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4 brain hacks than can make you a better leader

Feb. 1, 2016 | by Charles Stone

I love leadership and I love learning about the brain. I just finished an executive masters in the Neuroscience of Leadership. And a few months ago my fourth book was published, Brain-Savvy Leaders: the Science of Significant Ministry.As I've immersed myself in learning how our brain affects life and leadership, I've learned a few short cuts, or hacks that have helped me lead better. Consider these 4 brain hacks that just might make you a better leader:

1. Minimize multi-tasking.

Research has shown that multi-tasking, trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once, is a myth. We can't truly pay attention to two things at once, even though we may think we can. [Tweet "We can't truly pay attention to two things at once."] Actually, when we think we are being efficient by multitasking (answering email while working on a project or presentation while checking a text) the opposite happens.

Every time we switch from one task to the next, our attention does not immediately follow. A bit of our attention remains with the previous task. It's called attention residue. However, when we work on a single task a longer time without switching back and forth, we perform better (see number 4 below). 

2. Complete a mini-goal.

God wired our brains to repeat behaviors that give us pleasure. When we eat a piece of chocolate cake, learn something new, or check something off our to-do list, they feel good because the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine into the brain's pleasure center (the nucleus accumbuns). 

When we feel good we want to repeat what made us feel good which provides a boost of motivation. Sometimes we experience a lull in our daily routine. When that happens, find something to do that you can complete in a short time. It might be to clean off your desk, send that email you've been delaying, or make a call you need to make. When you accomplish such a task, you'll get a nice boost of dopamine which can help get your motivation back on track for the day.

3. Strategically use caffeine.

In this post I explain how caffeine works and how if used in moderation, it can help us be more effective as leaders. Although some people are addicted to it (not good), if you use it strategically, science has proven that it blocks a neurotransmitter that makes us tired (adenosine) and increases dopamine and adrenaline that can boost both motivation and attention.

4. Strive for "deep work" four hours a day. 

Cal Newport, author, professor at Georgetown University, and a really smart dude, recently wrote the bestselling book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. In his book he uses science to back up his assertion that truly productive people focus about four hours of their work day on their most important tasks. 

The unimportant ones, like surfing Facebook and answering emails, get too much of our time. He says the brain is able to focus about four hours a day on "deep work," what he describes as meaningful work with a minimum of interruptions. So, calendar your day to reflect four hours of your "deep work."

What brain hacks have helped you be a better leader?


Charles Stone

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church (London, Ontario) and founder of StoneWell Ministries. He has authored four books including, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP 2014), and Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, May 2015). He is passionate about intersecting insight about the brain with Biblical insight. He posts regularly at www.charlesstone.com.



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