4 Ways 'Neuroproductivity' Can Make Work More Efficient — And Fun

brains on laptop screens

Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Sara London at Hive
Sara London at Hive
If your team has been feeling a little sluggish lately, maybe the solution isn’t in your attitudes – it’s in your brains. Dr. Friedericke Fabritius, neuroscientist, keynote speaker, and author of The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier has the secret to ending your team’s workplace woes: neuroproductivity.

What is neuroproductivity?

“Neuroproductivity is the ability to use neuroscience to make everybody’s work life better,” Dr. Fabritius explains. And because it’s impossible for laymen to understand the nuances and particularities of this broad field, Dr. Fabritius has crafted a model that breaks down neuroproductivity into three simple tenants: fun, fear, and focus.
“When you have fun at work, your brain releases dopamine,” Dr. Fabritius says, “and you can be much more productive, become more creative, and be more mentally flexible.” While dopamine is commonly known as a pleasure-stimulating neurotransmitter, that’s only partially true; dopamine has mostly been known to play a role in motivation. Studies show that it’s released when a subject is either driven towards or away from a particular goal.
“When you have the right level of fear,” Dr. Fabritius continues, “and you feel slightly over-challenged, your brain releases noradrenaline, and that gives that little kick that we need to perform at our best. It’s a bit like taking a cold shower.” Working hand-in-hand with dopamine, these helpful chemicals are called “neuromodulators,” as they’re imperative in the process of creating homeostatic states of retention, concentration, and inspiration.
“Lastly, when we have the right levels of focus, our brain releases acetylcholine,” Dr. Fabritius concludes, “and that helps us to really zoom in on what matters the most.” Acetylcholine, another neuromodulator, is the perfect balance to noradrenaline’s heart-pumping intensity; it works within the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the muscles and mind.

How neuroproductivity is (or isn’t) working for you already

Neuroproductivity is the science of training and sustaining your brain’s pre-existing neurochemical pathways by stimulating the hormones and neurotransmitters that you’re already producing. Consequently, there are three particular ways that you might already be harnessing the power of neuroproductivity without even realizing it – and ways that you may be unintentionally stifling it.
“Most people have a lack of sleep, I mean, the science is very clear on that,” Dr. Fabritius says. Insufficient sleep is linked to seven of the fifteen top causes of death in the United States, and it’s not uncommon for people to get less than seven hours per night. By depriving your brain of sleep, you’re also depriving it of the essential neurochemicals it needs to foster productivity. “The brain needs sleep to perform at your very best. Also, people don’t exercise enough – one of the best ways to boost your brain is by exercising.”
“Another way to hack your brain is by mastering sunlight exposure,” Dr. Fabritius continues. “For example, if you expose yourself to sunlight in the morning, you’re much more productive throughout the day.” Studies show that morning sunlight exposure can trigger a release of serotonin, which can decrease anxiety or depressive symptoms and benefit one’s mood. If you’re not getting morning sunlight, then you’re not getting the chemical lift you might need to tackle your day.
You may have already known that daily tips about sunlight, sleeping, or exercise can make or break your work performance. But from a neuroscientific perspective, Dr. Fabritius says that there’s one unspoken barrier that may be hampering a team’s neuroproductivity: groupthink.
“One thing that’s very interesting is that neuroproductivity is hampered by groupthink,” Dr. Fabritius explains. “We know that people have the desire to want to be part of a group, and they want to fit in, that leads to a lot of mediocrity.” The neuroscience of social decision-making is well-studied, and research indicates that when one’s opinion differs from their group, one might feel fear or anxiety. Their brain may even react on a cellular level in the same way it would if they had made a mistake.
“I think if we want to increase group performance,” Dr. Fabritius concludes, “we need to make sure that people get into group flow rather than into groupthink.” If one’s brain is conditioned to feel excitement or happiness rather than fear when their opinion differs from the group, the group as a whole may experience greater levels of productivity.

4 Ways 'Neuroproductivity' Can Make Work More Efficient

1. Fun and fear

“There are many small hacks to improve the atmosphere on a team,” Dr. Fabritius says, especially if you’re trying to train yourself to enjoy a task that may not be your favorite. “You can ask yourself, how can I have more fun at that moment? For example, when you’re sitting in a boring meeting, you can use humor or exercise and even gratitude and interacting positively with other people to improve the level of fun.”
“When it comes to fear,” she adds, “you can make sure that people have the optimal stress level they need in a team.” While you don’t want your team to be scared and too stressed out, without any stress, the urgency and motivation you need to work well might be missing. 

2. Keep it short

Though meetings may get a bad rap, that’s simply because they’re often conducted in ways that slow down our neuroproductivity, lower our dopamine and noradrenaline levels, and make us feel sluggish. To clear out the mental clutter and give people the opportunity to engage in work in a way that matches their personal style, Dr. Fabritius notes it should be a sort of unofficial goal to keep meetings under 15 minutes – an easy goal if you have the right tools.
“I think if we work on making meetings less annoying, we can bring a lot of joy to the workplace,” Dr. Fabritius says. “I think it’s extremely important to keep meetings productive – really short, and only invite those who have to be there.”

3. Have some “you” time

Another way to boost your team’s productivity is to block off some time as a unit to work, slowly building a flow and elevating your productive neurochemicals without interruption.
“I think it’s very important for people to manage boundaries,” Dr. Fabritius says, “to learn to say no and to really carve out time where they can be productive. I like to recommend what I call a ‘meeting of one’, allowing people to block their time so they can work without distractions, putting their phone on airplane mode or turning it off, and scheduling some time where you can do your deep work.”

4. Be empathetic

Lastly, it’s important to understand that your teammates might have different neurochemical needs than you do – just like a medication impacts one person differently than the next, levels of neurotransmitters and hormones differ from body to body, and your coworker might have different tolerance levels than you do.
“Some people need a lot of challenges, and they need a lot of stress to perform at their best,” Dr. Fabritius says, “and some people need less. I think it’s very important in a team to understand those different ‘neurosignatures’ so that everybody can work in line with their optimal stress levels.”

Have you tried “neuroproductivity” at work? How do you think it could help you and your team? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers! 

This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.