Episode 20: Adam Gazzaley on the Distracted Mind During a Crisis

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Matt Mullenweg speaks with neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley, co-author of the 2016 book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, about how our brains work, particularly during times like the current pandemic. How does the brain handle internal and external stimuli, and what do we know about the effect of practices like meditation, exercise, nutrition, and sleep? 

Gazzaley obtained an M.D. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, completed Neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley. He is currently the David Dolby Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco, and the Founder & Executive Director of Neuroscape, a translational neuroscience center at UCSF.

Gazzaley co-authored The Distracted Mind with Larry D. Rosen, and he’s a scientist who enjoys seeing his work solve real-world problems. He’s also founded startups, including Akili Interactive and Sensync, to build technology products that enhance learning, mindfulness, and well-being. More can be found at his website, gazzaley.com

A full transcript of the episode is below.

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Matt Mullenweg with Sam Harris on Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy

Distributed host Matt Mullenweg recently appeared on Sam Harris’s excellent podcast, Making Sense, sharing the “five levels of autonomy” when it comes to distributed work. Listen to their wide-ranging conversation on how companies transition to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We love Sam’s podcast, Making Sense, so for more go to samharris.org/podcast/ and you can also subscribe to get his premium content, which is totally worth it.

What Homeschooling Children Can Teach You About Remote Work

Automattic had a 15-year jumpstart on how to do remote work, but in just a matter of weeks, millions of people have taken those tools and insights and put them to work in their own companies and social circles. 

None has been more instructive than how children are using them, for both learning and fun. Kids always seem to be more adaptive and creative than the grown-ups, particularly in this challenging environment. (We can confirm they’re already having more fun with Zoom games than we could’ve dreamed up ourselves.) Here are a few tips from homeschooling life thus far:

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Making Sense of the New Normal

In just a few months, remote work went from an anomaly to the new normal.

But as the world navigates both a global pandemic and an economic meltdown, remote work is now widespread but also completely unlike our experiences just a year ago when this podcast debuted.

The current reality is much more complicated than simply deciding what software to use, or learning how to manage asynchronous meetings on Slack or Zoom. People aren’t just adapting to working at home (if they are able to work at all), they’re also adapting to working alongside other family members in the same house, social distancing, and trying to manage schedules while caring for sick family members or homeschooling their kids.

It’s a stressful period for everyone, but perhaps also an opportunity to question our preconceptions about work and how we keep each other safe.

The number-one thing we recommend is kindness — giving our coworkers, families, and friends space to adapt and adjust and plan. Assume positive intent.

With that in mind, here are some recent posts from our colleagues at Automattic about navigating the world of distributed work in the weeks and months to come.