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About the book

This book explores issues such as why our brains feel so taxed, and how to maximize our mental resources, why it’s so hard to focus, and how to better manage distractions, how to keep your cool in any situation, so that you can make the best decisions possible and how to collaborate more effectively with others.

Buy book: Amazon

Year published: 2009


Quotes from the book

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long (David Rock)

  • Explore content recommended by Goodreads
  • we see the world as we are, not as the world is.
  • Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking.
  • The wrong answers are stopping the right ones from emerging.
  • Your brain craves patterns and searches for them endlessly. Thomas B. Czerner
  • They need leaders who help them shine, who help them fulfill their potential at work.
  • The right dose of expectations can be as powerful as one of the strongest painkillers.
  • We all often think about what’s easy to think about, rather than what’s right to think about.
  • Sometimes reducing a problem to one short sentence can be enough to bring about insight on its own.
  • The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. ANTHONY JAY
  • Bring your dopamine or adrenaline level down by activating other regions of the brain other than the prefrontal cortex.
  • When you get the nerve to talk to the attractive person across the room, your brain was being bold three-tenths of a second before you.
  • study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test.
  • Want to pick up a great book or two this season? Check out our recommendations of hot books selected by your fellow readers, bestselling authors, and more!
  • It appears that the perception of choice may be more important than diet and other factors for health. Choosing in some way to experience stress is less stressful than experiencing stress without a sense of choice or control.
  • May your cortisol levels stay low, your dopamine levels high, your oxytocin run thick and rich, your serotonin build to a lovely plateau, and your ability to watch your brain at work keep you fascinated until your last breath. I wish you well on your journey.
  • One final insight about prioritizing involves getting disciplined about what you don’t put on the stage. This means not thinking when you don’t have to, becoming disciplined about not paying attention to non-urgent tasks unless, or until, it’s truly essential that you do.
  • Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort…it’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.
  • New lovers tend to lose their minds and do all sorts of crazy things in the heat of the moment. One study showed that new lovers’ brains have a lot in common with people on cocaine. Dopamine is sometimes called the drug of desire. Too much dopamine, from being high with excitement.
  • Microsoft has a division that studies the way people work, to develop efficiency-improving software. (According to Microsoft’s research up to 2007, if you’re looking for a technological solution to being more efficient, getting a bigger computer screen is one of the few clear winners.)
  • Here’s my full list of guidelines for how to apply the principles of this chapter to email communication. 1. Emails should contain as few words as possible. 2. Make it easy to see your central point at a glance, in one screen. 3. Never send an email that could emotionally affect ano . . . Read more
  • As Stone says, This always on, anywhere, anytime, anyplace era has created an artificial sense of constant crisis. What happens to mammals in a state of constant crisis is the adrenalized fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in. It’s great when tigers are chasing us. How many of those five hundred emails a day is a tiger? Despite
  • There’s a famous finding in the psychological literature, Ochsner explains, showing that six months later, someone who has become a paraplegic is just as happy as someone who’s won the lottery. It seems clear people are doing something to find what’s positive in even the most dire of circumstances. The one thing you can always do is control your interpretation of the meaning of the situation,
  • Studies of teenage behavior shows that the terrible teens is not a biological necessity, as a number of cultures don’t experience this phenomenon. A study of teenagers in Western cultures found that these teenagers have fewer choices than a felon in prison. Food for thought. Finding a way to make a choice, however small, seems to have a measurable impact on the brain, shifting you from an away response to a toward response.
  • Even the strongest toward emotion, lust, is unlikely to make you run, whereas fear can do so in an instant. The toward emotions are more subtle, more easily displaced, and harder to build on, than the away emotions. This also explains why upward spirals, where positive emotions beget more positive emotions, are less common than downward spirals, where negative emotions beget more negative emotions. Human beings walk toward, but run away.
  • Trying to change other people’s thinking appears to be one of the hardest tasks in the world. While the easy answer may seem to be to give people feedback, real change happens when people see things they have not seen before. The best way to help someone see something new is to help quiet her mind so that she can have a moment of insight. As you have insights, you change your brain, and by changing your brain you change your whole world.
  • Without this ability to stand outside your experience, without self-awareness, you would have little ability to moderate and direct your behavior moment to moment. Such real-time, goal-directed modulation of behavior is the key to acting as a mature adult. You need this capacity to free yourself from the automatic flow of experience, and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit.
  • Many great leaders understand intuitively that they need to work hard to create a sense of safety in others. In this way, great leaders are often humble leaders, thereby reducing the status threat. Great leaders provide clear expectations and talk a lot about the future, helping to increase certainty. Great leaders let others take charge and make decisions, increasing autonomy. Great leaders often have a strong presence, which comes from working hard to be authentic and real with other people, to create a sense of relatedness. And great leaders keep their promises, taking care to be perceived as fair.
  • More people than ever are being paid to think, instead of just doing routine tasks. Yet making complex decisions and solving new problems is difficult for any stretch of time because of some real biological limits on your brain. Surprisingly, one of the best ways to improve mental performance is to understand these limits. In act 1, Emily discovers why thinking requires so much energy, and develops new techniques for dealing with having too much to do. Paul learns about the space limits of his brain, and works out how to deal with information overload. Emily finds out why it’s so hard to do two things at once, and rethinks how she organizes her work. Paul discovers why he is so easily distracted, and works on how to stay more focused. Then he finds out how to stay in his brain’s sweet spot. In the last scene, Emily discovers that her problem-solving techniques need improving, and learns how to have breakthroughs when she needs them most.
  • The impact of doing too much. A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test. It was five points for women, and fifteen points for men. This effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep. For men, it’s around three times more than the effect of smoking cannabis. While this fact might make an interesting dinner party topic, it’s really not that amusing that one of the most common productivity tools can make one as dumb as a stoner. (Apologies to technology manufacturers: there are good ways to use this technology, specifically being able to switch off for hours at a time.) Always on may not be the most productive way to work. One of the reasons for this will become clearer in the chapter on staying cool under pressure; however, in summary, the brain is being forced to be on alert far too much. This increases what is known as your allostatic load, which is a reading of stress hormones and other factors relating to a sense of threat.
  • In the workplace, you could increase people’s status by publicly recognizing them. The positive reward from positive public recognition can resonate with people for years. In the workplace, increasing a sense of certainty comes from having a better understanding of the big picture. You could reward someone by giving him or her access to more information. Some innovative firms allow all employees access access to full financial data, weekly. People feel much more certain about their world when they have information, which puts their mind more at ease and therefore makes them better able to solve difficult problems. In the workplace, you could increase autonomy by letting people work more flexibly, or work from home, or reducing the amount of reporting required. In the workplace, an example of increasing relatedness would be giving people opportunities to network with their peers more, by allowing them to attend more conferences or networking groups. In the workplace, in order to increase fairness some organizations allow employees to have community days, where they give their time to a charity of their choice.