Brains in Overdrive

A new Korn Ferry report reveals how we can use mindfulness to take back the wheel.


Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

By: Amelia Haynes

Even without the pandemic pressures or stress of everyday life, people today face more distractions and process more data than at any other point in history. The barrage of information we deal with at any given moment, from city sounds to incoming emails, contributes to our cognitive load—the information our working memory can hold at one time.

But many of us, no doubt, would say what we really experience is cognitive overload. Because we now process a staggering number of demands, our working memory ends up receiving far more information than it can comfortably handle. And when left unchecked, the effects of cognitive overload can have serious potential to undermine our mental health, wellbeing, and workplace productivity. We become frustrated, make poor decisions, suffer memory loss, and experience burnout. What’s more, research shows that, when we overload the brain’s frontal cortex, we also become less charitable, less helpful, and more likely to lie.

In a modern world where “go, go, go” is the only speed, slowing down may seem like a non-starter. Rather than being grounded in the present, we’re focused on the future, planning out the next moment—and the moment after that—in order to manage everything on our plates. But the mental shortcuts our brains have created to navigate cognitive overload can sometimes work against us.

In our latest report, Brains in Overdrive, the Korn Ferry Institute takes a deep dive into how we can reduce the experience of being overwhelmed by doing the one thing that now goes against our very nature: slowing down. After all, when we pay more attention to the present moment, we become more mindful of the world around us—and those habits we use to move through it. And when we become more mindful, we can overcome some of our default, yet unproductive, tendencies, ultimately becoming a more aware, agile, and effective version of ourselves.

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