As you know I write and speak a lot about focus and have been extolling the virtues of avoiding getting distracted by emails for many years now. But guess what happened last week?
I was expecting an email from my daughter, Sara, who lives in Melbourne – now nothing urgent you understand – and what did I do the first thing I got up last Thursday morning? Yes, I broke all my own rules about not going near email at that time of day and I checked if her email had arrived!
Well, it had and it was great! But, while I was there another one caught my eye and I had a read of that. Guess what? 45 minutes later I was still on email and had got nothing productive done!
I make a really conscious effort to ensure that I tackle my most difficult task of the day first thing in the morning – and follow that rule unless I have a business engagement that takes precedence. I focus on that task for 90 minutes and then I take my first break of the day. Advice I did not follow on Thursday!
However, when I do live my own mantra I know that that level of focus sets me up for the day – increased motivation, feeling of achievement and increased energy.
You see one of the biggest challenges we all face is an incredible overload of information, which can lead to overwhelm. I come across this all the time when working with large companies and start-ups. It comes at us from all angles – the media, the online news channels, social media, blogs etc. It is endless.
This overload can also tip us into another dangerous activity – multi tasking! I get so angry when I see multi tasking being lauded as a virtue. There are even courses on how to do it better! Why does anyone want to be good at doing something that is ineffective?
What remedy do I often hear being sought for this malady? Quite often, I hear the cry – “I need to improve my time management!”
Now time management may well need to be improved, but, in my experience, it is more about choices and energy management.
You cannot eliminate those things that things that come out of left field and need to be dealt with – like death and taxes, the crises will always be with us!
But apart from that we can choose what we work on, i.e. the most important things, when we work on them and for how long and, lastly, what our energy is like while we are working on them.
So, we focus to control what we can!
I reiterate my continuous assertion that you tackle the most difficult task you have to do in the day first thing – when your energy is highest. That sets you up.
Work in bursts of 90 minutes, then take a break. If 90 minutes is too long for you, then make it 70 or 80. But, you must take a break – away from your desk!
Your day should not be viewed as a marathon, but a series of sprints. We can all do a few sprints in the day (at our own speed!), but we are unlikely to even contemplate doing a few marathons!
Your break can be a walk outside the office, or just sitting somewhere quiet where you can breathe slowly. Taking a couple of minutes just to breathe slowly has amazing benefits – it clears your mind and improves your blood flow.
You now have renewed energy.
Remember that tiredness leads to frustration, anger, anxiety and stress – none of which will do you any good trying to do good work.
Manage your energy. You will get more done, the quality of the work will be higher and at the end of the day you will feel so satisfied and re-energized for the following one.
What will you do today to manage your energy?