Nearly unpacked

You have now nearly finished unpacking your brain—but do you really need to know any of this stuff? Does the chemistry of your mind have any bearing on your success as an individual? Would you work smarter if you knew a little more? Is all this just common sense anyway? Or would it be better to plug your mind in, start to use it, and leave the worrying about how it works to brain scientists?

By the time you have read this book, you will have seen many ways in which you can power up your mind and improve your performance. You should have learned more than 100 simple and realistic things that you can do to make you more successful by using your brain more effectively.

Before you move on, read the following story of a typical senior business executive called A Annie. In it there are at least 20 examples of how your mind can be positively or negatively affected by how you treat it. I have picked out 10 examples and in the next chapter you can find some of the practical ways in which you can look after your mind more effectively. When you have finished reading Power Up Your Mind, you should be able to add many others.

A day in the life of Annie's brain

When Annie woke up she was already beginning to regret last night's party. After only five hours' sleep, her head hurt and her mouth felt dry. A full glass of water beside the bed reminded her that she had meant to drink it before her head hit the pillow.

She looked at her alarm clock with horror. Only an hour to go before her first meeting at 9 o'clock. And today was when she needed an important decision from her new boss, Stephen, one that had been preying on her mind for the last week.Two large cups of espresso coffee later and a quick shower, and she was out of the door and on her way to her office. Another typical day was beginning and her mind was already racing. Annie found herself idly wondering how it was that she never quite realized her potential at work, then dismissed the thought from her brain as she drove into the car park of

"So, let's get started," said John to Geoff and the others around the table."I haven't done an agenda as we all know what needs to be sorted out. Let's just work our way through until we finish."

Three cups of coffee and two hours later, the meeting over, Annie got up from her chair and moved over to the window. It was funny how much better merely standing up made her feel. She looked at her scribbled notes of the meeting she had just had. She found herself realizing that she couldn't remember a single thing. She hadn't known what the meeting was going to be about and had, in truth, switched off after only 20

minutes of being talked at by Geoff as he went through an interminable PowerPoint™ presentation.

She decided to wander out to the water machine. Standing beside it, she drank glass after glass of water and then sped back to her office.

Apart from a mountain of paperwork and email, she had two main things she wanted to achieve that day: to hold the attention of her project team for a very important planning meeting, and to try to convince her boss, the new managing director, that she needed another three members of staff if they were to complete their work on time.

Back in the office, she got straight down to her administrative work, even though she still had a nagging headache. Apart from a few calls, she worked pretty much uninterrupted up to lunchtime. A quick stroll in the park, a large bottle of water and a sandwich later, and she was ready for her meeting.

As Annie's team came into her office, she made sure that she had a quick word with each of them, establishing their mood and trying to make them feel relaxed but alert. She spent several minutes with Paul who was presenting the main part of the session. He always pleasantly surprised her, and it looked like today was not going to be an exception.

Paul started by reminding the team why they were meeting and checking everyone's agreement over where they needed to get to by five o'clock. Paul had an amusing way with words and the ability to create mental pictures, which had all of the team laughing out loud as he described the situation they were in. Annie found herself relaxing and engaging in a way she had not done in her earlier meeting.

Then, instead of relying on a PowerPoint presentation, Paul asked the eight members of the team to pair up and spend a few minutes role-playing the job of explaining to the rest of their staff why the project was three months behind schedule. Each pair then gave a bravura snippet from their role-play to the whole group.There was a great deal of laughter and Annie made a mental note to use the idea herself, especially in a meeting after lunch when people's attention often seemed to drop.

Then Paul turned over a flipchart sheet he had prepared earlier. On it was a very clear mind map™ of the options they faced, expressed visually. Finally, he gave a short verbal account of his own view of the next steps and turned to Annie to chair the rest of the meeting.

"That was great, Paul. I specifically liked the way you got us on our

Unpacking Your Mind feet at the beginning: it really seemed to engage all of our attention and I feel that we have all really bought into the problems that we face as a result."

The rest of the meeting was a delight. Building on the excellent start Paul had made, Annie started by breaking the challenges they faced down into small chunks that were accessible enough for them all to deal with. Every 20 or 30 minutes she gave everyone a quick stretch break, except once when they all agreed that they were flowing too well to break their concentration.They finished at 5, with a clear summary from her, confident that they had agreed a really good plan to manage their next few months' work.

After the meeting, Annie headed up the corridor to the office of her new boss, Stephen.

As she went in, Stephen was in deep conversation on the phone and motioned for her to sit down. Five minutes passed and Annie found herself wondering whether she had got the time of the meeting right. For a moment she almost felt afraid, with her mind frozen into unaccustomed incoherence. But before she could check her diary, Stephen slammed the phone down and looked expectantly at her.

Annie always found this habit of Stephen's disconcerting. Her heart beat faster and she could feel her well-rehearsed thoughts flying out of her head. In truth, there was something about Stephen that terrified her, reminding her of a much-hated headmaster she had once had.

"So, you want me to throw more money at this lousy project, do you?" This was more of a statement than a question.

"Look,Annie, when I gave you this assignment, we both agreed it would be tough. I'm sorry, but there's no way I can support you on this. We're already way over budget. It just wouldn't give out the right messages. Look, I've got to see the kids tonight.Would you mind if we called it a day?"

With that, Stephen swept out, leaving Annie on her own.

All her positive feelings about her afternoon meeting evaporated in an instant. She felt miserable. Gathering up her papers, she headed back to her office and went home as soon as she could.

Still, at least she was going to see Peter for dinner tonight. He always listened to her stories and made her feel good about herself.

Maybe she might just have that early night she was always promising herself.

Annie doesn't look after her brain as well as she could, nor are the conditions at her workplace entirely conducive to its successful performance. As you read this book you will learn many practical ways in which you can take more care of your brain. Here are 10 to get you started.

10 tips for treating your brain right

1 Keep well hydrated. Your brain needs plenty of water for its "electronic circuitry" to function effectively.

2 Take regular stretch breaks. Your brain needs lots of oxygenated blood to work well. Just standing up releases an extra 20 percent.

3 Always give the big picture first. Your brain is constantly trying to make connections, so giving the big picture in advance allows it time to make sense of things and gather together all it knows about a particular subject, even for someone who loves to focus on the details.

4 Avoid talking at people for long periods. Your mind can only absorb a certain amount of new data and unless the speaker is very talented it will switch off after 20 minutes or so.

5 Vary the ways you give out information. Our minds are all different, some preferring visual, some auditory, and some the kinesthetic experience of getting up and "doing" something.

6 Think about concentration spans. While it is helpful to stay on task when you are flowing well, regular short breaks every 20 or 30 minutes often help the mind to remain engaged.

7 Break big things down into accessible bits. Your brain finds it easier to deal with big issues when they are broken down into smaller elements.

8 Use humor. There is evidence that when you laugh your brain releases chemicals called endorphins that act as relaxants.

9 Don't create fear in others if you want them to perform well. Under stress our brains think only of survival and higher-order thinking stops happening effectively.


Unpacking Your Mind

10 Make sure you get enough sleep. While each person's sleep requirement is different, a good night's sleep for many people involves more than seven hours. When your brain is tired it does not perform well.

Think back over the past 24 hours. How well have you been treating your brain? How many of the 10 simple tips above have you made good use of? Is your life like Annie's in any way?

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

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