The full English title of the book "Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long" is already a perfect summary of what the 304 pages will teach you. Unfortunately, there are many other books out there making similar claims while containing little to no science-based content and mostly "farmer wisdom" of the 21st century.
This book is different. The author David Rock, who holds a professional doctorate in the Neuroscience of Leadership, knows what he is talking about. Statements made in his book are based on scientific studies conducted by renowned neuroscientists and psychologists. He often goes into detail about which parts of the brain are active in certain situations and how hormones are shaping or thoughts and feelings.
Still, the book is written for the average person who does not have a Ph.D. in neuroscience and prefers a more casual reading experience. The author utilizes storytelling principles and a consistent structure throughout the book to translate the scientific understanding of the human brain into highly informative and entertaining chapters focusing on different aspects of average 21st-century knowledge work.
Most chapters lay a focus on a specific topic like "making a decision" and are split into three sections:
- A fictional work scenario focusing on either Paul or Emily, the book's main protagonists, is described in which something is going horribly wrong for them.
- The situation that the protagonist has encountered is analyzed from a neuroscience perspective. Why and how did they mess up and what could they have done better?
- The scenario is reprised. This time the protagonist knows everything that was described in the previous section and perfectly manages the situation leading to a far better outcome.
The structure and length of each chapter make the book a pleasure to read. I soon developed a good feeling on how long a chapter will take me to fully complete, which made it easy to plan reading sessions for each chapter. This is more or less a "meta" quality of this book, but I think it is worth mentioning. As most non-fiction books, each chapter ends with a brief summary of the key takeaways and a list of things to try out in similar situations.
In general, the book taught me to be more mindful, do complex tasks like prioritization while still refreshed and how to focus on the task ahead. Some quirks of the human brain were new to me but I could map most of them to past situations, personality traits, and habits that I have developed. Often I found myself taking notes and experiencing big aha moments. Especially the chapters focusing on the prohibition of thoughts and feelings were very interesting for me because I sometimes have problems staying focused when random unrelated thoughts are popping up in my head.
While the structure of the book is a perfect example of why storytelling is a great tool when writing about complex and otherwise dry topics, the "ideal way of dealing with the situation" sections sometimes felt a bit too perfect and at times far-fetched.
Still, I highly recommend the book to every person who is working in a typical knowledge-based job. This book will teach you why and how your brain sometimes drives you in a bad situation at work and give you some clues on how you could prevent or weaken some of the brain's more stupid behavior in the future.