A researcher and consultant burrows deep inside the heads of one modern two-career couple to examine how each partner processes the workday - revealing how a more nuanced understanding of the brain can allow us to better organize, prioritize, recall, and sort our daily lives.
Emily and Paul are the parents of two young children, and professionals with different careers. Emily is the newly promoted vice president of marketing at a large corporation; Paul works from home or from clients' offices as an independent IT consultant. Their days are filled with a bewildering blizzard of emails, phone calls, more emails, meetings, projects, proposals, and plans. Just staying ahead of the storm has become a seemingly insurmountable task.
In Your Brain at Work, Dr. David Rock goes inside Emily and Paul's brains to see how they function as each attempts to sort, prioritize, organize, and act on the vast quantities of information they receive in one typical day. Dr. Rock is an expert on how the brain functions in a work setting. By analyzing what is going on in their heads, he offers solutions Emily and Paul (and all of us) can use to survive and thrive in today's hyperbusy work environment - and still feel energized and accomplished at the end of the day.
In Your Brain at Work, Dr. Rock explores issues such as:
- why our brains feel so taxed, and how to maximize our mental resources
- why it's so hard to focus, and how to better manage distractions
- how to maximize the chance of finding insights to solve seemingly insurmountable problems
- how to keep your cool in any situation, so that you can make the best decisions possible
- how to collaborate more effectively with others
- why providing feedback is so difficult, and how to make it easier
- how to be more effective at changing other people's behavior
- and much more...
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- Anonymous User
Your Brain at Work
Help, be more effective and avoid burn out. Handle various projects with focus, bring more attention, be resourceful and work collaboratively.
Emily and Paul go through their day. The smartest neuroscientists explain this.
Take 1 and take 2 that brings about changes.
Act 1: Problems and Decisions
Scene 1: the morning information overwhelm.
Pre-frontal cortex is the biological seat to your conscious interaction with the world. To thinking things through when you are on auto-pilot through out your life. We ourselves generate information to the pre-frontal cortex, and not influenced from outside. It needs to have everything just right otherwise it won’t function well. You can compare the pre-frontal cortex to a stage. Compare the information processed to be actors. Conscious mental activity has to be limited to one, just like you can’t climb a mountain and talk at the same time.
Similar to the light needed to light up the stage. Doing physical work while thinking.
Basal Ganglia is a part of the brain that drives routine activity without much attention.
Decision making and impulse control takes much of the pre-frontal cortex’s performance. Take lemon with some sugar or glucose.
Stop and pay close attention & focus when you face a multitude of actors on stage.
Mental stage is a limited resource like financial assets that have a tight hold on spending. Put the best use of your asset to work without wasting it. Prioritise.
See how a helicopter toy that needs a charge to fly. So is prioritising, a power hungry beast.
Some actors are harder to get on stage than others. Bringing recent activities as opposed to long past events. You might take a long time to guess what you ate 10 days back than what you had last night.
prioritize with fresh mind.
Use visuals to process information in your mind’s eye. Visualising things activates the occipital lobe in the back of your brain. This region is activated by image, story-telling, or metaphors.
Get things out of your head. Reduce the load on stage whenever possible. Conserve energy. Minimise energy usage to maximise performance. Its easy to make a tough decision in 30 mins when you are on fresh/on every conservation mode. Experiment with different timings than topics. - deep thinking/meetings/routine tasks - divide these into blocks of time. Yo let your brain recover just like your muscles. Even you’re thinking. Mix things up like a work out. be disciplined about when not to think. To non-urgent tasks until it’s too essential. To delegate. Perhaps not to think at all until u have answers on all layers/possess all information needed to process.
Morning information overwhelm. Take 2
Save energy for comparing prior to put em on stage. Focus on the top priority items that may look harder to see small wins.
Surprises about the brain:
Conscious thinking is a precious resource. Prioritise prioritising, save mental energy for prioritising.
Scene 2: A project that hurts to think about.
Mental stage. A person can normally hold upto 7 items in mind at a time, which was later refuted, and told to be 4. You can’t squeeze 40 actors on a stage that can hold only 4 at a time. Comes down to competition on what actor gets priority. Likely the number of items to hold at a time can be 2. ie. to turn left or right, or 3 or 4 max.
Similar to how chess players focus of few chunks at a time to make the best decision. Sometimes breaking your projects into stages and put them into chunks of time.
Scene 3: Juggling five things at once.
Talk on phone & walk to find the room - two items overwhelming your prefrontal cortex in a situation for finding a room for interview. How much information you can collect at a time vs how you are able to process them - actors can hold only one role at a time. You can’t process so much without impacting performance. Accuracy and performance drop off when you do too many tasks at once. Ex: driving and talking in different places and situations. Brain can’t do two things at once. Finish one operation before beginning one cos the stage is small.
