I’ll be the first to admit that my brain gets really, really tired sometimes. I’m sure we can all relate to the mental fatigue that comes with staying singularly focused on identifying, analyzing and solving problems, moving seamlessly between one issue and then moving directly on to the next. Most of our minds are likely occupied with numerous issues, concerns, paradoxes and so forth, and it’s all we can do to keep focused on the task at hand. I’m also guessing that many of us have had a strong desire to simply turn off our brains and enjoy a bit of mental silence. It is with this in mind that I write this blog.
Improve Your Performance by Stretching Your Right Brain
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not one to get overly technical or GRC intensive in this space. When you regularly spend what can be considered an inordinate number of hours each day and week and month pushing your brain to think logically at a high capacity for extended periods of time, sometimes the best thing to do is unplug from that train of thought and give the old noodle a chance to recharge. This is one of the reasons why I’ve always loved writing a blog – it gives me an outlet to take the things I think (and think and think) about during most of my waking hours and some of my sleeping hours, rearrange them, turn them 90 degrees, and look at them from a different perspective. Simply put, blogging serves the dual purpose of giving those heavy lifting parts of my brain a little break and keeping my creative juices fueled.
While I almost always write something about my job in this space, I’ve tried to do so in a somewhat unconventional manner. I think most of us would agree that we spend far too much time thinking in “rational” or “logical” terms because that’s what our jobs demand. We need to make business sense of all facts presented to us, categorize, compartmentalize, analyze, evaluate, and on and on. In my experience, I have found that it is neither healthy nor productive to let your brain operate in such a focused, linear manner most if not all of the time. We all know that our brain has two distinct halves. The left side is our logical, pragmatic half, and it is likely the one most of us are taxing on a regular basis. On the other hand, the right half allows us to be more creative, abstract and “big picture” with our thinking. If we expect to be productive and progressively successful using only half of our brain a majority of the time, we’re sure to set ourselves for disappointment, frustration and mental exhaustion.
Use Your Artistic Instincts, or Lose Them
There are many things we can do to exercise our right brain and make sure it isn’t forgotten in our relentless pursuit of logic and order. Personally, I have a few activities that help me tap into my free-thinking, creative side. One thing I enjoy is drawing and doodling. By no means am I a proficient artist, but there’s something about letting myself get lost in the challenge of bringing my silly little cartoons and doodles to life that really energizes me. Even when I’m in the middle of a traditionally left-brain task, I find myself creating quirky characters and scenes, and when I flip back through old work notebooks I usually find a treasure trove of “I can’t believe I came up with that” nuggets. Maybe I’ll be a famous cartoonist someday, maybe not. For now it’s a fun little hobby that lets me hone a bit of my creative side.
Another great diversion that I engage in is reading. I mainly read news/newspapers and books, but there are a few magazines that I enjoy as well – Fast Company and Wired are my favorites. My wife loves to read Us Weekly, but I’m way to highbrow to read that stuff (I only look at the pictures). When it comes to books, I must confess that I’ve been stuck on non-fiction lately – particularly if it’s something I can apply to my professional development. But despite the dominant role my left brain has been playing in picking these books, my right brain welcomes the opportunity to take in new information and think a bit more abstractly about it. If you’re looking for any recommendations, I’m currently reading Be Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz; I finally read (and really enjoyed) Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers; and my all-time favorite books are Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole), Devil in the White City (Erik Larson), Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier), with my all-time favorite being One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey).
Share Your Inspired Escapes
I am very interested to hear about what you do to give your right brain a workout while you let your left brain take a rest. I’m not talking about physical activities (like running or golf), but rather those creative diversions on which you allow your brain to focus, instead of the ever-present reality that is your day job. Maybe you paint, do logic puzzles or play a musical instrument. Or maybe you realize that you have no such diversion. Either way, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
–Jason Rohlf, OrangePoint