Brain Training for Managers

by | 3 minute read

In today’s busi­ness envi­ron­ment, your col­leagues may brag that they work just fine in a mul­ti­task­ing envi­ron­ment. In truth, the qual­i­ty of anyone’s work after a mul­ti­task­ing ses­sion prob­a­bly needs a seri­ous review. How can man­agers accom­plish more in a work­place filled with dis­trac­tions and mul­ti­ple demands on their time?

As a man­ag­er or team leader, you may face big chal­lenges when it comes to get­ting work done. You want to do a good job on the big report that’s due next week. You also want to main­tain an open-door pol­i­cy, to wel­come employ­ees who need to talk. Gwen Moran has a few sug­ges­tions on how to bal­ance every­thing that must be done.

The To-Do List

Like most man­agers, you prob­a­bly have a long to-do list. Items des­tined for that list can creep into your con­scious thoughts at any time – while you’re work­ing out, dri­ving or sit­ting in some­one else’s meet­ing. Keep your smart­phone or anoth­er device handy, and put the item on your list. If you main­tain a list for each team mem­ber, put the item on the cor­rect list.  Now you know you'll bring up the mat­ter with the right per­son. Devel­op­ing this habit will clear your mind and allow you to focus on more press­ing prob­lems.

Com­mit­ted Work Times

We all have projects or tasks that require peri­ods of intense con­cen­tra­tion. If you reserve a spe­cif­ic time slot for com­plet­ing the task – such as writ­ing your week­ly progress report or updat­ing the bud­get with the lat­est rev­enue and expense num­bers – you’ll fin­ish it faster, and with few­er errors. Select a time peri­od when you’re like­ly to have few inter­rup­tions, per­haps first thing in the morn­ing. Turn off email and snooze your office and per­son­al IM and social media accounts. If you don’t have a door to close, put on head­phones so co-workers know you're busy. Mark your cal­en­dar with a Pri­vate Appoint­ment and then get to work. Allow your­self to start and fin­ish the project in the allot­ted time. You’ll be aston­ished at the improve­ment in your pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.


Here’s the dirty lit­tle secret about today’s tech trend. Many of us are strug­gling with an atten­tion span that’s being trained to take in small bits and pieces of infor­ma­tion, and we're accus­tomed to jump­ing from one con­tent stream to anoth­er. If a web­page doesn't load quick­ly enough, we're on to the next thing with­in 15 sec­onds.  When it’s time to pro­duce con­tent, a 10-minute work ses­sion can seem like an eter­ni­ty. To rem­e­dy this feel­ing, Moran points to Daniel Levitin’s work in this area. A psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at Montreal’s McGill Uni­ver­si­ty, Lev­itin encour­ages peo­ple to steadi­ly length­en their con­tent pro­duc­tion ses­sions until they can com­fort­ably work for 60 or 90 min­utes. Work ses­sions which last that long can bring about sig­nif­i­cant progress toward com­plet­ing chal­leng­ing tasks.

If you're hav­ing trou­ble com­plet­ing all the items on your to-do list, give Moran's sug­ges­tions a try. Retrain­ing your brain to focus on tasks for just a lit­tle longer can make a huge dif­fer­ence in your out­put and may help you feel more pos­i­tive about how you are man­ag­ing your group.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Research for Sales­Fu­el. She holds a Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont and over­sees a staff of researchers, writ­ers and con­tent providers for Sales­Fu­el. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was co-owner of sev­er­al small busi­ness­es in the health care ser­vices sec­tor.