Do You Really Value the Most Precious Treasure in Your Business?
I have a precious treasure in my business. It’s invisible, an asset that cannot be obtained. It allows me to come up with smart solutions and give real value to my clients and audience. Without it, I would be nothing as a professional, and my market would probably be left with many more unsolved problems.
I look after this treasure carefully and protect it like a lion. Well, most of the time.
But occasionally, when I’m not careful enough, I let it go to waste. A dumb mistake I know, but so easy to fall into it. Then I need to wait a day or so for it to renew, and in the meantime all I can do is try to push through, feeling drained and scattered. Lots of hard going and unproductive hours await, instead of making good progress and getting a sense of achievement.
You might have figured out what kind of a ‘treasure’ I’m talking about here – one that you too possess, without a doubt. It’s your mental energy during those few hours of your day when you’re at your peak.
It’s that headspace that allows you to think clearly, express yourself eloquently, connect the dots with ease and make excellent decisions.
On most days I happen to be in this powerful – and beautiful – state immediately after I wake up. Answers to lingering questions keep popping up in my head. Tasks that seemed difficult the afternoon before become simple and problems stop being problems. Sometimes I spend these early hours writing articles or tricky emails, and words flow smoothly. I feel courageous and motivated.
I often notice well before lunch that I’ve got more quality work done in a few hours than during entire days when I’m less in tune with my biological rhythm. This momentum then helps me cruise through the rest of the day and do even more good work.
Our biological rhythm.
It’s a well-known phenomenon – also confirmed by science – that our state of mind and physiology keep changing throughout the day, which naturally impacts our ability to work productively.
‘Morning people’ reach their peak state shortly after they wake up, so for them the best time to tackle tasks that require concentration is before lunch. On the other hand, ‘evening people’ are most productive – as you’d guess – in the evening and sometimes late at night. And then many folks are somewhere in between.
Most of us notice a lapse in our focus and mood in the afternoon, when the clock seems to be moving at the pace of a snail and we desperately need a warm beverage to keep going. Then later in the day, we tend to experience a second burst of energy, usually with a creative flavour, and not just because of the caffeine.
Either way, everyone notices some change in their mood and thinking as the day goes by, and these changes follow a consistent pattern essentially every day.
When you pay attention to this rhythm and do the right things at the right time, work becomes easier and more enjoyable. No hours are wasted.
For example, I can accomplish the most in a day when I tackle difficult research or writing tasks or attend critical meetings in the morning. I tend to casually catch up with members of my network or do administrative work in the early afternoon.
I then take a decent break – perhaps go for a walk in a nearby park or do some exercise – when my mind can freely wander, and finally dive into some highly creative activities in the evening, all of which protect this treasure, my mental energy.
Our headspace is under attack.
However, all this magic can disperse quickly if we’re not careful. During our most productive hours, our state of mind is especially delicate. Every bit of irrelevant information, distraction, and stressful or disheartening news can chip away at our headspace.
Are you tempted to log into social media or browse through the latest news first thing in the morning, or during breakfast? If so, a sizeable dose of scattered information has already littered your headspace.
Do you check your mailbox before you dive into your tasks, or as soon as work stops being easy and fun and you’re craving momentary relief? The chances are that some of the messages you’ve received have dampened your mood a little, or the sheer sight of your cluttered mailbox has made you feel a bit overwhelmed.
Are you getting caught up in conversations with people who can’t stop bombarding you with their opinions and complaints, or worse, keep pushing your buttons and making you feel insecure?
There’s so much going on cognitively and emotionally – now you really can’t expect your brain to perform.
A hard lesson.
Sometimes I’m guilty of all of the above. There have even been times when my bad habits – combined with difficult circumstances – completely destroyed my productivity for several weeks.
Last year, for example, I found myself in a situation when I needed to coordinate the renovation of a small property located on the other side of the world. This was only a side project, and I had big plans for progressing with my own research and consulting work in the meantime.
However, stressful news about the renovation project kept coming, usually reaching me at the worst time of the day. Because of the different time zones, I could only talk to the contractors late at night, and by the time I woke up in the morning a list of messages were waiting for me, filled with unpleasant surprises, which I felt compelled to read immediately.
I had a disrupted sleep throughout this period, and during the daytime, I often felt my brain was hurting.
My research and consulting projects required high-level thinking, creative problem solving and engaging writing, but these were too much to ask from my mind.
I made embarrassingly little progress with my own work during these weeks – not because I didn’t have the time, but because I exhausted my mental and emotional resources by dealing with stressful tasks at the wrong time of the day.
Getting wiser, protecting our treasure.
As I get older and hopefully wiser, I’m becoming increasingly protective of my headspace, especially in the early hours when my mind is clearest.
I spend as little time as possible checking emails and chat platforms in the morning, and I religiously avoid news sources and conversations that could possibly stress me out or clutter my mind with information irrelevant to the task at hand. I also tend to be quite hard on myself when I catch myself multitasking or procrastinating at this time.
I carefully avoid working around people who are allergic to silence, and before I immerse myself in deep work I kindly ask my colleagues and coworkers not to interrupt me for a couple of hours. I also close the door when that’s an option.
Time is precious, but so is your headspace. So in order to make the most of your days, you need to manage your mental energy as carefully as you manage your time. Know the times of the day when your mind is the sharpest and clearest, and work out when it’s the best time to tackle different activities. Look after your mental energy and use it well, because it’s a real treasure.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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