Dual task interference. Its actually not exactly about two things at once but actually about doing two conscious tasks at once and is called dual task interference.
Impact of doing too much.
Get the audience to do more work. Ex: learning to drive a car in different bits, parking, shifting gears, reverse etc. the basal ganglia moves millions of muscles in an order once you set up it up, it learns it and then performs it. For ex: how you learn to sip a hot glass of drink by sipping it first. Bottleneck is what prevents prior decisions that need to be answered before the one that in queue can be answered. Reducing queues can be effective to mix up and use attention.
Scene 4: saying no to distractions
People change attention and do things every three minutes. How Microsoft experimented with supplying big monitors to their employees.try to avoid external distractions, like turning off your smart phone to think and work well. there are more internal distractions. Because the nervous system is configuring and reconfiguring information every single second.like random actors jumping on to the stage for a 2 minute fame. People can hold their thought for 10 secs. Lapses in attention involves activating prefrontal cortex.
How to inhibit wrong things from coming into focus.
Develop a pattern. If your brain notices a pattern, it is able to perform actions faster. When we are distracted, we are always thinking about ourselves. So its better to avoid letting your brain make up mental pictures.
Scene 5: searching for the zone of peak performance.
The peak performance.
The inverted you - performance was poor at low levels of stress.
You stress/positive stress to help perform well. Arousants help by bringing urgency to tasks, a kind of fear.
Too much arousal and under arousal and over arousal aren’’t good things. Too stimulations for too many things isn’t good.
it triggers too many activities on your prefrontal cortex. Like oestrogen. Ex: how women & men handle deadlines. also the arousants’ level - under and over arousal can influence. There should be just the right levels. Peak performances require the right amount of stress, not the minimum. penopropylene and dopamine are the two which help you.
Scene 6: getting past a roadblock.
Sometimes the conscious prefrontal cortex is alone not enough when it comes to being more creative on demand. Impass is something that is like a writer’s block. That doesn’t let you recollect things like a friend’s name from the past. Mostly when you are creative, you encounter impasses unlike non-creative people. You should move from impasses to insights. Getting around an impass is really necessary to streamline the thought process, ex: Turing the traffic on a bridge. You will have to stop the traffic to be able to drive around. And most insights happen when you are in the shower. They say it has a thing to do with water and active ways to diminish the thinking. Get it out of the way, and the solution will appear. clarity of distance. This gives you a good perspective to solve the problem from a distance. Sometimes not knowing everything is okay. one person who has all the info + a person who has very little info on the same problem can solve it together than them trying to solve it separately. you have to be creative on command. The right anterior temporal lobe. aria - awareness reflection insight action. The right hemisphere for insights is important. thats why you kinda quiet down when they are trying to focus. sometimes you have to get all the actors on stage, so that unconscious thoughts can solve the problem. Quiet mind with minimum electrical activity. insights happen when you are so relaxed and happy. The right hemisphere is the Bridge between the information you hold and the specific data. reduce the anxiety/quieting your mind/focus to see patterns and connections and links from a high level than getting into detail. Stop and focus on insights when they occur.
Intermission: Meet the director. Metacognition - thinking about ur thinking. Metaawareness - being aware of ur awareness. Knowing yourself is the first thing to change. Step out of ur skin and looking at yourself through the eyes of another person can help you get a meta perspective of yourself. Without self awareness, you don’t get what your capacity is. putting the director under a microscope. The idea of living in the present. Mindfulness is a trait and can be developed. MINDFUL AWARENESS ATTENTION SCALE - MAAS to measure mindfulness of individuals. everyone has a default network when you think about yourself and gives an narrative. The brain holds vast information about yours and those of other people. Your brain weaves a giant tapestry with this information, and thus displays mindfulness.
ACT 2 - Stay cool under pressure.
Scene 7 - Derailed by drama
Labelling & arousal.
Scene 8 - drowning amid uncertainty - the brain is good at recognising patterns and predicting them. The predicting capacity involves more than your 5 senses. 40 emotional cueues your brain can pay attention to at any given time. The only certainty is more uncertainty. When you can’t predict the outcome of something, your brain sends an alert to pay more attention. A sense of not being able to predict the future generates more uncertainty. Autonomy and certainty are two things to consider. the feeling of being in control reduces the stress and increase your autonomy. The perception of choice matters to the brain. three types of reappraisals. Cognitive reappraisal can help differentiate and gives insight and reinterpreting an event. Reduces uncertainly and increases sense of control.
