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Brain aware stand-up

Dec 10, 2014 - 3 minute read

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Michał Zgrzywa AI Director

AI Director at Objectivity, experienced manager, software developer at heart. 

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One of the perks of being a Data Scientist is that you are able to attend to interesting conferences to look for new ideas and trends. I have just come back from ITxpo, the major Gartner’s event prepared for the IT world. The amount of stuff presented there was overwhelming. This time I would like to share with you just a few ideas from one particularly interesting session about the latest research on human brain.

Brain at work

To put things simply, human brain is not very good at long distances. The presented research show that a regular, healthy adult person can achieve around 3 hours of high performance brain work per day. After using this time, the ability to focus on tasks drops, IQ decreases and you need more time to accomplish work items. I think all of us know the state, when work just do not get done as quickly as it could.

Does “3 hours a day” sound badly? In reality it is even worse – there are many factors that can decrease even that, e.g.:

  • lack of sleep (how much sleep is not enough depends on the particular person, but a common “minimum level” is 6.5 hours),
  • lack of food or wrong food (one that increases your glucose level significantly),
  • stress, or work environment that makes you feel threatened or disturbed (it was measured than one’s IQ drops by 10% for some time after each stressful situation – e.g. after a meeting with a manager, not even necessarily a negative one),
  • two days of very hard work (a few hours of overtime) in a row (also a 10% IQ drop was measured).

Luckily, there are also factors that can give you your 3 hours back:

  • physical exercise (e.g. 30 minute walk),
  • laugh (to relieve stress),
  • time to think.

Three things to start from

Basing on the above, I wanted to propose to you three simple things that you can try yourself tomorrow.

1. Move your stand-up / daily scrum / daily meeting to the end of the day.

Most of the teams nowadays run some kind of daily meeting in the morning to coordinate their work. Agile practices suggest this also. Unfortunately, for most of the people the high-performance hours occur in the morning. It would best to spend this time on solving the most difficult and complex tasks. Communication is not that demanding and can be done in the afternoon. There are also other reasons:

      • not all the people start their work exactly at the stand-up time, some would come earlier and waste more high-performance time waiting, chatting or checking e-mail,
      • in the end of the day you should be able to remember what you were doing during the day, so it would be easier to properly choose your next actions.

For sure there are other advantages and disadvantages of afternoon stand-ups – please share your thoughts in comments.

2. If the weather allows, change your office meeting into a walking meeting.

This way you will not only regain some of you high-performance potential. Also all the participants will reduce their stress level a bit, so the meeting will be more effective. And if this is not possible (e.g. due to the arctic wind), you can always use stairs instead of the elevator a few times a day.

3. Shut down the evil candy machine.

Do not increase your glucose level by eating sweets. This will give you a short energy kick but you will get worse very quickly. Choose a fruit or some vegetables. You can give back all your chocolate bars to your local Operations Research lab. They will know how to cope with the threat.

Good Bye

I do not expect to survive too long after this post. If I will not get lynched by the people defending their right to candies, I will for sure get captured and tortured by the Agile Coaches due to my heresies about moving the morning stand-up to the afternoon. At least I will have a chance to have a little run when they will be chasing me. So, in case you will never hear from me again, Good Bye and Good Luck.

If you enjoyed this, keep an eye on my blog for more stuff like this.

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Michał Zgrzywa AI Director

AI Director at Objectivity, experienced manager, software developer at heart. 

See all Michał's posts


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