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Transform your Overloaded, Underperforming Brain into an Efficient, Overachieving Machine (Part 3)

In part 1, we touched on some highlights about what neuroscience has taught us about learning, patterns and their impact on thought.  In part 2, we looked at how those thoughts determine emotion and how anger and fear impact the quality of thinking.  Over the year, we’ll be examining other forms of overload and providing some concrete actions to mitigate or avoid them.  Today, we are going to tie this together with the answer to this question:

Why should you care about the quality of thought processes?

Folks, most of us have careers or businesses that are service-based.  Not many of us actually make things, and those among us who do manufacture products are having to improve their processes, cost, and time to market in order to remain competitive.  Most of us, then, make our money based on our ability to think better, faster, more creatively.

The ability to remain calm, then, becomes an important skill because anger and fear cause the brain to work from reaction or habit as opposed to conscious choice or rational thought.  The biggest hidden stress producers in the workplace are the fast pace of change, having to make decisions in the face of not knowing, and unresolved tension.

So, why should you care?

As a person who wants to excel in their chosen profession, how well you adapt to change, accept ambiguity, and resolve conflict directly influences your ability to find new and better approaches.

What can you do differently to improve your performance?

The first thing you can to is recognize that you’re feeling overwhelmed.  Look at the symptoms:  scattered thoughts, multi-tasking, frustration, snapping at people.  Take a deep breath or ten and center yourself.  If you have time, get up and take a mind-clearing walk.  Revisit your vision and your company’s vision (this should be somewhere accessible because as a leader you are a “holder of vision and values,” yes?).  Prioritize what is important.  Is there anything that can be delegated?  Can you push back to your management?  Can you outsource what doesn’t make you money?  Does your to-do list accurately reflect what’s the most important thing to do right now?  Make or re-make your to-do list, then shut off all electronic distractions and get to it.  Close your door or put up a sign that you don’t want to be interrupted.  Remember, having an open door policy is not the same as being constantly available.  Do the most important thing right now, and only that.  Focus, and get it done.

What can you do differently to improve others’ performance?

As an influencer of others, you can have a direct impact on how well your colleagues, direct reports, and vendors perform.  We haven’t discussed at all the concept of social intelligence, but the short version is that as social creatures, we are hard wired to be attuned to our social status. When we have an interaction and our perception of our social status stays the same or goes up, we maintain our emotional status quo or become more satisfied.  When it goes down, a stress or fear response gets triggered in the brain, which causes an emotional overwhelm.  That said, clearly yelling at, criticizing, bullying or belittling has a negative effect on performance.  Listening to, validating, collaborating and discussing are all actions that make another person feel heard and important.  The side benefit of these behaviors is that when people feel comfortable, they tend to contribute more as opposed to just enough.

We have just scratched the surface of overwhelm and performance.  How do you keep from becoming overwhelmed?  How to you maintain top notch performance?  We love your comments!

Until next time – peace and prosperity,


p.s. – Please join the discussion by leaving a reply below.

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Terri Schepps

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