As a list maker myself, I know how productive and satisfying it can be to plow through the day finishing tasks and scratching items off the list. The problem is that you can very often finish the day both mentally and physically exhausted, which is not healthy for you or for the relationships with the loved ones in your life.
Most of us are aware of our energy levels early in the day before being distracted by family or work obligations. Some of us can pop out of bed and hit the ground running. Others need time to wake up and get their motor running for the day. After we are moving we seem to forget to check in with ourselves and our mental energy levels.
Out mental energy levels greatly influence our overall productivity throughout the day, as well as how we feel at the end of the day. Very often the reason we finish the day physically exhausted is that we are mentally exhausted as well. We run our mental batteries down and then the brain robs energy from our body. We are not aware of the energy transfer as it happens, but boy do we feel it after we get home and sit down. We suddenly realize just how tired we are.
What if there was a way to help avoid that? What if we could have both more mental and physical energy at the end of the day?
Schedule your time into three parts.
Schedule activity time in maximum 45 minute segments. Set the timer on your phone and focus on working on a specific task. Don’t be trying to multitask – studies have shown that although we believe we get more done when we multitask the reality is that the actual amount and quality of the work performed is lower than if we worked on each item separately. If the task is going to take longer than 45 minutes – break it up. You need to build in mental breaks.
After 45 minutes your brain needs a break. Take 5-10 minutes to shift focus. Get a cup of coffee or a bottle of water from the break room. Chat with a colleague in person or on the phone. Check email or Facebook (just don’t get so absorbed that time ticks by before you realize). Anything to shift your focus and mind from the previous task. Then after 5-10 minutes, resume or start working on a new task. I call this approach “chunking”. I chunk my way through the day so that I can actually get more accomplished, but am not so mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the work day.
As you cycle through activity/recovery you are letting your mind naturally relax and recharge. (And speaking of recharge – try not to lunch at your desk. You are not really mentally disengaging and likely continuing to drain your mental batteries.)
This is quite often the toughest block to schedule for all of us. Try to schedule some time each day to just let yourself think. Having time to think about issues and possible solutions or ideas and ways to implement them may sound like a luxury you don’t have but I can assure you it is time well spent. If you are just go-go-go at work and home all day you will end up in a mental rut, never innovating or coming up with “outside the box” ideas. Free thought is the only way that happens. Try going for a walk. I used to walk around the warehouse a few times just to get both the blood and thoughts flowing.
We all have 24 hours in our day. No more and no less. Successful people schedule and use their time wisely. They work in spurts to maximize productivity and then allow themselves time to recover before tackling the next task.
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