(This article was originally written by Dr. Geil Browning for Inc.com)
In my column for Inc.com, I’ve written about how I lead groups of volunteers to work with the Kenyan Children Foundation in Africa, and how we all return home exhausted but with our brains refreshed and renewed. We take a break from our usual ways of thinking and open our minds to new ideas and experiences. But you don’t have to travel thousands of miles from home to recharge your brain or rejuvenate your mind.
As an entrepreneur, you probably work upward of 60 hours a week. Forbes interviewed 20 entrepreneurs about their work habits and found they worked an average of 60 to more than 100 hours per week. Most noted that weekdays were not much different from weekends, and that personal time off did not exist at all. One responded, “the concept of ‘work’ disappears–it is just what we do.”
As anyone who has crammed for an exam can tell you, usually the number of hours we work without interruption is inversely proportionate to how much we accomplish. So how do these entrepreneurs manage to work so many hours without suffering from brain fatigue?
Well, first of all, it is because they truly love being an entrepreneur and are passionate about their enterprise. But, I believe, part of the answer is that they wear so many hats. They never get stuck doing the same kind of work for too long.
Here are some more brain-based tips that can work wonders for rejuvenating your mind:
1. Buy a good office chair, or get a standing desk.
Focal Upright Furniture has a brand-new chair-and-desk combination on the market. Invented by Martin Keen, of Keen shoes fame, it uses a position between sitting and standing, and allows lots of movement as you work. It also helps those who use it remain attentive.
2. Do not multitask.
John Medina, author of Brain Rules, tells us the brain cannot multitask, period. What it does do is switch back and forth between tasks very quickly. Someone whose attention is interrupted not only takes 50% longer to accomplish a task but also makes up to 50% more errors. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who talk on the cell phone while driving are four times more likely to have an accident because it isn’t possible to devote your full attention to both driving and talking at the same time. Hands-free calling offered no advantage. What’s the lesson to take away? Focus on one task at a time, and you’ll accomplish each better and faster–without killing anybody.
3. Use all your senses.
Work is more entertaining for your brain–and therefore makes you more alert–when you engage as many of your senses as possible. Use colored paper and pens. Experiment with peppermint, lemon, or cinnamon aromatherapy. Try playing background music.
4. Don’t make too many decisions in one day.
It sounds farfetched, but if you go shopping in the morning, then negotiate yourself out of eating a cookie at lunch, and finally try to decide between two job offers that afternoon, you might choose the wrong job because you didn’t eat the cookie, according to Scientific American. Making choices depletes your reserves of executive function, or “the mental system involved in abstract thinking, planning, and focusing on one thing instead of another.” This can adversely affect decisions you make later.