I was sent a copy of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School to review and I must say it has been a very interesting read. The author, John Medina, is a developmental molecular biologist. He has written a surprisingly accessible book on how the brain works full of tips for getting the most out of your mind.
The book is broken down into 12 rules. Here are a few:
- Exercise – One of the biggest contributors to a clear mind as we age is exercise. Our brains are only 2% of our body weight, but require 20% of our total energy. Exercise helps improve circulation and moves more oxygen to the brain. The book suggests that conducting meetings while walking and encouraging people to take work breaks on a treadmill would drastically increase mental performance at work.
- Attention – People don’t pay attention to boring things. On average the mind will start to wander after 10 minutes. If you want people to pay attention beyond the 10 minute mark you have to do something to get their attention again. To get people’s attention you have to do something to trigger emotion.
- Sleep – The brain doesn’t really rest while we sleep. Research suggests that during sleep the brain is actually replaying information and consolidating memory. NASA found that even a 26 minute nap increased a pilots cognitive performance by over 34%. People hit their peak performance at different times. Morning people (larks) are far more productive if they arrange their schedule to work in the morning. Night people (owls) are much more productive if they rise later and work into the evening and night.
- Stress – Your brain doesn’t learn the same way when you are under stress. Some businesses are finding huge gains by providing programs to help minimize the stress people feel at home. They do this by offering childcare, counseling, and other services.
- Sensory Integration – The more senses you can use in learning something, the easier it is to remember. If you can listen to a lecture, watch a video, and touch and feel something you want to learn, you will remember much more than when using a single sensory input. Experiments have even shown that replicating the smells that were present during the learning process improves memories. You can remember the plot of a movie you saw in the theater better when the smell of popcorn is surrounding you.
- Exploration – Our brains are wired to learn by exploring. Creating an environment that allows the use of creativity is powerful. Google’s practice of letting people spend 20% of their time pursuing projects that come from employee’s own curiosity is one example of this.
The book comes with a DVD that illustrates each brain rule with a visual example along with some talk about how it applies. You can see some of the videos on the website www.brainrules.net.