Brain priming in the ISO Age!

Priming Your Brain for Productive WFH during the ISO Age! By Virginia Henningsen, Psychologist for Founders.

I guess like me, you may have been reading about some tips to help people work productively at home, things like structuring your day, getting dressed for work, and working from a specific and regular place in your home.  And one thing I have noticed, is that all the tips should be priming your brain to approach your work with optimism and energy. 

So the tip about getting ready for work, is less about what you look like or even how you feel as it is much more about priming your brain for the day ahead. So if you are following some ideas and you don’t feel primed and ready to work, read on to understand how you can engage your brain more.    Let’s look at the tip about getting ready for work, when you are working from home, from a brain priming perspective.  

Typically being prepared and primed for work, happens automatically, we get out of bed, eat breakfast, get showered and dressed and commute to work – all of this time, is priming our brain for actually working when we arrive at the office. 

When working from home, we still need to do this priming, getting ready and thinking about the day subconsciously as we normally do. So get ready for the work day as you would if you were leaving your home and going to your office.  Have a shower, brush your teeth, put on some clean clothes, maybe you can go easy on the makeup or grooming but the overall outcome you want to generate, is that you are getting prepared for work.  

And it has to take about as long as it normally would, if you get up at 6am usually and leave for work at 7.30am, or if it’s a 7am wakeup to leave for work at 7.45am and a 30 minute commute, this is the amount of time you still need to set aside for priming your brain.  It doesn’t need to be the same clock time, but you should be working towards an estimated time of arrival at your computer after your “usual” getting for ready work time.  Having this amount of time getting prepared is really important for priming your brain, as you are subconsciously thinking about the day ahead and determining priorities and how you will approach challenges. It is the subconscious thinking that is really important – to engage this part of your brain’s thinking capability, pay deliberate attention to the cues in each of the strategies and pair them with work. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist, through classical conditioning techniques, paired a bell ringing with dogs feeling ready to eat (as evidenced by increased salivation).

Pair getting dressed in the morning with being ready to work, pair sitting in a specific place in your home with being ready to work and pair moving through a planned structure with being ready for work.

If you have kids, you are probably used to getting them ready for school or day care and packing their bags in the morning.  So you are probably still doing this, but you may be able to spend some time with them in a slightly different way –maybe ask them how they are feeling and attend to their needs, listen deeply to them and set them up for the day.  Let them know when you will be having some breaks, and can catch up during the day.  From my experience dedicated time with kids in the morning, sets them up to feel more content and independent for more of the day.   Fingers crossed!

So think about all the tips and suggestions you have been following as you are settling into WFH, and evaluate each in terms of it’s ability to really prime your brain to get working.  You may even notice, that by being aware of the underlying priming principle, that your brain picks up on the cues you are attending to, and by the time you sit down to work, or come back from a break, you are much more focused and ready to be productive.

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