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The expression “work smarter, not harder” has been around since it was first used by Allen F. Morgenstern in the 1930s.1 As technology and automation have increased, so has productivity. Workers are continuously expected to do more and more, at the expense of their personal lives and health.
Time management between work and personal life is often a delicate balancing act. Too much time at work, and personal life dips. Too little time at work and the career could suffer. Sadly, health is often overlooked in the shuffle. Learning to manage our minds to maximise effectiveness while still supporting physical and mental health is a crucial skill to develop.
Sometimes it seems as if there aren’t enough seconds in the day to get everything completed. Emails, calls, memos, reports, and then still have time to help with homework and walk the dog. It could be a million things, and many people feel as if they should accomplish everything at once.
The burdens and pressures of a workplace environment can negatively impact the day, an evening at home, and even mental and physical health. Despite the automation and rapidly advancing technology, most workers are expected to do more, often with fewer resources.
Some jobs are inherently more stressful than others, but when financial wellbeing and the career are on the line, small things can suddenly loom large in the mind. A study found that stress is a significant risk factor for mental and emotional health in healthcare workers. When people took a positive approach to handle stress, the physical and mental symptoms usually diminished, but if people quit the job or denied the stress, symptoms would increase.2
Part of the conundrum with our modern age is that we have all these wonderful technologies that are saving lives. We are rapidly increasing our understanding of neuroscience and how it applies to leadership.
But, instead of forging on, we almost seemed to be moving backward. We have to take the time to use these strategies to improve our lives, instead of ignoring the data and facts. Working in a vacuum to accomplish tasks as quickly as possible isn’t viable in the long run. Instead, we need to look inward and change our behaviours, before our health, friends, or family members are affected.
Imagine a chess game against a Grandmaster, the highest title a player can earn. Even if the challenger has some skill, would that person stand a chance if his or her mind wasn’t in the right place? But, as skilled as they are, Grandmasters lose--all the time. Even someone with supreme skill and experience can have difficulty managing their minds.
In your own workplace, you may be the Grandmaster, so to speak. You might be on top of your game, working long hours, burning the midnight oil, and achieving great things. Sometimes, we can sustain this for the final push for a major project. But no one can work like this for long without burning out.
The amygdala is part of the limbic brain and exerts control over our emotions and memories. The amygdala is responsible for feelings of fear and dread. This structure has historically been difficult to study in humans because it is small and because it can be challenging to define emotion quantitatively.3
Located at the front of the brain, the prefrontal cortex plans and directs social behaviour and allows humans to complete complex cognitive tasks such as planning and decision making.4
The prefrontal cortex is slower compared to the amygdala, and more deliberate. It doesn’t take much for our prefrontal cortex to be hijacked by the amygdala, sending us back to the primeval limbic brain where the need to survive drives us. Expanding the capacity of the prefrontal cortex will allow leaders to make better decisions.5
To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.
To become more adept at time management, we must first understand mind management. The balance between time and mental health is difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain. Consider these tips to increase mind management:
Mind management can take away that frantic feeling of never having enough accomplished. Instead of balancing on a razor-sharp edge, create a comfortable path to enjoy life. As neuroscience increases the understanding of how the parts of the brain function, leadership must also adapt to incorporate this knowledge.
1. Giordano C. How to Work Harder, Smarter, Better: Quotes from Famous People on Work. Tough Nickel. 2017
2. Koinis A, Giannou V, Drantaki V, Angelaina S, Stratou E, Saridi M. The Impact of Healthcare Workers Job Environment on Their Mental-emotional Health. Coping Strategies: The Case of a Local General Hospital. Health Psychology Research. 2015;3(1):1984. doi:10.4081/hpr.2015.1984.
3. Phelps E, Anderson A. Emotional memory: What does the amygdala do? Current Biology. 1997;7(5), R311-R314.
4. Kolb B, Mychasiuk R, Muhammad A, Li Y, Frost DO, Gibb R. Experience and the developing prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012;109(Suppl 2):17186-17193. doi:10.1073/pnas.1121251109.
5. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].
Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute
Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.
Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.
Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership
In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.
Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.
Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.