How to Refresh Your Overtaxed Brain

Productivity is slacking.


It is sprawling out on the couch watching “Law and Order” reruns. It is exchanging barbs with your college roomie about the latest romantic rendezvous. It is Sudoku Saturday, and, yes, even sprinting to catch the latest Pokemon ghost.

Seemingly mindless activities, in moderation, strengthen your mental health.

How so? Let’s take conventional wisdom out for a spin.

Our minds are well-oiled machines. We ask them to recall Stan’s birthday, analyze quarterly projections, and prepare for a last-minute board meeting. They do all this with aplomb.

But minds are like cars. They need regular maintenance or else you risk driving your prized toy into the ground. If you ignore the warning signs — overexertion, sleep deprivation, unhealthy diet — your mind stalls at the most inopportune time. See your latest fumbling presentation.

Our harried minds demand relaxation. Frantically jetting from one activity to the next, our minds deluge us with “next” questions. The next meeting, the next date, the next email. But as our mind batters us, we retreat. In this tumultuous state, we lose mental sharpness. How many of us have confided to a close friend that we feel “off?” We look unfocused — borderline disheveled.

So how do you still your hyperkinetic mind? Our minds, like us, need the occasional spa treatment. Here is a proven strategy to apply a figurative ice pack to your overloaded brain.

Find an activity that fully absorbs you. In this transcendent state, you are totally engaged in your chosen activity. Outside distractions are superfluous; your mind feels free, almost light. Life is effortless.

I reach this state, ironically, during the crucible of a competitive basketball game. As my instincts take over, the game slows down. In this transcendent state, I snatch rebounds, crossover opponents, and thread passes. My mind — constantly fretting about the next project, paper, or paycheck — is as serene as your favorite yoga instructor. Borrowing a hackneyed expression, I just do it.

The same principle applies for work. Find a position where you can “zone out” because you are so engrossed in the latest project, conversation, meeting. When in the “zone,” our minds enjoy unparalleled mental clarity. In this heightened state of awareness, we are at our most productive.

When teaching or advising, I exude inner calmness. I am poised, confident that my coaching will connect with the business client. With an easygoing charm, I crack self-deprecating jokes. I am as comfortable as your well-worn couch.

Each of has enjoyed this gilded feeling. Like you, I live for those blissful moments. The $64 million question: How can we replicate these emotionally blissful moments?

Here’s how: After finding your passion, recreate a visual image of total immersion in your favorite activity. A sense of calmness slowly envelops. But don’t stop at past successes. Visualize upcoming triumphs. Let your mind dream about exotic destinations, romantic rendezvous, and that exhilarating feeling when you meet a challenge.

Yes, productivity is slacking, but it is purposeful slacking. It is giving your mind the freedom to unwind. When you provide your mind with sufficient R & R, you are better equipped to connect A + B during that pressurized board meeting.

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