Understand your prefrontal cortex; have a more productive 2015

What with the new year and all, I am reading a book called The Organized Mind, Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.

I don’t think I’ll adopt author Daniel Levitin’s suggestion to scan every piece of paper and receipt that touches my life then create a link to each on an Excel document.  His section on how certain parts of the the brain govern our ability to organize our lives did intrigue me though.

Organized Mind 2The prefrontal cortex is the section of the brain behind the forehead and it’s responsible for helping us plan, organize our time, stay on task and pay attention in general. People with damage to this part of the brain can’t do sequences like make dinner or get ready for work – they don’t have the capacity to plan-then-do things in the appropriate order.

The prefrontal cortex blends what we are seeing and experiencing with whether we are meeting our objective. We would like to create an attractive chart that also contains a lot of detail – we alternate between assessing its effectiveness with how it appears and back again to effectiveness. The trick is to learn how to concentrate our energy on the part of the task will allow you to finish it.

The prefrontal cortex keeps us on task, yet we are encouraged in so many ways to multitask – now scientifically proven to be a counter-productive  exercise.

The lure of Facebook, the ping of email, an expectation of instant response in business all work against the way our brain is set up to operate best.

The companies that understand and allow for this are reaping the rewards. Google’s games rooms and Safeway’s encouragement of exercise at work have resulted in gains in productivity despite employees putting fewer hours on the clock.

Says the author: “Sustained concentration and effort is most effective not when fragmented into little pieces by multitasking, but when apportioned into big focused chunks separated by leisure, exercise, or other mentally restorative activities.”

That’s it – I’m off for a walk!





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