Summer fires can be brutes.
Especially as the days get hotter, and the bush gets drier right across Australia. You can hear the sound of the imaginary fire; the crackle; and its teasing nature as it sweeps through the bush, taking a life of its own.
All it takes is one stray cigarette
One kid with matches.
One barbeque gone wrong.
One bolt of lightning.
Or all five of the above igniting fires almost sequentially.
And suddenly the bush fires seem a lot like your brain
Your brain raging with five different deadlines. Five unfinished tasks–all high-priority. And the fire fighter within your brain, toils endlessly as the flames of work take over.
The frontal lobes of your brain are screaming hot
Assigned by nature to process decision making, planning, how to prioritise ideas; time management, etc., Our frontal lobes is the fire chief. As long as the fire chief is in control, there's little panic, and tasks get done without stress.
Control that's very possible with the lower brain
The lower brain is our survival-mode brain. All our deep drives like sleep, hunger, sexual desire, breathing, heart rate and even basic positive and negative emotions dominate the area of our lower brain.
Then suddenly, the fire ignites
And when all hell breaks loose, your lower brain's generator kicks in. Like a fire truck bell, it clangs its way to get the attention of the frontal lobes, that must take a decision. The frontal lobes are fine when dealing with one or two, or even three crises at once.
But when you have six squillion things on your to-do list
Your lower brain rushes fire trucks to the frontal lobes. The frontal lobe plays fire chief, but can only handle so many fires at once. Suddenly this ‘fire chief' is so swamped, that it just can't keep up. This panic of overwhelm, drives the lower brain bananas. Survival is of top priority. It sends out even more fire trucks. The fire chief can't ignore the fires igniting. And can't ignore the trucks.
Pure distress kicks in
Meanwhile the rest of the body comes under stress. Your body's endocrine, respiratory, cardio vascular, muscoskeletal and peripheral nervous systems are all in super-crisis mode. Your head throbs. Your muscles tighten.
And your intelligence runs out of power
Your world is turned into do, do, do. Or doo-doo. And this crisis would be fine, if all you had was one darn crisis in a year. But no. The fire-department in your brain is always rushing to seventeen fires on any given day.
Then, inevitably mistakes occur
Boo boos that end up with you in more doo-doo. Your cave brain brings up panic, fear, anxiety, frustration, and confidence plummets quickly. And it costs your business profit. With every new crisis, you swing like a Tarzan with his loin-cloth on fire.
The brain functions best in downtime
The biggest misconception is, that we as humans tend to do things best when faced with a deadline. The truth is we don't.
When faced with a deadline, we simply take the knowledge we learned in downtime, and apply it to the job at hand. Sure there's improvisation, but try driving a car for the first time, just because you have to get somewhere in a hurry.
You learned your car driving skills under less stressful conditions, and in a crisis you may improvise, but that's it.
Ergo: No downtime, no new skills and all-chaos
So here's what you need to do to remedy the situation right away:
Your digital Blackberry, your always-connected computer, your mobile phone, are all creating the bush fire. Disconnect them for an hour or two. Go down to the cafe. Read. Plan on paper. Disconnect from the relentless artificial urgency. When you get back to your desk, your mind will be clearer. And even though you've given your brain a workout with all your planning, you're doing all the activity in a sequence the brain can handle. The happy, relaxed signals sent from the lower brain to the frontal lobe allows the brain to focus–unhindered by dozens of fake crises.
2) Learn more, not less:
Take more time to learn processes and systems. If you're trying to learn how to drive a car, it's a much harder task if you're going solo. You need a system. A process.
Find yourself a workshop; a training environment where your brain can run free and relaxed.
Buy into a system that allows you to sell better, quicker and with greater control. The more you learn, the more you're in control of your immediate situation when the crisis breaks out.
When you're tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. Yet, that's precisely what you need. Lack of exercise puts more strain on your body and your brain. Half an hour of exercise pumps more oxygen in your system. Your body relaxes, and of course the exercise time gives you the chance to disconnect.
Hard work never killed anyone
And that's true. Hard work doesn't kill you. The constant crisis kills you. The crisis that's caused by a lack of knowledge, by being constantly disconnected, and overweight. That's what kills you.
Summer fires can be brutes. Yet firefighters know that with education, management and rotation of crews, they can take on the biggest brutes of them all.
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C. A. Kobu says
Great advice, Sean! Thank you. You think you can survive, overload yourself with work and push the limits of your mind and body, but you end up losing more time than you thought you gained in the first place. And there’s also a clear connection between no-downtime and a weakened immune system.
Judith Tramayne says
Whenever I start a project, I plan it out first. Then, I double the time I think it will take and that’s my deadline.
This helps take care of the unexpected and doesn’t make me go crazy when a few extra days are needed to finish the project.