Are you overestimating what you’re capable of?

Probably.  Not because you actually aren’t capable.  It’s just that you likely work in a way that tires your brain out quickly, so when it comes time to do the mental heavy lifting, there’s nothing left in the tank.

In his book “Your Brain at Work,” David Rock outlines the biological limits of the human brain, and how knowing those limits – and using that awareness to work in different ways – can dramatically improve your results.

Here are 3 lies that rob you of mental clarity and fog your mind:

If you can’t remember it, it mustn’t have been important

Your brain has limited resources.  There’s only so much it can hold in your conscious awareness at any one time.  Trying to remember something by keeping it at the forefront of your mind depletes those limited brain resources rapidly.  If you forgot something that seemed important, it probably was important.   It just got displaced by “don’t forget to pick up milk on the way home.”

Write down great ideas.  Write down anything that pops into your head that you want to remember.  Let paper or an electronic device store the information, not your brain. Free up your mind for more complex thinking.

Flesh out your ideas so you can decide the best one

At decision-making time, it’s common to start getting into detail in order to work out if an idea has legs.  But if you’re trying to choose between multiple options, all you’ll do is fry your brain with too much information, tire out its limited resources, and leave yourself in mind fog when you attempt an energy-hungry activity like decision-making.

When it’s time to decide, don’t do complexity (also called analysis paralysis).  Do simplicity.  Do key issues.  Limit yourself to salient points.  Only then can you compare options without going into brain fry.  Save detail for another time.

Multitask to get more done

Multitasking is ok – if you don’t care about how accurate you are.  Scientist Harold Pashler studied “dual-task interference” and discovered that when people did two cognitive tasks at the same time, performance fell by 50%.

You can multitask if only one of the things you’re doing needs your conscious thinking, and anything else you’re doing is something you do so automatically that it’s like breathing.  Picture someone who’s been knitting all their life.  They can knit happily while holding down an intelligent conversation and never drop a stitch.  But ask someone who’s learning to knit (therefore needing to consciously think about the knitting) to have that same conversation and you’re sure to get a multitude of dropped stitches, a poor conversationalist, and a shortened temper to boot.

While we human beings are indeed incredible creatures, we’re not unlimited in our brain power.  Your brain has limited resources, and you need to use them at the right time, in the right way, if you’re to avoid having the tank run dry when it’s time for crucial activities like decision-making and problem-solving.

Write that down so you don’t forget.  It’s important.

 

Debbie Thompson is a leadership coach who combines her years in leadership positions with her love of coaching high achievers to outstanding results.  She works to help managers, leaders and business owners master that “leadership thing” so that they get more clarity, have more impact, and multiply their influence.