Feelings of burnout are increasingly common as many people struggle to balance professional and family demands. These are exacerbated by the problems with working from home, in the Covid world.
In this podcast, Tougher Minds Founder Dr. Jon Finn discusses these critical issues.
He explains why many people can struggle to separate work and personal life; and why they are working more than they feel is healthy.
Dr. Jon also explains how we can all work towards the best balance between relaxation and work, so we’re super productive.
He shares his scientific insight about balancing your brain states, so you can be your best.
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Hi, everyone, this is Dr. Jon Finn. Welcome to another Tougher Minds podcast, am I walking again, and I’m just reflecting on some news stories that I’m hearing about workload. And also lots of personal accounts about workload that I’m coming across on a daily basis in the coaching and the training that we’re doing with our clients. The news stories I’m hearing relate to big corporations, and that some of their Junior people report that they’ve been asked to work up to 100 hours per week, and they don’t feel that’s very healthy for them. And then just in the day to day of what we do it to remind all my coaching people and we’re training people, a constant narrative I hear is that people are really struggling to draw a line between their home life and also their work life. Because when we’re working at home, you know that invisible, the invisible line has disappeared. And therefore, people are finding themselves working longer hours, and they don’t think that’s healthy for them. So I just want to reflect on that. And help you to understand how we think about helping people to strike a really good balance between good relaxation time, good recharge time. And how we can use that to actually supercharge our focus work. So that we can be really productive.
Let’s think about the variables that we’re working with. Our brain is a limited resource, and that’s driving everything that we’re doing. And we can think of our brain as a bit like a battery, only so much charge each day. So we’ve got this “battery”, and then we’ve got 24 hours, every single day that we’ve got to, to use if you like. And you can think of your battery as having three core charge states, there’s one charge state is what we call the recharge state this is when you’re sleeping. But you can also do non sleep recharge, when you’re when you’re relaxing when you switch it off, etc. The next the second charge state, there is what we call medium charge, we use the medium charge state to do what we call mindless tasks, very familiar habit based tasks like sending familiar email and doing familiar things that we do every day, both inside and outside of work, things that we don’t really have to think a lot about.
So as I said, For me, it will be sending emails, maybe just a few little admin things I do every day. And then the final brain state is what we call the high charge brains state, now this is the brain state that we need to use to do clever work, to do focused work where we really have to think, where we are doing attacks that we haven’t done before. And it is quite new to us. And it’s taking a lot of mental energy. For me that could be writing a proposal for a new client that we have never worked with before, it could be innovating a new model, or creating a new training programme, where you really have to think and use that prefrontal cortex to its maximum capabilities. So we’ve got the recharge brain, we’ve got the high charge brain, and we’ve got the medium charge brain. And in any 24 hour period, there is an optimal balance with how we can use these three brain states, so we could spend all of a 24-hour periods in the recharge state or all of a 24 hour period and the medium charge state or all of the 24 hour period in the high charge state….that’s that’s not what we want to be doing. We want to be getting a balance between all three.
And we can……..by doing our own personal research and looking at other people’s experiences and other sets of data, we can start to understand what is the best balance for us. Now the data that I’ve seen and based on many years of experimenting on this on myself and also helping other people to do it. What I see is that of the three brain states, it’s the one that people need to spend most time in in any 24 hour period is the recharge brain state….. if our brain doesn’t work properly, we’re not going to be doing any medium charge work or high charge work very well.
So we’ve got to get the brain recharged to include sleep, non sleep, it could be things like exercise, it’s when you’re eating and chilling out that kind of stuff. And if you think of the recharge brain state, it’s as the base of a pyramid. So we’re going to spend most of our time in, in that zone in any 24 hour period – out of the three brain states – so I would say I need to be in the recharge brain state maybe for 12 hours per day includes sleep, non sleep, the bits of exercise I’m doing when I’m when I’m, when I’m relaxing, and, and, and, you know, spending time with other people and that kind of thing. That’s all designed to recharge my brain.
