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Brain Power and Mindfulness – the Hidden Key to High Performance

Wellness has been a hot topic in the HR community for some time, and rightly so, as it is now widely accepted that healthy employees mean healthier profits. On a personal level, we are all looking to achieve a balanced and healthy lifestyle, while organisations link positive health in workers to improved performance, productivity and reduced absenteeism, amongst other {nolink}benefits{/nolink}.

In this article I will be exploring the idea that wellness, and all the advantages associated with it, is not just about physical fitness and diet; rather true wellness encompasses brain power and mindfulness as well. As more and more people are discovering, if we take the time to understand how the brain works, know its limitations, and accept that a focused and clear mind directly correlates to the quality of our work and life; we can achieve more. We can increase efficiency and productivity, in addition to staying more in control when under pressure; thereby achieving a higher level of performance.

Understanding the brain

It is not surprising that our brains have limitations and get exhausted. Each time we think, process information, make decisions and focus on top performance, we consume energy. Glucose is the fuel for the brain, and just like a car, we can run down to empty. Without rest and replenishment, most of us find ourselves distracted, irritable and tired. It is therefore critical to understand what the brain can handle, when it is at its peak, and how we can consciously use our brains most effectively. If we did have this understanding, would we focus on other things, work at variant times, and prioritise more, or differently? Smart companies are realising that for employees to do their jobs properly, they need support and even encouragement to recharge and replenish.

Prioritisation and distractions

If we all took the time to consider when we focus on certain tasks, we would probably have to admit that we automatically gravitate to the easy things first, putting off the more difficult or detailed work for later. If we think back to the brain, what we need to do is to prioritise (which is a difficult task for our brains, in itself, if done properly) and ensure we focus on the more challenging things when our brain is at its best. I definitely know that the time for me to take on my most demanding tasks is first thing in the morning or early afternoon when my brain is at its peak — ideally after some exercise, decent food and a strong coffee! This may be at different times of the day for everyone, but we should remember that each of us only has a few of these ‘maximum capacity brain hours’ per day, so proper prioritisation is a must. To engage in lower level tasks during peak brain time would be a waste of valuable potential, and you may then find that when you do get to the tough stuff, your brain is running on empty again.

In addition to scheduling our work around when we are most effective, we should also get rid of any distractions, and stop trying to multi-task. These make us less effective and force the brain to lose glucose even faster. With so many potential diversions to hand these days — I’ll just……get a cup of coffee, check my LinkedIn, look at Whatsapp, glance at my e-mail, see what’s happening on Twitter — it is a real effort to limit our distractions, but it is a worthwhile exercise. Why don’t you try it tomorrow, and do those difficut reports and plans or that strategic thinking with your phone and inbox turned off. Your brain – and your boss – will thank you for it.


In order to stay focused and cool under pressure in our often frenetic culture, we all need a clear mind and the ability to be present ‘in the moment.’ This means not thinking about the past, the future or even yourself, but rather focussing on what is happening at the time – also known as being mindful. We are always hearing about the {nolink}benefits{/nolink} of a regular meditation practice, as well as training ourselves to become mindful each and every minute of every day. Evidence is growing all the time that just ten minutes of meditation a day can actually change the shape of the brain, and importantly, this can have a significant positive impact on your life — both personally and professionally. Beneficial effects include increased energy levels and a greater ability to regulate your own emotions, which in turn will mean increased calm. All of this enables us to handle problems and stress better, make smarter decisions, and get more done while getting on better with others. This can only be good news for HR Leaders and employees at all levels; and with a commitment of just ten minutes a day and fast results, it is achievable for all.

Final thought

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, and of course there is much more we can learn and apply when it comes to our ideal brain functionality. But what we know today is worth remembering and keeping top of mind. There is clear evidence that keeping your mind healthy, in addition to exercise, adequate sleep, social time and a good diet, are the key elements to being balanced, focused, less stressed and ultimately becoming an even higher performer.


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Key Contributors:

Graham Tollit

Senior Director

Consulting Team
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Consulting Team

Graham Tollit

Senior Director

Graham is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG based in the United Kingdom. He is passionate about building long-term partnerships and his current focus is on European and global search mandates, working with the team to identify high-calibre HR talent across EMEA and internationally.

With over 20 years in executive search, Graham has a successful track record delivering across multiple industry sectors and specialist functions with many of the top global multinationals. He has a deep interest and knowledge of the HR profession, future of work, and is a big advocate of the importance of mental health and wellness in the workplace. Before a return to the UK in 2017, Graham spent seven years based in Singapore.

Graham’s personal interests revolve around his family, and you could find him either on the golf course or exploring a new city or coastline somewhere.