I have just returned from a very refreshing Easter holiday break with my family. Before I left, I wondered how I would cope with my workload, taking time off when what I really needed was more time. I am developing a new training course and was behind my schedule. Yesterday, I managed to produce a whole day’s work in a few hours. How did I do it?
I have come to realise that our “thinking” brains work best in sprint, rather than marathon mode. Just throwing time at the problem works well for repetitive, routine tasks, but the part of our brains responsible for creative and intelligent thinking – the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC) - gobbles up so much energy that it is incapable of marathons. It works best when well rested, and focussed on one very specific task, uncluttered by random thoughts and distractions. By deliberately limiting the time available for the task, our brains can move into superman mode and achieve amazing things in a very short time period. Having sucked all the oxygen and glucose supplies from our blood, they then need a rest and an energy boost before again being asked to perform miracles.
When I reflected on my pre-holiday work routine I realised I often started demanding tasks fatigued and unfocussed and a new module of material could take me a full day to create.
So that’s the secret – go on more holidays! This produces two key outcomes – a well rested brain and less time. Ironically, having less time creates urgency and the need for sprints. There is nothing like a deadline to get you to sprint the 100m in under 10 seconds….