Everyone has been there: The day is winding down but there is still some work on the table. The person may have two or three hours to spare but they know it is pointless. Their brain is fried and even if they went to their desk it would just result in aimlessly staring at the computer for a few hours before heading home.
This is an example of a person who has done a decent job of managing time, but has failed to properly manage their energy.
At e27 Academy in Batam, Indonesia today, Bjorn Lee, the Founder of the mindfulness company Mindfi, broke down how people can improve their productively by actively engaging with the world around them.
The first step for managing energy is understanding where it comes from. It is broken into four sub-categories which are body, emotions, mind and the human spirit. They work as such:
The Body: This one is obvious. Sleeping well, regular exercise and eating healthy all contribute to improved energy and feeling better during the day.
The Emotions: This refers to the quality of the energy. It is not helpful to have a ton of energy if it comes from a place of anger, jealousy or other negative emotions.
The Mind: This is how to harness and focus the energy. We have all experienced moments when we are feeling great but simply cannot concentrate. This is not ideal for work, obviously.
The Human Spirit: This is what gives a person hunger. It is the drive to continue pushing forward and work to achieve their goals.
Mindfulness is the process of trying to harness these energies to help people lower their stress, improve productivity and live a more fulfilling life.
Jon Kabat Zin, who created a center focussed on stress and mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said it as such:
“Mindfulness meditation means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”
This is also not a pie-in-the-sky hippie ideal but is actually grounded in real brain science. Scientists have figured out what happens to your brain when it wanders vs. when it focusses. The chart is below.
It is impossible to keep on the “sustaining attention” zone permanently and eventually the mind will wander. So, when the mind begins to wander, it is important to notice it, take a break and reset the brain.
One strategy for resetting the brain in the context of work is called the Pomodoro Technique. It breaks focus into 25 minute segments. The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and focus only on one task. Then, when the time is up, take a 5-minute break. This 5-minute break is an excellent opportunity to practice mindful meditation because it allows the brain to reset before you tackle the next 25-minute segment.
When the brain enters into a mode where it is incredibly focussed on one task, this is called Deep Work. It a valuable state for being productive, but it doesn’t last forever.
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Other opportunities to integrate mindfulness into the day-to-day life is during the commute, while eating and when enjoying the daily coffee/tea break.
The other important part of energy management is time management, and one strategy posited by Lee is to follow the Eisenhower box (named after former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower).
It breaks work into four categories:
Urgent-Important: This is the ‘do now’ category. These tasks need immediate attention and full focus.
Ugent-Not Important: These tasks need to be scheduled. Maybe it is working on a pitch deck or cleaning up P&L chart. Yes, it is crucial to a business, but it can be done when the day slows down.
Urgent-Not Important: This is a good opportunity for delegating. It includes tasks like RSVPing for events, answering certain emails or sharing a few updates on social media. In a traditional company, this is often the job duty of a personal assistant.
Not Urgent-Not Important: Kill these tasks. It might seem painful in the moment, but this is incredibly important for making sure important job duties get finished.
Finally, Lee shared 10 tips that can help any Founder improve their ability to move fast and break things.
- When you wake up, book ‘me time’ in your calendar.
- Prioritise like Eisenhower (the box mentioned above)
- Beware of attention hogs. This is often unsolicited inbound notifications or emails. Are you a master of your own time or are you a slave to other people’s time?
- Fall (back) in love with to-do lists.
- JOMO: The Joy Of Missing Out. Feel content with doing something for yourself and disconnecting as a form of self-care.
- Unlock your phone mindfully. Really give it your full attention. If the decision is still to pick up the phone, that is OK, but it’s important to make it a conscious decision.
- Drown outer noise for inner focus.
- Set a time for deep work.
- Take one curious breath before sleep. This means stopping everything, taking a deep, thoughtful, breath and exhaling slowly. This is a good first-step for integrating mindfulness into your lifestyle.
- Keep in mind the first and last thing you touch every day. Be aware.