PPP054: Revisiting Brain by Design with James Garrett


Are you busy, busy, chasing your tail, doing all the things? Or is life calm right now?

Are you focused and attentive and productive?

Maybe you’re productive but so busy that you haven’t sat back and noticed your achievements?

I have been talking to several clients recently about productivity, attention, focus, our expectations of ourselves and the feelings that come along with juggling all of the things - work, parenting, health, self-care, friendships, family, goals and plans. Worry, overwhelm, frustration and impatience are recurring themes.

So I thought it timely to revisit a conversation that has helped me with all of these things. In Season 2 of the Potential Psychology Podcast I interviewed James Garrett, the founder and CEO of Brain By Design - a US-based organisation that teaches strategies for getting more from your mind.

James is a psychologist, a former academic, co-founder of a highly successful social venture and now host of The Deep Change Podcast. In this episode we discuss the science behind:

  • Why your focus and attention is like a battery that requires recharging.

  • How to get more done by working less

  • How to use your mind to start on difficult or unpleasant tasks

  • The importance of taking breaks for your productivity and creativity and why your brain doesn't know how to do this

  • Why the standard '8 hours at your desk' is a disaster for your effectiveness, innovation, happiness and wellbeing.

  • James's online programs and the science of productivity and wellbeing, and

  • How he reads one book per week!


  1. To get more done by working less, work in sprints and breaks. Your brain can’t sustain attention for hours at a time so try working for 90 minutes and taking a 30 minute break. If that feels difficult, start with five minute breaks and work up from there.

  2. To make a start on a difficult task, ‘shrink’ it by reducing the time you expect yourself to work on it. If you can reduce your emotional resistance to starting you can often create enough momentum to keep going.

  3. Kick start your creativity (and recharge your brain) by allowing your brain to find its ‘mind wandering mode.’ Great activities for this mode include walking, showering, napping and meditating.

Thanks for listening! If you've enjoyed this episode we'd love it if you would:

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