Learning Lab

Defend Against Production Leaks in the Workplace With Neuroscience

By Amy Brann

Obtaining the optimum in production is every organization’s goal. That is why it is a concern to know that almost a quarter of every work day is taken up by workplace distractions. That is a lot of time and money being drained from an organization due to the small moments of distraction that accumulate to be a tremendous loss of productivity. In order to better manage these distractions and focus the brain on the task at hand, neuroscientists look to methods which encourage prime use of the prefrontal cortex in order to solve task-related problems instead of wandering off task. There are various ways to accomplish the construction of a more productive workforce. Here are just a few of them.

Keeping the Brain in Tune

One way that focuses attention to a task to increase work production is through music that is custom made for concentration. There are companies that sell subscriptions to such types of music which are said to shorten the amount of time it takes for someone to get into the concentration phase of his or her work cycle and to work consistently for 90 minutes which is quite often how long a human being can focus on a task without needing to get up to stretch and take care of his or her biological needs. Focusing the brain slows down the frequency of messaging going to the prefrontal cortex, this supports a thinking environment that less likely to experience feelings of being overwhelmed and confused, it is specifically focused on the task at hand. Does it work? There are conflicting reports currently – but it may work for you so could be worth experimenting with.

Map Out A Plan

Another method that facilitates optimum concentration of the brain on tasks is commonly known as the to-do list. When a person breaks down a complex project into smaller tasks she removes that overwhelming feeling that there is too much work to do. When that is accomplished the brain can focus on the work at hand instead of the many possibilities involved in obtaining the larger goal. For example, when one is faced with the clean-up after a night of excessive merrymaking, it is best to focus on one room at a time taking one section at a time, a deliberate and methodical approach to straighten up makes the task less daunting and the clean rooms stimulate the reward pleasure response which gives internal encouragement to accomplish the rest of the larger task. The same is true with more cerebral tasks. The same is true with cerebral tasks. By organizing work into a checklist the brain concentrates on each smaller task instead of a more overwhelming view of all that needs to be accomplished to reach a goal.

To start the process, answer the following questions:
• What task has the soonest deadline?
• What do I have the information and resources to do now?
• What can be delegated or done later?
• How can I get what I need (information and resources) in order to accomplish this task?
• Who has the answers I need and how can I contact them?
• Shall I begin with a task that is quick and easy to accomplish or do will I begin with a more challenging ask and then move on to easier work later in the day?

Once these questions are answered a person can come up with a time management work strategy that better facilitates uninterrupted production. For as a person is able to check off one task at a time and know what task to undertake next, the brain is able to feel the reward response for each complete task thereby reducing the likelihood that the anxiety response will overload the prefrontal cortex. When there is no map or list it is more likely that anxiety will occur, shutting down the ability to think effectively and be productive. This anxious feeling often tempts people to distract themselves with social media, food, or gossip at the water cooler in order to feel a reward response that can be used to feel less anxious in the short term. However, it keeps the work from being done and is not productive to meet common goals of the individual and the organization.

Research shows that every 3 minutes people are distracted from their work. As a person feels the pressure of the workload mounting the brain begins its threat response protocol. As such it becomes more difficult to focus on the task at hand. Coaches can help their clients by introducing the client to strategies that allow for more production and less distraction.

Here are just a few examples:
• Keep workspace clear and clutter free. This promotes more time for working and less time trying to locate resources needed to do work.
• Keep personal cell phone away from work space. If a phone is not needed for customer care it is best left in a desk drawer on silent.
• Turn off unnecessary pop up notifications. Social media sites and email can be particularly challenging about these things. When a person is trying to concentrate on a complex task it is important that they are not tempted to see what everyone is saying on Facebook about Aunt Carol’s new kitten.
• Create a manageable to-do list in sight. This focuses a person tempted to be distracted as the list is a visual reminder to get back on track.
• Use a timer. This is a good technique for open ended tasks. Focusing time as more compact segments of time reduces the urge to allow distractions to take up time. A timer creates a scenario whereby the need to accomplish becomes more immediate and the brain is able to better focus on what needs to be done next.
• Utilize consistent break times and work until the next break time 90 minutes apart. Humans need breaks and when held to accountability to stick with a break plan, the mind is able to do higher quality work during the time between breaks.

Neuroscience shows that when a person reduces distractions and rewards oneself with small successes throughout the day they are better able to focus and accomplish their goals. Which is a benefit to the individual as well as the organization they work for.

You May Also Like…

How Can You Begin Coaching with Neuroscience?

How Can You Begin Coaching with Neuroscience?

As a coach you are working with people’s minds and brains, so it follows that logically you ought to have a certain amount of knowledge about how these things actually work. You should already have a good awareness of the core coaching models - most coaches will have...

Regret.  A Strategy for Change?

Regret. A Strategy for Change?

If you look back over your life, do you have any regrets? Although many people try to leave their regrets behind, they often have a tendency to linger on. Maybe a decision you made which caused your life to temporarily take a turn for the worse. Which caused you...