Scene 9 - when expectations get out of control
You can see only problems, but upward spiral lets you see more than the problem. Happy people see a wider range of data and are able to make better decisions. Happiness is a great state for mental performance. Live with good amount of novelty, and creating right expectations. manage expectations, and setting the scene for the future. Minimise the threat to increase the odds of your rewards or possible outcomes in most situations. To pay attention to possible expectations which you know for sure. This helps you maintain a good level of dopamine.
ACT 3 - Collaborate with others - the need for food, water, shelter - these social needs, if not met, is kind of a threat.
Scene - 10 - Turning enemies into friends.
When you sense a foe, you don’t interact them with them normally, and feel no empathy and less sense of collaboration, and makes you feel lesser than them. It changes how you interact when you think of someone as a competition. These mistakes generate more threat responses. You can get easily upset and discord their ideas. don’t get emotionally charged. Defuse the natural foe state to do some difficult thinking.
Going from foe to friend - handshake, having a coffee, discussing something you have in common, discussing weather or traffic to cause oxytocin release. have shared experiences and likely to treat them as a friend. this works when you turn strangers into friends. To offset the feeling of foe, have shared experiences. Have shared goals vs competing goals to let people relate too. It’s highly impactful.
Scene - 11 - When everything seems unfair
sometimes you may get a deeper sense of unfairness, by someone painting a misleading intent about someone else. When you tag someone as a foe, it’s even more difficult. You have to be extra careful in these situations. You may get intimidated when there’s no fairness and kinda feel everyone’s treating you unfairly. Prefrontal cortex tends to shrink when you hit puberty. increase sense of fairness an increase level of dopamine and oxytocin. This lets you collaborate with a great sense of belongingness. employees feeling of unfairness may be contributing to their physical and mental health. Increase the feeling of collaboration to make people feel decisions were made fairly. It affects the cortisol levels and the longevity of life itself. A sense of fairness can be a primary reward.
Scene -12 - The battle for status
You raise your status vs someone else, or perhaps your own selves from the past. To play against yourself, you’d need to know yourself. Increase your capacity and get faster in reading other’s mind. You increase relatedness when you share, and are able to make better decisions and collaborate with others. 5 domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues - SCARF model - status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. If your status is attacked publicly and unfairly, and it can take years to recover from social pain. It comes back when you think about it again, unlike physical pain which is gone. change your focus to make your oxytocin level increase. You’ll get an insight.
ACT 4 - FACILITATE CHANGE
brain constantly changes based on external factors, but can also be changed by changing people’s attention.
Scene 13 - When other people lose the plot.
When you review your own work - you have a pressure to make it look good. The idea of protecting your status, and the brain is focussed only that what you did was right. When you read someone else’s works, you tend to find mistakes so very easily. They lost the plot, when they feel threatened. Focussing on the solution helps you get better results. And don’t put people use their energy is defending themselves and channel it to drive the solution.
Scene 14 - The culture that needs to transform
Facilitating change in another person is not easy, as much as it is over a group of people with diverse characters. Change is hard and so is their behaviour. Using a blunt instrument to change approach will not help as emerged from behaviourism with a conditioned response, like the carrot and stick method, u can try this with kids, but not with adults, where it’s perceived as a threat, and will lead to arguments and fights. Real change required repetition. Repeated attention. Frequency, duration, and the intensity. When you make a promise, and your brain brings it up as often as it can. Ex: learning music - repetition, and the effects of rehearsal. in a garden - there’s always sunlight, but very less rain. So you gotta water it as often as possible. Water them in small amounts, regularly. to get people to change, let them collaborate, and talk about it regularly, and have people share their thought. It can also be beneficial to see where other’s attention is. pay attention to everyone’s attention and to focus their attentions into the new ways. Self developed neuro-plasticity. Being heavily cognitive or being goal focussed can make situations worse. Sometimes, giving people power has upside and can cause impact with their intent.
The latter Emily and Paul have good life at office, family, and personally. they have strong directors, and can stand apart and are able to observe their brain functions and are able to make small changes. Microscopic changes can account to massive behavioural responses to the small stimuli. Self awareness is very important. Don’t allow external factors to drive your brain. Understand the machine-like nature of your brain, to build your director. That way, you’ll be able to bring about change in you, others, and perhaps, the world itself. should be able to shut the pre-frontal cortex to be more creative.
14 people found this helpful
At or Near the Top of my Reads. Fantastic!
A phenomenal, thoughtfully-written book. This is a Huge Arsenal of Knowledge about the Human Brain and How to Train it for a Far Better Life to Live. Precious Find.
3 people found this helpful
- Anonymous User
I love how it explained my brain can do and how to maximize my brain function.
1 person found this helpful
UGH! Get to the point!
Blah blah blah...I’d prefer to listen to the science then brief examples. Talk about a book that will cause you to be distracted.... this is it!
- Anonymous User
I like it very much and i strongly recommend it. My director works now 24/7.