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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Want to Save Your Brain? Visually Prioritize Your Priorities!

There is a new book out by David Rock called Your Brain At Work.  I have been awaiting this book's release for a couple of months because it was touted to be a great book on neuroscience that actually can help you figure out how to work better.  They were right.  This book is great.

One of the coolest descriptions in the book is Rock's description of the Prefrontal Cortex; which is the part of the brain that helps us decide what to do, among other things.  He describes the prefrontal cortex as like a stage that actors use.  The actors that enter from the sides are the external stimulus that we see, experience, etc.  The actors who enter the stage from the audience are the conversations we have going on with different parts of ourselves.   All of these "actors" can interact with each other.  When we try to remember something from the past, depending upon how far back or how hard it is to remember, it is like a person sitting in a dark seat way off in the corner of the theater that we have to search for to shine a light on and talk with.

Why is this analogy important?  Well each of these interactions or actions, whether it is the actors interacting on the stage or the act of remembering something, takes up our brain's energy.  Come to find out that stage is TINY.  It can only hold about 4 things on it at the same time.  When you and I open our computers and the emails flood in, and we add to that all of the things we need to do while taking care of our home lives, schedule, hobbies, exercise, etc...we can become instantly overwhelmed.  Too many actors on stage!  That's why sometimes we'd rather just shut the lid and go eat breakfast, or go back to bed.

Rock suggests that the greatest thing we can do for our brains is to take time first thing in the morning to  "prioritize our priorities."   This act relieves our brain of trying to figure out which of the actors or interactions on stage to shine the light on.  Rock also suggests that the best way to to VISUALIZE what you need to do by either drawing it out, seeing it in your mind, and putting it down on paper.  The visuals create order and understanding.
Take a moment right now to test this tip for yourself.  Write, draw, see the things you need to do, and then decide which one takes the most amount of energy and attention and do that thing first!  Save your brain for what's most important.  See if you can't up your creative genius by optimizing your brain's power for better results!


  1. Prioritizing with drawings works great for visual learners. However, close to a third of your coworkers are likely to be hearing dominant(as am I). If you do not know what kind of sensory dominance (visual, hearing, kinetic) you are... check out free brain quizzes online. There are several really good ones at
    Afterwards, you will have a much improved experience deciding which suggestions in the book will (or will not)work best for you.

  2. Thanks for this addition! Lots of different theories out there!