Today I want to talk about how you can increase your mental energy, no coffee required!
This is an important topic; in a recent survey, 78% of you scored ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ in terms of your mental energy. It’s also something that I hear in my work with thousands of people; “I’m exhausted from juggling work, family and life”, “I’m depleted and lacking balance”, “It’s like I’m on a hamster wheel and can’t get off”.
They tell me that they spend all day stressed, rushing from meeting to meeting, and even though they feel absolutely drained by 5pm, they didn’t get a whole lot done. Does this sound like you?
I have a quick self-assessment that you can do to test your mental energy levels right now:
• Do you have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time?
• Are you easily distracted by emails, phone calls, and colleagues?
• Do you find yourself reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than activities with longer term value and high leverage?
• Do you feel like you don’t take enough time for reflection, strategising, and creative thinking?
• Do you regularly work in the evenings or on the weekend and/or almost never take an email-free vacation?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it’s likely that you’re suffering from low levels of mental energy.
Mental energy is a big driver of your overall energy levels, such as physical energy, but it’s also linked to motivation, productivity, concentration, and also confidence and happiness. As you can see, lacking mental energy can really impact your ability to function and experience enjoyment at work and home. So let’s jump into some tips for how you can increase your mental energy and the mental energy of your team.
Flexible working arrangements
Taking up flexible working arrangements is about being able to work in an environment that is conducive to concentration and productivity. Over the last few years there’s been a surge of open plan workspaces and while these can be great for connection and collaboration, they can lead to poor focus. If you’re deep in thought and get interrupted, it can take 20 minutes for you to get back into that state of concentration, this can actually increase the time it takes to complete a task by 25%. So it’s no wonder we often get to the end of the day and feel like we’ve hardly achieved anything! The first tip is to seek flexible working arrangements so that you can get into that state of deep focus and productivity, and make sure that you make these available to your team.
Clarify your essential intent
This tip comes from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown (which we highly recommend!). What we need to do as businesses, teams and individuals, is to focus on no more than two or three things at a time. This is about getting focused on the core things that you want to achieve and not spreading yourself too thin across a huge list of priorities. By introducing this concept to your team, it allows them to focus their energy on the most important priorities, and empowers them to take a really strategic approach to their work.
Hold each other accountable for the language used
The language that we use day-to-day can have a massive drain on our mental energy. Certain words and phrases can create an emotional reaction in our bodies. So often when you ask people how they are, they’ll respond “so busy!” or “drowning in work” or “I don’t have time to catch a breath”, and this language makes us feel stressed and under pressure, which drains our mental energy. So next time you find those words on the tip of your tongue, reframe them in a positive way, for example: “I’m getting a lot done” or “I feel like I’m really on track”.
Be more conscious of your personal productivity hygiene
This is about having discipline when it comes to how often you check your email, use your phone, and answer calls while you’re focusing on work. As I mentioned above, these distractions can increase the time it takes to complete a task by 25%! The human brain is not wired to multitask and it takes a lot of mental energy to continuously switch gears. Technology definitely has something to answer for when it comes to our lack of mental energy! So my advice is:
• Turn off notifications on your phone and/or smart watch during work hours so you’re not constantly distracted by messages and apps.
• Check your email only at set times each day, say 9am and 4pm. Outside these times, close emails on your computer.
• Screen your calls and only answer if you think it might be urgent.
At Inkling, if we need to knuckle down and focus, we send an email to the team letting them know that we’re going offline for the day/X number of hours, and to call if it’s urgent. That way people are less likely to distract you with non-urgent calls and are aware that you’re not going to be answering emails or texts.
We’ve found implementing these tips to really increase our ability to focus and be more productive, and bonus – not feel like you’ve been on a hamster wheel all day!