ways To Boost Your Brain Productivity

4 Scientifically Proven Ways To Boost Your Brain Productivity

The complex machine that resides inside us, the human brain, is responsible for everything in our lives. Our actions and reactions are largely triggered by this super computer in our heads.

In recent times, this super computer along with the body in which it is housed, has, for most people, become overworked and fatigued. Culturally we have also latched on to the word productivity.

This is a word that conjures up visions of getting more things done in less time and doing it efficiently. There are numerous tips and hacks to help us be more productive as well. But how can this productivity be sustained? Getting motivated once in a while and getting a task done is not enough. We want to sustain productivity for long amounts of time.

In order to achieve our desired productivity levels, let us understand how our brain works and how we can subsequently create long, sustained periods of productivity in our lives.

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Activate the Neocortex:

Our brain is comprised of three interrelated brains:
1. The Reptilian brain is the oldest brain in terms of evolution.

It is that part of the brain that produces an instinctive, non-thinking reaction. It is the part of the brain that makes a deer look up at the slightest of sounds. It is our natural survival instinct.
2. The Limbic brain is responsible for our emotions and motivations.

As a part of the limbic system called the amygdala, this brain also plays a part in determining what events get stored in our memory.
3. The Neo-cortex is also called the ‘New Brain’.

It is responsible for higher level functions such as sensory perception, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and creative thinking.

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Any threat or fear in our lives invokes our primitive brain structures.This causes us to resort to the flight, fight or freeze response. When our brain operates primarily from the limbic and the reptilian side, we inhibit our reasoning and creative thinking abilities.
For example, when people at work feel threatened– either from the fear of losing their job, losing the promotion, not being recognized, or any other fear, the stress hormone cortisol is released. When people operate with inhibited neocortex functions, they are not able to think and produce creatively and in an innovative manner.
Simon Sinek makes an excellent point in his presentation on work induced stress. Simon illustrates the effect of stress on our work abilities. He goes on to tell us how to combat this by serving others. The best thing that leaders can do is to make others feel safe, thereby increasing their neocortex activity; this, in turn, leads to more productivity.

Ultradian Rhythms of Productivity:

Scientists believe that alternating work cycles with short breaks leads to a productivity boost. This was discovered by psychophysiologist Peretz Lavie. Mirroring our work cycles with the body’s natural ultradian rhythms of 90 minutes work followed by 20 mins of rest leads to enhanced energy levels. These 90 minute cycles are very similar to our 90 minute sleep cycles; thereby leading to sustained levels of productivity without fatiguing our brains.

4-5 of these cycles a day is ideal. Our bodies’ natural cycles are good indicators for when to take such breaks, as an alternative to setting timers. Psychologist Anders Ericcson, in a noted study of high-performing violinists, found that the top performers practiced every morning for 3 cycles of 90 minutes each followed by a break.

Neuroplasticity:

Neuroplasticity is is the ability of the brain to rewire or change itself at any age. For a long time, it was believed that the neural networks in our brain are fixed after a certain age and no rewiring was possible. That is no longer true!

So how can we take advantage of neuroplasticity?

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Simply, by exercising our brain and exercising our body.

Exercise creates new synaptical connections. Exercising the mind can be done in numerous ways – learning new things, trying new experiences, even simple things like taking a new route to work, trying a different cuisine or a different food item, or reading different books; these are all simple ways to enhance the rewiring process. This process leads to increased productivity. As managers and leaders, we can urge our peers and subordinates to eat healthy, exercise regularly, take on innovative assignments or new projects to take advantage of the power of neuroplasticity.

Being in the Zone:

Have you ever been ‘in the zone‘?

The zone is where time seems to stand still, or you have no recollection of the passage of time, and the things and the people around you seem to melt away as you are so immersed in an activity. This state is also referred to as flow. The flow experience is when we are engaged in a task to the point that we are immune to our surroundings. Wikipedia defines it as:

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“The mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. It is a state of supreme creativity.”

When people work in a state of flow, they are naturally productive. As managers, we must identify people’s interests, strengths and talents and marry these to their work assignments. People will find themselves more frequently in the flow state and thus be naturally productive!

Featured photo credit: Victor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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