Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Tweak to Optimize

Written by: on April 2, 2024

For the past few weeks, there were few unexpected happenings and people just dropped into my schedule and derailing it into various directions. Some family members living nearby that never visited decided to visit; others flew into town, and I have to make time to see them, while others were work-related stuff that decided to follow me home during my off-hours.

I could make time, but the hardest part is when I have to sit down and write, my mind is all wandering around, thinking about stuff that does not even related to my topic. Most of the time I wish I was taking this class on my tiny, isolated island in the middle of Pacific Ocean surrounded by nothing but blue and peaceful ocean and light breeze. As I read this book, ‘Your Brain at Work,’ I hope I could learn to keep my mind from wandering from place to place, but to be at bay and focus on the task at hand.

Dr. David Rock, in his book, ‘Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long,’ explains to us the daily challenges that goes on in our brain and how deal with efficiently.[1] Our brain, is likened unto a powerful organism that knowing and understanding how to direct it could contribute to making our life easier. In the Forward of this book, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel wrote, “Learning to live with the brain in mind is a power way to strengthen your mind and improve your professional life. With more ability to regulate the flow of energy and information in your work, you can become more effective and achieve greater sense of satisfaction.” [2] There are a lot to digest from this book; for the purpose of this blog, I will only focus on surface or general ideas of how to deal with you brain efficiently.

From the readings, three take aways that I have gathered; they are as follows: (a.) the need to know yourself and your limitations, (b.) the need to guard your thinking from emotional distractions, and (b.) the need of socialization is healthy for thinking, or our brain functionality.

We need to know ourselves and the limitations to our thinking. Dr. Rock (p. 243), “…you discovered that being able to plan, organize, prioritize, create, or do just about anything except repetitive mental tasks requires using a small, fragile, and energy-hungry brain region, the pre-frontal cortex” [3] The pre-frontal cortex as illustrated by Fig. 1 is the setting of all the activities as mentioned above.

This is why the brain when undergoing various activities at the same time it slows down due to the space or area of the brain that allocates to the certain activities. In other words, when ‘multi-tasking’ we tend to overload our prefrontal cortex. So, to optimize our brain power, we should be aware that multi-tasking reduces the ability of our brain to process information.

We need to guard our thinking from emotional distractions. Rock (p. 100),[4] Our brain function to maximize reward and to minimize danger. He also mentioned that to be effective in this chaotic world, we must regulate (guard) our emotions instead of being at its mercy. Norman (October 21, 2023),[5] in her review of this same book stated that one way to guard against emotional distraction is to ‘staying Cool Under Pressure.’ She further explained that throughout the day our brain scanning and evaluating not only what would be threatening to ourselves, but what is rewarding as well. And that our brain is actively looking out for ourselves, but it can also be overwhelmed by strong emotions such like anger, stress which deter it from optimal performance. For such reasons, emotional distraction should be kept at bay for optimal performance of our brain.

We need to keep our brain healthy through socialization. “Along with the need for food, water, shelter, and a sense of certainty, there are ‘social needs,’ which if not met, create a sense of threat that can quickly devolve into conflicts between people (Rock p. 154).” [6] Just as we need food, water, and shelter to survive, Emily (Rock p. 154) needs the feeling to be safe among friends. The following scenes from 10, 11, and 12, speaks to the need of socialization through friendship, fairness and stature. Socialization is essential to keep our brain healthy.

Before reading this topic, I tweaked my brain for optimization through cups of coffee, cans of Rockstar (Energy Drink) and large bags of corn chips. This was to supplement my brain needs for the sugar rush and the alertness from the caffeine and to have the energy to finish my work. Now, I will consider (1.) understanding my thinking limitation, (2.) guarding my thinking from emotional distraction, and (3.) maintaining a healthy thinking habit.

[1] http://fourminutebooks.com. Your Brain at Work Summary. (Retrieved March 30, 2024).

