It’s not long before he’s off to follow more distractions.
It’s not long before he’s off to follow more distractions. suefeldberg

Humans, like animals, need reward to work more effectively

THESE past few days, we’ve been walking our friends’ 20-week-old puppy, Buddy, on the beach and been reminded of the hazards and challenges a puppy brings (always under your feet or entwined in your legs) while also enjoying his free-spirited, unconstrained joy.

So much to explore, sniff, bark at, run from and chew in this new and ever-changing environment.

And, while observing all of this, I noticed something hauntingly familiar … me and my behaviour at times. Perhaps you can relate …

We talk a lot about neuroscience in our work as it helps make sense of what’s happening in the brain and offers perspective around our own and others’ behavioural responses/reactions and what drives them. We also refer to our brain’s desire for distractions and how to manage that, and here was Buddy giving me the perfect example.

He’s very well-behaved for his age and his positive learning is supported with lots of treats and rewards.

When he knows there is a treat or reward attached, his focus is absolute and unwavering … well, for about 10-15 seconds at the moment. And then it’s off to follow more distractions.

Humans are no different really. Apparently the human adult brain is only able to focus and effectively carry out complex “cognitive” tasks for an average of 21 minutes.

Work for much longer than that and the brain is struggling to come up with anything useful and seeking distraction as a reward.

I like the Pomodoro Technique which consists of timing yourself for about 25 minutes while doing “serious” stuff and then giving yourself a break for say five minutes. This is your “distraction” time so use it wisely and time it.

Get up, stretch, have a glass of water, a nourishing snack, check your emails, Facebook etc, have a chat, go for a walk but whatever you do make sure you move away from what you’ve been doing and refresh.

It’s a brain-friendly way to work and you’ll be surprised, like I was, at how much and how little you can get done in 25 minutes. It’s a great way to use your time more efficiently, and your brain (and your body) will love you.

Beware though, while some distraction is good (I call it “following my curiosity”), too much time or too many distractions can overwhelm and lead to procrastination.

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