Taking brain breaks, reflecting on our work, and limiting data intake can make executives sharper and more productive.
Many executives don’t understand the concept of “brain health” or the power of high-performance brain training, but being empowered by some of these tools can significantly enhance one’s career.
Most business leaders pride themselves on juggling priorities and burning the midnight oil, with careers that are high intensity and cognitively rewarding and tasking at the same time. Learning how to quickly take in information, make hard decisions, and manage multiple teams are essential skills, but taking control of the brain’s CEO or the frontal lobe can be even more impactful on one’s career.
High-performance brain training teaches executives how to harness stress productively. Understanding the brain’s current capacity and performance level can influence the brain’s performance and resilience and provide incremental and continuous brain architecture and function improvement.
Adopting brain-healthy habits isn’t about finding more time in your day. It’s about applying your mental effort differently. Here are a few ways to enhance the brain’s functionality.
THE POWER OF NONE
We live in a world of data overload. Knowledge is power. We take in tremendous amounts of information to make evidence-based decisions. We are chronically stressed multitaskers. Chronic stress is the great equalizer: it makes us all stupid. And it actually shrinks our brains, makes us shallow thinkers, and makes us more error-prone.
Our brains need periodic, even if brief, downtime to enable the processes that help us think more innovatively. We have to allow our brains to do what they are designed to do – integrate disparate information in the background. Try to take 5 five-minute brain breaks each day. Take a walk around your building between meetings and separate yourself from all electronics. It takes practice to power down your brain periodically, but it will help your brain perform better.
To help our integrated reasoning capability – also called fluid intelligence or problem solving – we have to “zoom in and zoom out.” That means taking time at the end of most days to reflect on my two or three big takeaways, how they might have played out differently, what they mean to our key objectives, and how they might change or promote my plans for the next day.
This isn’t about checking tasks off a list; it’s about reviewing the day through a different lens. Paradoxical thinking promotes innovative thinking. Intentionally and routinely asking yourself these questions will promote continuous improvement.
PRUNING YOUR INTAKE
This is a tough one, but it’s something executives often already do. And it’s something we can all do better with practice and intent. We’ve all heard the expression, “less is more.” This means being more selective about the inputs we are receiving from multiple sources constantly for brain health. One needs to be diligent and gather necessary facts, but we must make it a point to stop and truly listen. Put your phone away in meetings. Resist the urge to take non-stop notes. Again, some of us already do this to an extent. My recommendation is to make it intentional and repeated.
The theme here is making brain health and performance part of your everyday routine. Think about your brain and how you use it, and it can be truly transformational.
By Stephen White is the Executive director at the Brain Performance Institute at Center for BrainHealth.
Published on D Magazine October 2020