One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is always having to be “switched on,” to be constantly vigilant and on the lookout for new opportunities that will build brand awareness and promote a product or service.
Except being “in the zone” all the time is tiresome. The brain, just like any muscle, gets tired the more it’s used. Heck, mine is already tired from writing this article. The point is that learning how to manage your mental throttle control is critical if you want to stay at the top of your game. Every athlete, speaker and entrepreneur needs rest because that’s when new insights and reflections come to mind.
Daniel Goldman, author of Focus, said it best: “A failure to focus inward leaves you rudder-less, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.”
To mitigate the potential for suboptimal focus – and hence, diminished productivity – here are six ways to build more rest and renewal into your daily routine:
1. Turn off your email
Yup, I said it. Ignore your email for one hour and see how much more productive you become. Better yet, schedule two-hour intervals where you will check email beginning at the start of the workday.
2. Shift from high gear to low gear – and back to high
The Pomodoro technique is a way to manage not only your time but also the amount of concentration during that time. Here’s how it works: grab a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Ready? Now go work. Once the clock hits zero take a three- to five-minute break. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four pomodori (or roughly two hours) then take a longer, 15 to 25 minute break.
The purpose of this mental-interval training is to get the brain to “stretch” for a given time period before it “retracts” and relaxes – similar to a rubber band. The contraction-expansion effect trains your brain to be more agile and shift from a “low gear” to a “high gear” when needed.
3. Silence your phone
Similar to the email isolation above, turn off your phone to guarantee uninterrupted focus. If you’re worried about missing an important call, you can set your smartphone (it is 2015) to “do not disturb” and set the one contact that gets a pass. This way, the random telemarketer won’t disturb you doing your work, but you also won’t miss the call(s) that are important.
If there is one commonality amongst successful people, effective leaders and great teams, it’s consistency. To be top notch in any field requires strict focus and a consistent effort, which comes from deliberate practices conducted at specific times over and over again. In other words, practice doesn’t make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.
5. Listen to your grouch
If you find yourself being short fused or snappy with people, chances are you’re stressed. When you notice this, take it as a sign that it’s time to step back and reassess your current life demands. Additionally, you’ll want to …
6. Get your sweat on
OK, not necessarily “sweat” per se, but performing some physical activity. Taking intermittent breaks throughout the day or simply going for a walk helps recharge not only your brain but also your physical and emotional capacities that allow you to keep focusing. In an article by Harvard Business Review, the authors studied 106 employees at various banks and prescribed strategies for strengthening their energy levels at work. The result: A 13 percent increase in productivity in the first three months of study.
Entrepreneurship is a long-term focus, and taking care of yourself every day determines how effective you’ll be the next. Save the mental sprints for when they’re needed.