6.29.12 Issue #538 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Are You Looking Out for Your Brain?
Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Your brain is a precious resource. Since you're reading this, you were blessed with a good one. Your brain enables you to see. It allows you to learn. Your brain takes in information from your senses, it analyzes that data, and then gives you a plan of what to do, from simple tasks like walking to complex tasks like dentistry. The brain is truly amazing! Through the growing field of neuroscience, we now know more about how it functions. In essence, the brain runs the show and controls just about everything you do.

Although it is a fairly small organ, your brain consumes about 25% of the oxygen you breathe. About 25% of the blood pumped from your heart flows to your brain. Approximately 40% of the nutrients your body uses are consumed by your brain. It is estimated that 80% of your blood glucose goes to feed the brain. In short, your brain soaks up a lot of energy. In the bestseller book, The Power of Full Engagement, author Tony Schwartz (and co-author Jim Loehr) report that the key to peak performance is managing energy, not time. Energy management means alternating intense focus with regular periods of renewal. In short, to perform at your best, you better be refueling regularly.

However, if you are like most people these days, you’re probably operating from the ‘survival zone’ - too much to do and not enough time to do it. With the rising demand of digital technology and the expectation of 24/7 responsiveness, we are increasingly burning our brain and depleting our capacity. When you spend more than you make you will go bankrupt. So too with our brains. The indicators are anxiety, reactivity and defensiveness…and poor performance.

Recently, Tony Schwartz asked 160 senior executives at a large bank to complete an energy survey. Here's what he found:

  • 77% said they had trouble focusing on one thing at a time, and felt easily distracted during the day.
  • 80% said they take too little time to think strategically and creatively, and spend too much of their time reacting to immediate demands rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage.
  • 54% said they often feel impatient, frustrated or irritable at work, especially when demand gets high.

Given these percentages, it's not surprising that the following figures also were reported: 

  • 82% reported they regularly get fewer than 7-8 hours of sleep and often wake up feeling tired.
  • 70% don't take regular breaks during the day to renew and refuel.
  • 70% eat lunch at their desks, if they eat lunch at all.
  • 65% don't consistently work out.
  • 68% said they don't have enough time with their families and loved ones, and when they're with them, they're not always really with them.
  • 71% take too little time for the activities they most deeply enjoy.

After reading these statistics, it's obvious why our economy is in such poor shape. Having this lifestyle yields short-sighted and ill-developed decisions! Before you dismiss these figures - you're not a banker - let me tell you that the same survey has been given to tens of thousands of leaders across multiple industries and the results are consistently similar. What this points to is a lack of knowledge about how the brain impacts one's energy level.

How well you take care of your brain impacts your ability to think clearly, to make sound decisions, and to live a rewardingly successful life. Protect your most important asset. Take care of your brain. Maximize your brain power by doing the following:

1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Sleep impacts our capacity to focus attention, store information and remember it. We also have the best access to creative insights for problem-solving when we are fully rested.

2. Take brain breaks. The brain is an energy-intensive organ that is capable of deep thinking, but only for brief periods of time before it needs a break. When you take regular breaks to refuel, you top off the glucose levels in your blood stream. In turn you can make better decisions and solve complex problems more efficiently. 

3. Exercise. If you want to look after your brain, you need to keep the body in shape. Regular workouts contribute to increasing your mental health as well as your physical health.

4. Spend time with the people you love. Social connections are key to our wellbeing. Turn off the smart phone and get away from the computer when you are home. Be present and live in the moment, at least some of the time.

5. Self-manage your emotions and be optimistic. The brain refuels when we are happy.

Everything you do, including the thoughts you generate in your mind, impacts your brain health. Take care of your brain and get into the ‘performance zone’. Alternate intense focus with regular periods of renewal. Encourage your employees to do the same.

Dr. Haller helps Doctors to build brain-power and practice success. Contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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