The rather lengthy title of this book at least makes clear its content and intent: Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus and Working Smarter All Day Long, develops the simple notion that with a little knowledge of how the brain works, we can develop smarter approaches to different scenarios at work, and in life generally.
The book introduces us to two characters, one male and one female, and uses everyday scenarios faced by each of them to illustrate successive points in a straightforward way. We first read about a familiar situation such as 'the morning email overwhelm' and the character's reaction to it, then explore how some simple insights into our brain functioning might offer them some better choices. We then revisit the scenario and consider 'take two': what might have happened were the character to have adopted those choices.
The insights into brain functioning come from a wide variety of neuroscientists interviewed by the author and from published studies, all of which are fully referenced. A key point of the book is that these insights equip us to make different choices from one moment to the next resulting in small yet significant changes in behaviour which in turn can create substantially different and more useful outcomes. In particular, the author draws our attention to the relative smallness of the behaviour changes compared to the scale of benefits on offer for ourselves, and those we work and live with.
Key to our ability to notice and make these choices is our ability to stand outside of our own experience: to observe ourselves from a 'third person' perspective and from this vantage point, to exercise discretion over our behaviour rather than simply being driven by events.
This self-awareness or ability to both be in the present moment whilst also observing our interaction with it is often referred to as mindfulness, although the author makes clear that in this book, this term is understood from a neuroscientific perspective as a trait that can be developed and is valuable for workplace effectiveness, rather than as something associated with spirituality, for example.
At the end of the book, Mr Rock provides a useful summary of each 'act' in the book to remind us of its key insights and their value in helping us to overcome distraction, regain focus and work smarter.