Fuel your Awesomeness with Mental Energy

As a runner, I recognize that I only have a certain amount of energy to run a distance at a certain pace. By fueling my body with the right types of food and energy bars, I am able to incrementally increase my maximum output.  Running a marathon is a great example.  On a normal day, running 26.2 miles is outside my physical capacity.  But with some training and slow stepping up of my mileage, I am able to build my body’s energy capacity to that level.  Mental energy is no different.  Our ability to think, smile, create, walk and chew gum has a finite energy source. On a typical day, my mental energy level is at its highest around 7 am and at its lowest after dinner.  The importance of managing mental energy toward success doesn’t stop with knowing your mental time clock.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps more important is focusing your mental “spend” on  the things that matter.  The other day I as I was driving home from a week long meeting when I received a frustrating phone call regarding a returned check to my Chevron credit card.   After 45 minutes we realized the mistake and remedied it.  However, I was exhausted.  It took a large portion of my mental energy. Each and every day you and I both recharge our physical and mental batteries as we sleep. By focused training like reading, engaging conversations, audio programs, and meditation, you increase your mental capacity. If you’re doing this, keep doing it, if you’re not, you should. During a typical day, you also spend that energy on important things such as writing, talking with your kids, working on projects at work, and planning for the future.  Unfortunately, things like my Chevron credit card phone call interrupt the normal flow and “steal” some of that energy.

 

Awareness of the limits of your mental energy  gives you  a sense of urgency or a desire to protect the things you are doing.  Just like time management, mental management is a must have skill for a successful life.

 

Of course, interruptions do happen and sometimes are important to handle.  You can’t control that.  Here is a list of 3 things I recommend to keep mental energy at its best:

 

Wind Energy

Wind Energy (Photo credit: janie.hernandez55)

 

 

 

1.  Avoid Distractions: This is so obvious and immensely important.  So many times I’ve sat down to work on a mentally draining task (like writing a blog post), only to have my focus taken away in a moment of email distraction.  Even if the email doesn’t need my attention, the mere fact that I know I got an email takes a little slice of my mental energy. If you are intentional toward avoiding distractions, you will learn with time the things that take distract you and steal your mental energy.  I use squarespace notes app on my iPhone to send quick notes to my Evernote inbox.  When something distracts me and I don’t want to fix it then and there, I put a note in squarespace to fix it.  Then, I fix it.

 

2. Schedule your mental tasks at the appropriate times:  Different tasks take higher and lower levels of mental energy.  This is something you will learn with time.  Typically the more creative (writing, planning) and involved (things with complicated directions) take the most mental energy.  Creating enough space in your schedule and the best available time will vastly increase your mental energy and lessen the frustration.  Deciding to build the IKEA entertainment center and hour before church is a bad idea.  Mental energy tasks are not usually the “on a whim” things you want to do.  Be intentional and realistic and schedule this time.

 

3.  Know what you want to do:  This may be too “big picture” for a small blog post, but you need to know what your goals are.  If you have a vision, and idea of what you are trying to accomplish, you will be able to identify the things that are ‘right” to be doing.  If you don’t have a vision and a plan in place to achieve that vision, I am going to create one for you.  Your vision is to create a vision.  With a defined vision, you will have “stuff” to do.  We all have “stuff” we have to do such as laundry, dishes, feed the dog, etc.  Most people stop there.  That’s the mediocre life.  You are going to plug in your awesomeness and the “stuff” needed to be done to accomplish this awesome.  If what you are doing does’t fit into one of those two categories, stop doing it.

 

 

Remember that you own your mental energy.  It is yours to spend as you wish.  We all have responsibilities.  Better management of your mental energy will improve your results in all areas of life and leave room for you to do things that make you awesome.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Managing The Tyranny of the Mundane

Every time I go the mall (which with 4 girls in the house is way too often), I get turned around and frustrated.  I go to the giant cube in front of JC Penny and look at the map to find the store I am looking for.  Then, I look for the red star that shows “You are here”.  Then, with a simple geometric shape of directions, I draw a path (avoiding as many toy stores as possible), to my destination. I usually get distracted by a candy store, two diaper changes, and a spilled soda along the way.  With a “diaper-dad” diaper bag, I make the changes, clean the messes and approach my destination with clean children and smiling faces.

Whaddaya Mean I Don't Do Enough Housework?

