There are all sorts of things you do every day that don't impact your conscious brain. Do you follow the same route to work? What hand do you use when brushing your hair or teeth? When you get to the office, what do you set down first and where does it go?
These are all habits your brain has formed--rules it follows to streamline your day. These rules, biases, heuristics and habits comprise up to 95 percent of all human decisions. Only a select few choices make it to the elusive conscious brain for processing.
If something happened to bump one of these items up to conscious processing (construction on your regular route, injury to your dominant hand, moved to a new office) that means something else--something important--needs to move down. That's why many small, often unnoticeable, encounters during your day-to-day can cause a similar brain reaction--and if left unchecked this can damage your productivity and performance around the office.
The brain can't simply use up more energy and oxygen, so things you would usually want your conscious to handle are potentially being handled by the rewards-driven subconscious brain. What important thoughts did you miss out on because your brain was overloaded by moving desks? You get a new phone or your favorite coffee shop moves across town and all of a sudden you're turning in a proposal full of typos or snapping at a colleague.
Be aware of changes in your life.
When the world is changing around you, and you find yourself making more mistakes than normal, cut yourself some slack and slow down in other areas--ask a colleague to review the proposal before hitting send--to help prevent errors and messes you don't want to clean up later.
A 2012 study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that small changes in routine (including swapping the order you put the milk and cereal into your bowl) can cause a significant increase in creative thinking.
You can train your brain to be more flexible and creative by becoming aware of small changes--and seeking them out--can result in a brain that is more comfortable with change. Here are a few small changes to shake up your brain:
- Drive a different route to work (don't wait for construction to be thrust upon you, make it your choice).
- If you usually drink coffee, try tea. Or, if you add milk and sugar, change the order you put things in your cup.
- Brush your teeth (or put on your makeup!) with the other hand.
Intentionally shaking up routines will train your brain to be more comfortable with big changes when they present themselves. If you know you tend to bristle at changes (maybe this has come up on reviews or client projects) start incorporating small changes like the ones above to condition your brain to be a little less reliant on its habits and routines. Even if you are pretty good with change, there is always room for improvement and flexing this brain muscle so it doesn't get complacent.
Here are a few more possible changes to incorporate: sit at a different chair in meetings, read books in genres you think you might not like, take the stairs instead of the elevator, put on your left shoe first instead of the right--the options are truly endless and they can all help you be more creative at work.