Optimising Your Brain
One of the most common complaints of the average working person is stress, and this directly impacts your happiness and productivity at work.
Stress is a necessary part of human evolution, our ‘fight or flight’ mode. It shouldn’t be seen as negative, it only becomes negative when it’s chronic. Chronic or excessive stress can lead to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and can even change our genes, which are passed down through generations.
At Arganic, we have the opportunity to hear from some of the wisest thinkers in the world through our office space at the eclectic Second Home (insert link). As we strive to improve our brand and product every day, we are encouraged to apply the same effort to our personal development. Recently I left a lecture feeling so inspired, having gained some great nuggets of wisdom, and after blabbing on and on to Dana she made me promise to write it all down!
Cognitive connoisseur Phil Dobson (http://www.brainworkshops.co.uk/phil-dobson), who’s worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver and The Financial Times, shared with us his teachings on how to optimise your brain. Below are some of my top takings, as well as a few additions of my own;
Spend time doing things that make you happy
You’ve heard this one before, but it really does matter. You have to make time to stimulate your brain and keep your interests outside of work alive, in order to let the endorphins do their thing, which will directly counteract your stress levels. If you don’t take the time to do this, then it’s proven that your performance at work (and your happiness in general) will dramatically reduce.
Take breaks during your working day
‘But I don’t have time!’ I know what you’re going to say, but whoever thinks that busyness correlates with success is mistaken. To be honest, this is something that I personally struggle with, the classic case of ‘too much to do and so little time’, compounded with the feeling that I’m invincible. However, recently I’ve been feeling it get to me, and I’m reminded of the fact that someone who breaks for lunch (I won’t bore you with all the endless scientific studies) is much more productive after lunch than someone who eats at their desk.
Embrace novelty and curiosity
Your brain is a muscle, and to optimise its productivity you need to be constantly learning and trying new things. Examples you’ve probably heard before might be to learn a new language, instrument etc., but that’s for the really committed. Instead, there are simple choices we can make on a daily basis to help keep our brain on its toes, things like simply taking a different route to work once in a while, or mixing things up by brushing your teeth with your non-familiar hand.
Create pockets of mindfulness - when you feel like it
If it’s a beautiful day and you're stuck at your desk, take a 5 minute break to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face. If you don’t feel like it then don’t, but listening to what your body is craving, and fulfilling it, is important.
Make time for a weekly brain dump
We’ve all been there, when we’re tossing and turning in bed over that deadline, or the endless list of things you have to get done the next day, but your brain shouldn’t be the storage hardware of your choice. Create lists, write things down, prioritise, and only think about them when it’s time to. At Arganic we love using Trello as it’s a super easy online organising system based on the simplicity of lists and boards. And there’s nothing more satisfying than deleting the note or list when it’s done. Lastly, at the end of your working week, take time to make sure your board is up to date, and don’t look at it again until you’re back in ‘work mode’.
This last point is a bit technical, but I think it’s important to get into; we sleep in two cycles. In the first half of our sleep, our brain almost totally shuts down and our physical body regenerates itself. Then, in the latter hours of our sleep, it’s our brain’s turn. Here is when we process, deconstruct and reflect on our day (the realm of dreams) as well as filter information into our short term and long term memory. If you don’t sleep enough (the optimum is 7-8 hours, but everyone is different) then you’ll miss out on this crucial bit and likely wake up with a weight on your shoulders.
Everyday we have the choice to improve our wellbeing and productivity, and in an ideal world we would all implement the above and live happily ever after! But let’s try and be realistic. Why not try to make one small change, let’s say, brush your teeth with your opposite hand. After you’ve done it, laugh at how difficult and silly that was. And then after a few more times you’ll be able to revel in that special moment when your opposite hand proves itself as worthy and agile as its opponent!
Now one last serious suggestion: you should tell others about this. And not just so I get brownie points from Dana, but so you have an accountability buddy. You’re much more likely to do something if someone’s going to ask you about it. So try, share, and I’ll leave you with one lasting thought:
What’s the point in success if you don’t have the time to enjoy it? Success should mean that we have time to do the things we love. So be successful, not just at work, but be successful in life.