The brain it would seem sometimes has a mind of its own. In fact, we know this is true because the brain is a mind of its own. Still, baring in mind the fact that that mind is our mind, it seems contradictory in a way that it doesn’t always do what we want it to do. In fact in some cases the brain seems to only vary rarely do what we want it to. It’s from here that many of our troubles are born – procrastination for one, laziness, mood swings and various other behaviours we don’t want from our brain, but which occur nevertheless.
And so we try to combat this, most commonly through the use of ‘brain training’ and other attempts to force ourselves to focus better. We get more sleep, we practice, we eliminate distractions, we drink coffee and we listen to ‘productivity’ playlists. Still though even with all this going on we’ll still only train our brain to a certain extent and it’ll still be fighting to do what it wants to do. We’re still going against our own minds and this is going to result in only so-so productivity at best. So what can we do? Here we’ll have a look at some of the methods you can use to better work with your own brain and to be more productive and efficient as a result. Likewise recognise that these are all tips that you can also apply to your staff if you’re a manager or an executive to greatly increase the productivity of your entire workforce and so your company as a result.
The solution then is to stop fighting our brains and to instead be lead by them. To go with the moods and the patterns of our own minds and so to work with them rather than against them. For example, someone who wasn’t in the mood for work one morning might try to prime their mood by listening to that aforementioned ‘work music’. Alternatively they might try reading a chapter from the biography of Richard Branson to put them in the mood for earning money and using their brain. And yes this will work and they’re likely to find themselves working better than before, but still they will be limited by the fact that their brains will still be urging us deep down for rest, play or something else entirely.
The other option then is to just refrain from working at that time and to instead to what the brain wants. Want a rest? Then go and take a power nap, then when you’re finished you’ll most likely find that you feel a lot more productive afterwards as a result. Similarly, if you find yourself constantly distracted by something in particular, then why not try to turn that into something you can use to be more productive? For example, say you’re meant to be writing an essay but you keep being distracted into writing something else, then why not work the two topics together? This won’t always be possible, but often at university for example you are given the option to choose your own essay titles. The key is then, to find what it is that’s currently distracting you and that you’re currently interested in, and to try to work that into the essay.
The point is that if you find something far too boring to concentrate on then you possibly shouldn’t be doing it. This is something that’s particularly true if you’re writing, where if you can’t focus enough to write it then the audience reading it probably won’t be able to focus on it either. Rather than be distracted or force your way through it then, think about how you can re-frame the paragraph or sentence in order to make it more interesting. If you’re writing a novel and you get ‘writers’ block’ it probably means that you don’t want to write the next part and that it’s not interesting to you. Again the best solution to this problem is to introduce a new element or to alter the story so that you are interested in it and you can as such carry on writing. At the same time this will then mean that when someone else reads it it will be far more interesting. It’s literally just addressing the same issues related to concentration and boredom, but looking at them from the opposite angle to solve them in a more efficient way.
A lot of people will find that their procrastination comes from playing computer games such as the ever-popular minesweeper and solitaire, or that they go on Facebook and look around for ages refreshing to see if anyone’s tagged them in any new pictures. If you want to increase productivity then, or as an employer, you need to look at what it is about those activities that makes them favourable to work. With computer games it’s obvious – they’re fun, challenging, require creative thinking and they have bright colours and loud noises and music. The question is then, how can you make work more like that? First of all then you need to find ways to make mundane tasks more interesting or more challenging. Simple ways to do that are to put a time limit on your job, to put on good music, to create a points system for what you do. If you’re an employer then start encouraging your employees to think outside the box, to be creative and to use initiative. Innovate and think of ways to make your work more fun and engaging.
Data entry jobs are renowned for being the dullest jobs in the world. This is because they have literally no creative aspect to them and there’s no way you can innovate or make it your own. At the same time you’re staring at a computer screen eight hours a day. So what do most employers do? They ban their staff from listening to music (too ‘distracting’), they encourage a black and white dress code, and they try to ensure there isn’t too much talking. How is anyone meant to maintain focus and concentration on something that devoid of interest or personality?
So what would a smart employer do under these circumstances taking into consideration what we’ve looked at here? Well they should first of all try to make it more interesting, not less interesting. That means putting on music, and it means letting people wear their own clothes. By putting on music (rather than letting them choose their own music) you can have more control over what everyone’s listening to. While some music is distracting to an extent, something like classical music or other tracks without lyrics will actually improve people’s ability to work as it distracts the ‘creative’ part of your brain allowing the logical side to get to work. At the same time the employer should encourage competition to see improved speed of data entry and ask their own staff to brain storm on ways that they can increase their productivity and work faster.
A very forwards thinking company would also think about the software they were using – could that be made more engaging, more creative, or more interesting to use? To go back to the computer game idea – you could make the software that you work with more like a computer game. This would require learning to use a programming language to make your software, or getting outside help that you would probably have to pay for. However once you had the capability you could make a data entry system (for example) that used explosion sounds and that told the user how much money they were earning in real time every time they entered a piece of data which would be very satisfying and help them work better towards the target.
At the same time if you or your employees are struggling to work then you need to wonder about which elements of the job that are putting them off. For example if you need to make a website you might be procrastinating because you don’t want to have to rename files or put them all into the same folder for example. Maybe you’re happy writing the content for the pages but get bored writing the meta tags? Well again by writing your own software you could automate this process. Alternatively if there several of you working on the process or you can hire staff you’d then assign the less enjoyable tasks to other people. For the best and most efficient office then you’d have everyone working on the task that they chose so that everyone was doing their best work and helping each other as a result.
Finally, make sure that the rest of the time you are always doing your best to avoid wasting any time. By this is not meant don’t take any time off, but instead, make the most of whatever you’re doing. If you are sleeping or relaxing then make sure that it really rejuvenates you and you do your best to feel refreshed after. When you read or watch TV try and think what you can learn from that, and when you take time off to work on your own projects – to write or to draw for example – then make sure you hold on to your products. You might be able to sell them or incorporate them into your work somehow – you’d be surprised what you can use further down the line and all human output is valuable.
In summary then, embrace who you are and use that to direct your working behaviour. Recognise how the human mind works and go with it. If you don’t want to do the thing it is you’re meant to be doing then question why. Don’t try to change yourself to suit what you do or your heart won’t be in it; instead change what you do to suit yourself.