How to Hack Your Brain
Productivity and human nature are often at odds in the workplace — stress, laziness, distractions and more can form a mental block preventing you from getting your work done. Thankfully, fooling your mind into doing what you want it to do can be just as easy as ordering a round of happy hour drinks. Avoid the seven sins of the workplace with these handy brain hacks.
We’re most likely to put a project off when its due date seems distant. However, a 2015 University of Southern California study found that participants were more likely to start achieving their goals ASAP if they considered their timeline in more granular terms. Converting metrics like years to days made deadlines appear that much more imminent, lessening their likelihood of procrastination.
As open-plan offices become more common, so do workplace distractions. A 2010 study published in Ergonomics suggests that the effects of distractions can be lessened if employees can adjust aspects of their work environment. Organizing your desk, for example, increases your sense of personal control, helping you to avoid temptation.
Having a strategy to recognize stress and anxiety is the key to avoiding burnout in today’s always-on workplace. Rather than scheduling more breaks, practice ducking out when you find yourself distracted. Compulsively fiddling with your phone is a way that your mind is telling you it’s had enough. Physically getting up and walking away from your desk will break your cycle of busyness.
According to a 2007 article in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, co-workers who witnessed a teammate’s burnout reported common signs of overcommitment. To avoid a similar fate, streamline your optional work by creating time to think before you say yes to a project. Writing out the task in question will give you an honest idea of how attainable it is and whether you can completely commit to it.
Charisma can be the difference between nailing a client and losing them, so don’t be shy. In The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work, author Carol Kinsey Goman writes that proper posture, taking up space, and making eye contact not only fools others into thinking you’re confident, it will actually make you feel like a bull in the boardroom, too. Lead with the body and the mind will follow.
Tracking your job’s ups and downs in a journal can help you be more mindful of where your career is headed. If your entries appear without an achievement for pages, try penning clear, concise goals complete with a deadline: “I’ll earn the corner office by the end of the quarter,” for example. Writing your accomplishments down will also give you plenty of ammo when asking for a raise.
You may not be able to reduce your work hours, but you can mitigate the negative effects of fatigue on your work before you make a mistake. In a study conducted by the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research, a gesture as simple as giving your co-workers a heads up is recommended. Verbally self-identifying as tired will mentally cue you to take extra care with your work and potentially gather your teammates to your side.