This easy-to-read guide to unchaining your brain is short, concise and practices what it preaches. The book’s primary theme is simply focusing on one thing at a time, and as its theme, it’s a short, sharp and effortless read.
The book’s layout is intriguing, with text on one side of each page, the other saved for a diagram or explanation of the point being considered, much like a children’s book. This way of presenting the book was strange but refreshing, as it forces the reader to focus one page at a time.
The book draws from the author’s experience of medical science, neuropsychiatry, leadership, and personal development, yet could be a valuable read for any OSH practitioner regardless of level.
Throughout the book, it draws on the history of productivity and makes the reader ponder their own interactions with the phone, laptop, colleagues, and even pets.
Unchain Your Brain makes the reader consider how much attention is given to each moment of connection or interaction versus how many were divided and shared between that connection and intrusive technology. Digital reminders such as an email popping up, an intrusive phone message, a vibrating nudge from a smartwatch or a notification on the laptop when behind with a task all divert attention towards hyper tasking. These moments of increased multitasking are described in the book as hyper tasking, and from an OSH perspective, this level of distraction is dangerous.
The irony of this book is that the reader will have to ignore the digital pop-ups and notifications to read it, but it’s worth pressing mute for a few hours to learn how to untangle your brain.
The book is reflective; it gets inside your brain and starts to untie the knots. The key message is that we should be monotasking. We have so many technological interruptions, and digital technologies have aided the distractions rather than carved time out for focus or reflection. The continuous connectedness of today’s working week and the blurred boundaries make this book a refreshing read.
Split by themes to focus on, the book weaves seamlessly from one ‘brain chain’ to another, offering exercises and diagrams to pause and reflect on. It could be read in a few hours and is easy to pick up and reread a specific point. It’s the type of book you’d keep on top of your desk for regular guidance rather than on the shelf.
At 134 pages and half of those pictures, it’s a quick, easy read, sort of like a handy pocket-sized book guiding the reader from brain chain to brain chain.
Exploring the brain in this way offers the reader the opportunity to reflect on their patterns of behaviour and consider whether we give our brains the crucial moments of peace to encode the information we have absorbed. The book highlights how we often have our best ideas when switching off, whether walking the dog, taking a shower or washing the dishes. Sometimes the information we need comes to the forefront when we’ve given it a moment of rest and reflection. We need to carve out these moments in our daily lives and protect from the barrage of information we are receiving.
Reflection is a core skill for any health and safety practitioner, and Unchain Your Brain considers the safety aspects of being constantly connected, bombarded with digital interruptions, without breaks to reflect or digest. The book illustrates these moments of danger and offers examples where the risk is exponentially increased.
The book illustrates the risk of mental overload by highlighting the importance of sleep and the need to allow our brains to digest, store and archive data. Much like a computational reboot, sometimes our cognitive processing needs a chance to reboot. This book will make the reader think, smile, and turn off their phone. It offers practical tips for embracing monotasking and better focusing on tasks efficiently.
This book could be the antidote to burnout in the workplace, where addiction to multitasking is rife. This book explains why people do what they do; it’s enlightening and highlights how we can do our bit to reduce human error in a health and safety context.
After reading Unchain Your Brain, I’m sure readers will change their habits. It’s a lesson in safeguarding.
This book was reviewed by IOSH magazine's book club review team