[2] Rock, David. Your Brain at Work, Revised and Updated: Strategies for Overcoming Distractions, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. HarperCollins, Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid (p. 243)

[4] Ibid (pg. 100)

[5] https://paminy.com (Retrieved March 30, 2024).

[6] Ibid (p. 154)

About the Author

Noel Liemam

10 responses to “Tweak to Optimize”

  1. Adam Cheney says:

    I think that all of us would rather be sitting on an island in the Pacific looking at the beautiful blue ocean while we wrote our responses. I am currently looking out my window at fresh snow.
    As you think about your habits, do you have a habit of getting outside at all to increase your brain capacity? Even when it is cold, I have to get outside and then I feel like my brain is no longer tired and is capable of thinking through harder things.

    • Noel Liemam says:

      Hi, Adam, snow looks better than the cloudy skies rainy days. But yes, changing the scenery always freshen up the brain. Thank you for the advice. I got to do that, getting outside getting fresh air and relax the brain.

  2. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Noel, I hope you’ll get to take a trip home soon!

    I found the research fascinating on the need for socialization. This seems to be aligned with what we see (and personally experience) in society.

    When you immigrated to the US, did you find it difficult to get your socialization needs met?

  3. Noel Liemam says:

    Hi, Ms. Liner, yes it was hard when I first get to the U.S. to socialize because I did not really well anybody. My first three month in Honolulu, I had to come down to the Ala Moana Shopping Center (A big Mall in Honolulu, HI) several times just to see if I can see any Micronesian. A week later, I went to the University of Hawaii Hilo Campus to visit some people from my Islands. I am trying this out, but it is really relaxing. However, sometimes I get carry away and spend too much time relaxing and have less time to do my work. Thanks again, Ms. Liner.

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Joel, I had to smile at the beginning of your post because I too had family visit for three days who do not live nearby. It was such a gift to see them but whew, I did not have any brain power to write until they left. Family visits are so important for our connections but definitely need our limited brain to focus on them not solo study work. Did the book give you any insight on how your can guard your thinking from emotional distractions, short of being on a beach which might be difficult on a regular basis? Thanks for sharing your post. Diane

    • Noel Liemam says:

      Hi, Diane, thank you for your comment. I feel much better knowing that it is something everyone of is experiencing. I am struggling with time; I have to get to work two hours early to have time to read and work on my study, otherwise I would only go to work and come home to work again, I do have a study at home, but my three years old daughter does not share the same idea. She thinks it is where she can go an spend time with dad. So, when I have visitor, it just adds more to the deficit.

      Thank you for bringing up that question about how we deal with emotions to keep it from distracting the brain. I would like to know more about that. It would be very helpful, the only way that I could think of is to find a designated spot and restricted to study only. Thanks again, for the comment.

  5. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Noel,
    Thank you for your post.
    In your opinion, what role does emotional regulation play in being effective in a chaotic world, as suggested by Rock?

    • Noel Liemam says:

      Hi, Shela, thank you for your comment. According to Dr. Rock, negative emotions distract our thinking. Therefore, I would say that maintaining emotional balance could be an healthy way for our thinking, not many distractions. Thank you, Shela.

  6. Akwese says:

    Hi Noel, thanks for sharing. As I type this I am also navigating the highs and lows of how best to be with others in a generative way while also getting things done. Like Christy mentioned, the research on the need for socialization was fascinating AND as both you and Diane mentioned, it takes energy. I love your solution of going to work a couple hours earlier so that you can use the time to do some of your personal work before coming home to “dad duties.” Based on what you’ve gleaned from this book and your recent experience with friends/family in town, how might you do things differently if you were to have a ” take two” like the ones Rock used to show adjustments Emily and Paul could make in their scenarios?

  7. mm Kari says:

    Hi Noel, I appreciate the three points you brought out. What is a practical way you will be guarding yourself from emotional distraction? What is something you will change to maintain healthy thinking habits?

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