We all have energies, but the best of us know how to channel them in the right way to optimize our productivity. If you want to channel your inner leader, it is all about tapping into your power. As a millennial who quit her corporate job to become a freelancer, I have noticed that I have an issue with an overactive mind.
Constantly living in the future and making never ending to-do lists have been part of my routine. This does not stop with my work, I plan out even simple tasks of life like watching movies, reading books et.al.
A recent story by Sripriyaa Venkataraman, a Leadership and Executive Coach at Global Coaching Lab sparked an awareness in me. It helped me embark on a journey of calming myself down and channeling my excess energy in the right avenues.
The experience I came across
“Energies that are not channeled well, will find their natural discharge in distractions”.
I had this epiphany when I was coaching a leader recently. As a ritual, we do a simple exercise of accounting for the time in a week across multiple life roles. Strangely enough, this coachee’s accounting left 3 hours per day unexplained and unaccounted for.
In probing deeper into what she could do better from an integrated leadership perspective, this coachee discovered a deficit in the time she spent on her health.
Without her inner energies expended through exercise, it was unnaturally showing up in other work situations as a vexing penchant to butt in with her opinion and unsolicited advice. Stakeholder feedback showed this as an annoying feature of this person’s behavior, that if addressed would allow her richer expertise to be better appreciated.
The turning point came when she decided to invest in her body and regularize her exercise regimen to an hour every day. Strangely enough, contrary to prior beliefs she held, she was able to exercise better control over her instinctual responses in various meetings.
Breathing exercises helped her build the gap between stimulus and response and she surprised herself with how much impact she was now creating in meetings, with appreciation from colleagues.
This simple act of channeling the energies to the body, to control the engagement of the mind, is a powerful lever to bring out the best in people.
I wanted to share this underappreciated connection, as I believe that every coachee can experiment with the serendipitous fallouts of their body-mind connections.
What have your coachees gained by exercising their body and leveraging their mind or should I say leveraging their body and exercising their mind?
My major takeaway was knowing that I am not alone. My physical health is often reflected in my mental health and how I handle situations. If I am not well rested and following a healthy diet, my instinctual responses are poor.
At times, I tend to react violently to situations, and I fail to impact people during my meetings. When we face new goals, we tend to jump in with both feet and try to prove ourselves – both to our peers and to ourselves.
But it is the power to control the energies flowing within you and sustaining it is what makes a good leader. It is not starting strong that makes a good leader – it is staying strong and self-regulating oneself.
Here is what I did to channel my energies and leverage the power of my mind to bring the best version of myself to work every day.
I learned to set boundaries for myself and for people who try to reach out to me. In terms of my boundaries, I set upper and lower ones. These help me make progress on my goals and reach them within a specified time. I also focus on how I work and what exhausts me the most.
By identifying these trigger points, I can isolate myself from them and work to the best of my potential. I let people know when they can reach me (when I am most productive) and when I am not available (when my brain decides to mentally shut down). This helps me allocate time during the day for rest, meditation, and recovery for my body and mind. It helps me prevent burnout and the fear of losing motivation for things that used to excite me.
Identifying hyper productivity
I am hyper productive. It takes me ten minutes to complete a twenty-minute job and I can work long hours with a cup of coffee. Great, right!? No, it’s not.
I recently realized that the more productive your mind is, the more rest it needs at the end of the day. If I get a task done in half the time required to finish it, it means my brain has worked twice as fast as required. Pushing yourself to work the extra hours will exhaust you and make you lose interest after a point.
Understanding my tendencies
Some of us work best early in the morning while others work best late at night. Try to find yours and stick to it and avoid working 24/7. The problem I faced was not noticing when my mind was at its peak.
I work best in the morning – my brain is most active for the first three hours after I wake up. But I would waste this time watching TV, reading books, or catching up with my friends. It would then feel like I had gotten nothing done and my brain was already too tired to work!
To prevent this, try to avoid compulsively working owing to your high drive. You might get a spurt of productivity today and work long hours. But your body will require tomorrow to recover from it, and you will end up getting nothing done.
The idea is to identify when you are tired, or you have exhausted your productivity and take a break. Never push your body and mind so much that you will need the next day to recover from it. Give yourself permission to take some downtime and perform some breathing exercises.
Monitoring my breaks
Good leaders take breaks and give themselves the time to unwind. But they keep a close eye on how long they relax too. They take ample breaks but only after accomplishing a task or goal. They encourage their team to take breaks and chill out too – but only after their tasks for the day are completed. It makes no sense to go for a coffee break when your presentation for the meeting starting in an hour is not finished.
Ever come across the quote – Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop only when you are done? This is the mantra I learned to use in my routine. Yes, I would take the time to eat and perform all the basic activities.
But I would take a break or get up to stretch my body only after completing a task. I give myself a sustainable task and the time to work at a sustainable pace. Life isn’t a sprint, but it helps to keep running (while stopping to hydrate and relax, of course).
Bidding goodbye to multitasking
Yes, it was the hardest step, but I realized that our minds can’t productively work on more than one thing at a time. I used to type an email while attending a phone call and proofreading a document simultaneously. Why? Because I wanted to get work done sooner and relax.
But the problem was that I wasn’t giving my full attention to anything and kept losing focus or making mistakes. My body was getting stressed out and my mind was working on overdrive. My mental health issues would reflect in the form of headaches, burnout, stomachaches, and a complete lack of patience. I would snap at my family and clients often.
To prevent the urge to multitask and get multiple essential tasks done at once, I began to try a simple solution. I would prioritize my tasks for the day based on:
- What is the most important?
- What takes the most time?
- What can I do alone and what needs the help of someone else?
- What requires the most of my energy, mental space, and productivity?
This helped me a lot as I could focus on the most important task first. My mind wouldn’t keep wandering to some other tasks I had to get done immediately after it. I began to set these priorities every night before bed to ensure that I could go to bed peacefully at night without worrying about the first task I had to get done the next day.
It is great to be high-performing and bursting with energy. But not at the expense of your body and mind. You need to stay in power and channel your energies in the right direction for the best results.
Focus on your health – both mental and physical. A friend once told me I am working to earn money and buy food. But I am so busy working that at times, I don’t even have time to eat. It is crucial to stop at these points and ask yourself – Then why am I working in the first place?
Ensure that you are working effectively and productively while keeping a close watch on your mind and body. Stick to your boundaries and practice some form of breathing or physical exercise every day. Train yourself to keep calm and be grateful – tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.
At the end of the day, the ultimate solution to not being able to work hard is not working harder. It is slowing down and even stopping to breathe. To know more and channel your energies the right way and leverage your mind, click here.