Whaddaya Mean I Don’t Do Enough Housework? (Photo credit: las – initially)

What is important to you? What do you want to accomplish?  Do you plan on becoming the VP of Marketing, publishing a Novel, releasing a hit album for your Polka band? Your goal is your goal and nobody else’s.  It is up to you to do the steps to get there. Where is your “you are here”?  Life is a series of seasons that change your approach toward your goal but not the goal itself. Tasks such as laundry, vacuuming, homework, and bedtime routines are just as important to achieving your dream as the focus time you spend on your dream. These are like a solid foundation to build upon. If not managed (note, I didn’t say finished) they can be a potential source of distraction, frustration, and even dream death.

There is a time for cleaning and there is a time for dreaming.

Many of these things seem mundane and even time wasters.  They are…if you let them be.  Stressing over simple tasks (although many) while working on your dream, or stressing on your dream while working on your tasks is a sign that you may need to re think a few things.  Usually it’s not a matter of doing less.  A tweak here or there such as waking up 15 minutes earlier 1 day, or being more realistic on how much time things take may do the trick.

Mastering the art of managing the mundane may be one of the most important things you can do to achieve your dream.

Yes! Vacuuming and dishes will get you to the corner office! Be intentional about your time checking  boxes so you can be intentional about building your dream. I recently wrote a “how to” on productive relaxing ( read here) .  Being intentional with your time is knowing you are safe doing what you are doing NOW because you aren’t supposed to be doing something else. Build a list of the boxes you need to check in order to keep your foundation solid.  Agree on duties and fair timeliness with those whom you are accountable.  Be present in every moment, including the mundane.  Those tasks should never be interruptions to your dream and should never cause tension in your family.  Enjoy the journey, not just the dream of the destination.
How do you manage the unending list of tasks that can steal your dream?

Rocco

Be Intentional or be Nothing

Running through the beautiful hills of Murrieta, California, I felt like I was running  underwater.  I couldn’t maintain a respectful speed and my legs were screaming.  I have been a runner for 4 years, and for 3 of those years, I progressively grew faster and gained endurance. This last year, however, I took a step backward. Running was never anything I thought much about.  I put on shoes and ran a specific set of miles and that was is. I had “big picture goals” such as completion of my first half and my first full marathons.  There were certain trials I wished to conquer. Once completed, I didn’t create new goals other than continual running.  Singular achievement goals are great goals to have, but they are achieved and forgotten.. For me, achieving these goals marked the end of key component to my training: intentionality.

Whether running, writing, parenting, or anything important to you in your life, don’t take for granted that you will always move toward your goal “automatically”.  Yes,  it does happen. Sometimes.  Why take the chance?  The tyranny of beginners luck or the honeymoon phase of new endeavors can fool you into thinking things will always be easy. Here’s a list to guide you toward maintaining intentionality and relentless forward movement.
A Marine undergoes water survival training

A Marine undergoes water survival training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Differentiate the daily from the long term goals. Steven Covey pointed out the difference between tasks that are important and urgent (doing laundry, answering the phone, cooking dinner) and those that are important and not urgent (getting your Master’s Degree, exercise, writing a book).
2.  Align high energy (physical and mental) tasks appropriately.  For me, this is typically in the morning before the kids are up.  If you have a spouse, this time should be agreed upon as your time to focus on your high level tasks (writing, research, excersise, etc. ).
3.  Align the mundane tasks (important and urgent) that don’t involve high levels of thinking or creativity to times when you are less creative for you. For me, that’s in the evening after working and i’m distracted by kids’ homework and tired from work.  This is a great time to hang a picture, do dishes, or clean the patio.  Not a great time to research for my book.
4. Write it all down.  It seems as though the one thing all productivity speaker/writers agree on is the absolute necessity of writing things down.  Goals, tasks, ideas.
5. Create an internal sense of urgency.  Guard your quality time from internal distractions such as getting off task (Facebook, twitters, checking the weather) and outside distractions (phone calls, emails, unimportant tasks). You have to REALY want this!
6.  Keep perspective.  Baby cries, 9 year old is sick, wife had a particular bad night not sleeping.  These things happen.  Understand the difference between pause and procrastinate (click here to read my article on this topic). Sometimes the urgent and important trumps the not urgent and important.  It is up to you to maintain contingencies but also keep perspective on when to allow “intrusions’ upon your times. if you are in a positive and intentional workflow, you purpose can handle occasional interruptions.
What are you doing TODAY to be intentional?
Rocco De Leo