Monday, September 27, 2010

Your brain at work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long

Book Club... And Then Some!

Your brain at work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long  

by David Rock

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
This is a 286-page book with 22 1/2 pages of notes.

Rock writes the following about the purpose of his book: “This book will help you work smarter, be more focused and productive, stay cool under pressure, reduce the length of meetings, and even tackle the hardest challenge of all: influencing other people.  Along the way it may help you be a better parent and partner, and perhaps even live longer” (p. xi).

The real value of the book—beyond the practical suggestions and ideas—is the scientific research Rock uses to support his various courses of change.  It is certainly sufficient to convince you that Rock’s ideas are sound and the changes you can make will work.

The fun of this book comes from the way Rock approaches his content.  He presents it as a story: “This story involves two characters, Emily and Paul, as they experience a set of challenges over a single day at work.  As you watch Emily and Paul,” Rock writes, “go through their day, some of the smartest neuroscientists in the world will explain why they struggle with their email, schedules, and colleagues.  Even better, you will also get to see what Emily and Paul might have done differently if they’d understood their brains better” (p. xii).

So we have here a four act play.  The first act, “Problems and Decisions,” has six scenes, and they are activities most readers will find commonplace: being overwhelmed by emails, projects that hurt to think about them, juggling five things at once, saying no to distractions, searching for the zone of peak performance, and getting past roadblocks.

The second act, “Stay Cool Under Pressure,” includes three scenes: being derailed by drama, drowning amid uncertainty, and when expectations get out of control.

The third act, “Collaborate with Others,” includes three scenes: turning enemies into friends, when everything seems unfair, and the battle for status.

The fourth act, “Facilitate Change,” includes two scenes: when others lose the plot and the culture that needs to transform.

Notice throughout that the scenes are experiences with which we can all closely identify.  There is a great deal of information in each chapter, and each chapter includes a section at the end, “Surprises About the Brain,” and another entitled, “Some Things to Try.”

Wendy Ulrich, author of, The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win, writes the following about Rock’s book: “As a psychologist with a business background, I found this book extremely worth the read. It is not that often that I get a personal ah-ha from a book these days, but this one did the job. I learned several things that were personally extremely helpful and that gave me very specific ideas about how to work more effectively, understand how to work with others better, and stay out of common work traps. I found the style as well as the science approachable and useful. I'll be buying this one for family members and talking about it with friends. Well worth the read.”

I found the information in Rock’s book both interesting and attention-grasping, the suggestions practical and valuable, the revised scenarios (from what Emily and Paul chose to do in the original scenario) excellent, on point, insightful, and worth considering.  This book has the potential of changing many things in your life. 


This book is available from Your brain at work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long.

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