Simple is as simple does

I used to love a good route plan. Half an hours drive in London – checking the map, choosing a route, memorising the turns. The satisfaction of getting there hassle free, or the excitement / mild panic of knowing you’d gone wrong somewhere, parking up, looking at street signs around you and working out where you were and how to get where you need to be (again). Re-memorising. No blue dot, immediately locating you in a sea of streets. The modern day ‘you are here’ arrow, connecting you seamlessly to where you need to be. Giving you alternative routes, timings and to the second traffic updates. (And that’s all just on your phone – it doesn’t even include the almost redundant tom tom)

I had an argument / discussion with someone recently about some friends who, given a pivotal role in another friends life event, turned up 15mins late. I thought it unacceptable, because you know how long journeys will take these days. Google has mapped it. Its simple. No excuses. I am eternally guilty of arriving a tube station not knowing where the exact location of my destination is, and only finding the Red Pin minutes before my meeting. However I always leave ample time and check all possible travel routes and apps to get there on time. Especially when it really, really matters.

Sums, routes, recipes, memories, relationships – those are just some of the things that technology has simplified for us, made so straightforward that we don’t need to think or memorise. Ever. What impact will that have on our brains? Does it free up space for other thinking? Or does it slow down our processing and will our children, and their children, become hopeless self-navigators with bizarrely large thumbs, poor maths skills, short memories – unaware of the real world around them?

I don’t know, but its a bit terrifying. I know technology frees us in so many ways, and expands our world and the possibilities within it. But what do we forfeit in brain terms for this?

Brain limits

Our brains just aren’t quite as clever as I think we all think they are. I’m reading a fantastic book by David Rock – Your Brain at Work – and trying to digest it all to create a workshop that reflects even some of the amazing tips he has.

I’m sure I’ll share more over time but for today I think this is the key one…

Our brains haven’t developed as fast as we have as a species. They are still fairly set to preserve energy. Deep, difficult, creative thinking is the most energy zapping of them all and the brain doesn’t WANT to do them.

Thats why its so hard to focus on that new thing, that big piece of work. Not only does your conscious mind have a mild aversion to it, but your brain itself is far happier reading emails and ticking easy things off the list.

How do we help our brains?

Don’t try to do too many of these tough tasks in one day. Your brain only has a certain amount of energy per day and no amount of caffeine can change that. So prioritise and try one at a time / per day if you can.

Also, attack any creative tasks at once. The brain will use energy flitting between admin / creativity¬†/ practical tasks. The more you say focused on one type of task, the less energy you’ll use….

Interested? Buy it by clicking here or read more about it and David Rock here

(no, I’m not on commission its just great!)

Brain power

I just delivered a short and snappy workshop on the brain to the brilliant team at Ashoka.

It was all about how a little knowledge about our very own mind engine works goes quite a long way.

Their favourite bits were:
- The fact that trying to do two things (or more!) at once makes our mental capacity less effective – 3 x less effective than that of someone smoking cannabis
- That for every negative piece of information we need to hear 5 positive ones to keep thinking well – so be appreciative people!
- That we all hold negative assumptions about ourselves and tasks we face, and asking yourself ‘what am I assuming that is stopping me’ is a really helpful thing to do when you’re feeling a bit off centre
- That prioritising your day takes a lot of brain energy but is worth it as it will save energy in the long run, especially if you chunk your days and do similar tasks together i.e. creative ones, admin. Sounds really dull but it works!
- That an understanding of the brains make up and science can be very useful at work and at home!

Thank you for having me Ashoka!

If you’re interested, read more here:
David Rock, Your Brain at Work and Managing with the brain in mind
Nancy Kline, More Time to Think
Daniel Siegel, Mindsight

And Ashokas recommendation:
Jonah Lehrer, How creativity works.