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6 Ways Work Makes You Stupider

The number of ways our workspaces and workplaces conspire to make us dumber is pretty amazing. At times, I wonder if an evil genius sat down and thought, “how can I create an environment that ruins everyone’s productivity?” And after much thought, created the modern workplace.

Below are a few examples of how our brains are drained at work, and what you can do to preserve productivity.

Your E-mail

I am positive you can recall the last time you were “in the zone” as you worked on a complex project only to hear the Ding! or see a the ghostly image of an email notification on your computer screen.   The distraction is momentary, maybe one second. But when you try to pick up where you left off, your train of thought has left the station.

A 2005 survey of 1,100 workers found that interruptions such as email, a ringing phone, or the co-worker who drops by to tell you how great his weekend was, have a greater impact on your concentration than smoking marijuana.

A simple fix is to turn off all email notifications, and silence the phone to remove distractions when you need all of your attention focused on work.

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Your Chair

Parking yourself in a chair for long periods of time not only slows down your body – it slows your brain’s ability to process information. Research finds working memory functions improves when you walk at a natural pace. Researchers from the British Psychological Society speculate that walking at a comfortable pace provides a boost of energy to the brain and expands its processing capacity.

So those people who set up a work station on a treadmill may look a little strange, but they may be onto a good thing. But for most of us, our best option is to get up and take a walk, outside if possible, to help reset your brain for high concentration work.

Meetings

Research from Virginia Tech finds IQ test scores drop for those who attended a meeting compared to those who work on their own. Specifically, post-study tests of cognition reveal large numbers of those in the meeting group experienced significant drops in the ability to solve problems. The largest impact is on those who receive negative status cues from higher position co-workers. Unfortunately, that describes the communication that takes place in many or a majority of business meetings.

My advice, if you don’t need to be in a meeting, don’t go.

Other Dumb Stuff

  • The donuts or birthday cake in the break room can take your blood sugar on a wild ride the leaves your brain depleted. Leave the junk food alone.
  • Prolonged stress suppresses short-term memory and disrupts sleep, which results in a host of cognitive difficulties. Seek out ways to reduce your stress levels.
  • Free coffee can lead to overconsumption of caffeine and result in withdrawal symptoms that include poorer cognitive function, until you have your next cup. Monitor your caffeine intake and cut back, if possible.

If you would like to increase your effectiveness at work, contact me to schedule a free Power Session.

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