Think of bandwidth as the energy that powers the prefrontal cortex of the brain—the center of executive function. This small area of the brain uses a tremendous amount of energy. We need that energy to make good decisions, focus on cognitively demanding tasks, be patient and empathetic, and engage in necessary self-care, such as eating well. You can increase the amount of “bandwidth” you have using specific behaviors, similar to how you can increase fuel capacity by installing a bigger fuel tank in your car. However, use up bandwidth for one of the above functions and you’ll be running on empty for the others.
For the past five years, we’ve used a validated survey and workshops to help schools and other organizations educate themselves about habits that fuel the brain. The survey provides organizational data indicating whether norms and policies support individual bandwidth.
What Fosters Bandwidth?
Think about conversations you’ve had with family, friends and colleagues. Are conversations about imbalance, frustrations, and concerns? Or, do people feel on top of the following factors:
- Being satisfied with the balance of work priorities and home priorities?
- Adequate sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise?
- Being able to focus on cognitively demanding tasks, including active listening?
- Being able to effectively filter through choices for good decisions, whether on the internet or in other information searches?
- Using electronic devices and social media in energizing, non-distracting ways?
- Structuring time and schedules?
When we ask leaders this question about their teams, they often react with, “We can’t control what people do outside of their workday!” This is true, but from our research, we know that the No. 1 predictor of how people rate their personal brain “fuel tank” is whether they believe their workplace supports them in keeping that tank full.
Leaders play a crucial role in ensuring that educators have the brain energy they need to be energized, feel a sense of self-efficacy that leads to achievement for their students, work efficiently, act with emotional intelligence, and remain engaged.
If you or your leadership team would like to learn about your current brain energy and bandwidth—your willpower, patience, and concentration capacity—and the practices that will help you and your learning community reclaim energy, passion, and time, contact our team.
Also look for our book, due out by early 2022 entitled: Educator Bandwidth: Reclaiming Your Energy, Passion, and Time.