Management brain training to get you and your team performing better

30 March 2016 -


The second in a five part series on unleashing your brain’s full potential looks at some simple ways of thinking differently and thinking smarter

Guest blogger Neil Pavitt

This second collection of tips from my book Brainhack are all ways you can improve your and that of your team’s day-to-day working life.

1. Turn performance anxiety into performance energy

At work you want focused performance energy, but you don’t want the stress that comes with performance anxiety.

The trouble is, your adrenal gland can’t tell the difference between you needing the energy at work, to you worrying about it at night.

Stress is just performance energy that’s outstayed its welcome.

So to make your performance energy work for you, start by spending less time thinking and more time planning and doing.

If you’ve got a speech or presentation to make, don’t spend time imagining how it’s going to go, just write down what you’re going to say and practise it.

2. Create unconscious urgency

If you have a project deadline of three months, it’s better to express it as ninety days.

Dr Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California says: “When you use days rather than months, it makes you feel like the future is closer.”

In one experiment, over 1,000 participants were asked when they would start saving money for retirement. Some participants were told they would retire in 30 years from now, others that their work life would end in 10,950 days.

Incredibly, people were likely to start saving four times sooner when the time was expressed in days rather than years.

“The technique is effective even when the goal is very far away, because people tend to focus more on the unit of time,” says Oyserman.

3. Turn pessimists into realists

Everyone has a glass half empty sort of person on their team. So how do you get them to think more positively?

Alexandra Wesnousky of New York University found that more than 90% of people are inclined to see some sort of positive attribute associated with a typically negative trait.

She discovered that if people could see the silver lining to a negative trait they would perform much better - the stubborn became the unshakeable, the impatient became the enthusiastic and the cautious became the prudent.

4. Don’t be biased

If you ask someone’s opinion of what you’ve written, beware the bias blind spot. Only 1 in 166 people think they’re less biased than the average person. We often try to push ideas through, even if they aren’t very good, purely because we thought of them.

What we’re really asking them is to confirm what we believe, that it’s a great idea. If they’re lukewarm about the idea, the first thing we question is their judgement and not our idea.

5. Reduce your options

There’s no denying having a choice is a good thing, but there can be such a thing as too much choice.

Barry Schwartz author of The Paradox Of Choice, says that too much choice can actually lead to decision paralysis.

In a study that was done into voluntary retirement plans in big companies, it was found that for every ten extra mutual funds that employees were offered, the rate of participation went down by 2%. Too much choice can just be too overwhelming, so we end up just not making a choice at all.

There is only so much quality thinking your brain can do each day, so try to reduce the amount of decisions and focus on what’s important.

Neil Pavitt is a writer and creativity coach. This article is based on his latest book Brainhack: Tips and Tricks to Unleash Your Brain's Full Potential (published by Capstone)

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