The second most amount of time we’re going to spend is in the medium charge brain state and I see that people can typically spend between eight to nine hours in that branch that day includes, again, doing admin type jobs at work, but also things outside of work, things that are not that mentally demanding. And then the least amount of time I’m going to spend in any of the brain states, this is the high charge, because we only have a very limited ability to do the high charge work each there. So pure focus, as we might think of it is a is a scarce cognitive resource, we don’t have that much of it. And it burns quickly. So we can only do maybe between three and four hours of really focused, clever high charge work each there. So it’s like a pyramid relationship at the base of the pyramid, you’ve got the recharge brains there. And then you build on that you’ve got your medium charges a second most, and the top of the pyramid is the high charge. So we’ve got to create a balance between all the brain states, if if we want to do our clever, high charge work, and that ultimately, in the modern world where the only constant is change – and that means that we need to be better than ever are solving problems, which means we need to do better than ever thinking clearly and thinking cleverly, both individually and collectively – we need every day to be getting consistently into our high charge state. So we can do our three, four, maybe sometimes five hours of that type of work.
But people are not getting the balance right. And therefore, it’s limiting their ability to get into the high charge brain state. And one of the biggest traps people fall into is they try to mix the brain states together. They say, Well, I’m relaxing now when I’m switched off, yeah, they’re checking their phone and trying to watch TV at the same time, maybe, maybe dipping into their work emails, they’re not switched off, they’re in the medium charge brain state. And that’s the challenge that we face is the APE brain finds the most compelling brain state the medium charge because he wants to be on the go all the time, doing things are quite easy to do that give it dopamine hits. So resist being in the recharge there. And you know, we’ve always got a mini computer in our pocket now the phone, so it’s easier than ever to keep yourself busy and occupied doing something. But also our APE brain resists being in the high charge brains because the high charge brains, that means we do mentally demanding work. And that type of work does not give us fast rewards. That type of work is about delaying short term gratification. So our APE brain gets bored easily when we’re doing high charge work. And it wants to I’ll just check the emails OR I’ll just do this instead. And every time we try to mix up the brain state, so I’m doing my high charge work and then I break off to do something else, I end up just wasting my time. So I think we need to start to redress this balance of how long we’re working for. And we need to do that using good insights from brain science and habit science.
The three brain states idea is really powerful in helping people to think in a more intelligent way about how they spend every 24 hour period, and how they’re getting the right balance between recharge, medium charge and high charge. And if they’re not, how can they start to get a better balance between the three. Because when we’re not balancing those three areas out, we are being ineffective with our time. And it just takes us more time to do what we need to do. We’re more inefficient and effective.
So they’re just some reflections about some of the things I’m hearing in the news, but also from our clients and some insights as to how we can do better in those areas. And I know that when people put these ideas into practice, including the skills that we teach to overcome them like our Willpower story, for example, they report that they save at least one hour every day, because they just spend a lot less time worrying, beating themselves up If they’re more focused, therefore, they make less mistakes, therefore the dafter repeat work, just get things done more efficiently and more effectively. And then they can, they can do their work in a timely, intelligent way. And they can spend other parts of the 24 hour doing the things that make them happy, will also make them happy, like spending time with their family or, you know, exercising, etc, getting good sleep.
So just a few reflections are guys, as ever, we’ve got the Me Power resilience planner. And that starts to get you thinking implicitly about the three brands that by getting yourself to monitor yourself more closely every day, that’s absolutely free. So if you just go to our website, you can download the Me Power planner. And it will just allow you to think a bit more clearly about how you spend each hour of those 24 hours that you’ve got, make it a little bit easier for you to get a better balance between the three brain states. So do download that from our website, equally. share that with your team and your family members. Because if everyone understands the three brain states that it’s going to be easier for each individual to commit and stick to actually being more efficient and effective every day with our time because we all trigger each other’s behaviour.
That’s it for now, guys, we’ll be another podcast coming out soon. If you want to know exactly when that’s released, just subscribe to whichever podcast platform you listen to. And you’ll be made aware of that when the next podcast comes out. So until then stay safe. Remember, things are very, very difficult at the moment. So it’s always about just trying to do a little bit better. Now we’re not going to be absolutely at our best in these difficult times but we can all do a little bit better and make our life a little bit easier. Bye for now. Be safe.