Workplace Rights

Weekly (3/8/10)

Topic of the Week  Use Your Head... Get more from your brain at work

Get more from your brain at work:

• DO change your brain.
• DO realize safety comes first.
• DO keep your brain alive.
• DON'T overload your brain.

Let's face it, a few decades ago you could sleepwalk through most workdays, no more. In this economy you've got to be really smart to survive. Which reminds me of a poor sleepwalker in Iowa City, Iowa. He was staying in an apartment complex, but didn't live there. While asleep, he walked into someone else's apartment and woke up to three guys beating him up. The men were charged with willfully causing bodily injury.

That poor guy discovered the risk of sleepwalking in that apartment complex. It can be even more dangerous to do it at work. It's totally unnecessary too, since most of our brains have such a large, and often untapped potential. Even aging isn't an excuse, research shows that our brains can continue to grow and produce, even as we age. Really. I've listed three Do's and one Don't below to get smarter at work. For more, check out, "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock (Harper Business, 2009).

DO change your brain. Change may be hard at work to manage, but interestingly, not for your brain. Brains are constantly changing and creating new circuits. So the old wives tale is actually wrong, you can teach an old dog new tricks, or at least an old brain. But to do it you have to keep your brain engaged and firing on all cylinders. There are now lots of books, exercises and products to keep your brain alive. Call me old school, but I think you can keep your brain lively by just remaining feisty and hungry for new knowledge and experiences.

DO realize safety comes first. Most people think of the brain as this intellectual machine. But the brain has a much more central role, protecting itself and you. That's just part of the reason that change feels like such a threat in the pit of your stomach. We all need to remember that the brain will always fall back into safety mode. So factor that in when your brain is pushing you toward, or away from, a particular action.

DO keep your brain alive. Sure brains are remarkable circuitry that is beyond any computer we've ever created. But it can also be helpful to think of them as a muscle, a muscle that needs to be exercised on a regular basis. Don't speak a foreign language, learn one. Don't play a musical instrument, start playing one. Just because you don't do something already, doesn't mean that you can't start doing it and that you won't get a little smarter for your efforts.

DON'T overload your brain. There is one place where you can overload your brain, multitasking. Brains are sequential devices, they can only do one thing at a time. Studies have shown that when you try to do two tasks at once, you increase mistakes and the time it takes to do the assignment by 50%. Can you afford that at work?

Use these tips and stop sleepwalking, and you might get beaten up a lot less at work.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes."

–Pablo Picasso

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    Retiring the idea of retirement... How people over 60 feel about retirement

    • Either enjoy their job or enjoy where they work and don't want to leave it, 71%
    • Plan to stay because they need the health insurance and additional benefits provided, 50%
    • Fear retirement may just be boring, 24%
    • Enjoy feeling needed, 15%


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