The many tasks in a day.
There’s so much to do. For sure some tasks are way easier than others. To get maximum use of my energy, here’s what I do:
Break the tasks up into three categories: Fun, Miserable, Neutral.
I use the FUN tasks to build momentum by celebrating as I complete them. A jolt of dopamine builds the appeal so I’m sure to complete these tasks again and again – good habit building! WOOOOT!
For the Miserable tasks, well, I simply muscle through them. No brilliant solution there. I get myself psyched up and throw my shoulder into it. These are tasks I know I must do but do not enjoy doing. When I’m done, I celebrate the achievement and this helps build resilience by noting I completed a challenge. Over time, my negativity towards the task usually subsides and they become easier to execute. Ideally, down the road, I hope to recategorise them as Neutral or even Fun. Muscle power is effective and things get done but its a real drain on my will forces.
The real problem for many entrepreneurs is the NEUTRAL, in between stuff. Not exciting, challenging or developmental. No amount of mental reframing is going to work on these tasks. Yet they are necessary and often take up a good chunk of time. What to do with these neutral tasks?
Good research indicates we have a finite amount of will force available to us during the day. (See Kelly McGonigal from Stanford University and her book the Will Power Instinct). So managing this resource is essential for entrepreneurs and other driven people. Fortunately there are solutions.
Here’s what I do. I practice a simple form of mindful meditation. In mindful meditation, the skill is to observe your self thinking and let the thought go. The objective is to be in an equanimous state. With practice, I have learnt to let go of noisy chatter in my head that wears me down. The real benefit is greater awareness and a feeling of grounded vitality.
So, for all those neutral, boring, uninspiring tasks, the ones that a hearty yahoo! will have no impact on, take the opportunity to practice some meditation. When I started this practice, I applied it to simple tasks like washing dishes, vacuuming the house, folding laundry. Eventually I progressed to lawn maintenance, cleaning my desk, office tidy up. Now I do it when reconciling bank statements, completing expense reports, deleting junk email, filing, and grocery shopping.
Sometimes, I’m almost enlightened by the practice. Usually, I’m just more relaxed and stable. Time can fly in this meditative state and tasks get done with less energy.
If you want to get a formal jump on this practice I would recommend Vipassana meditation retreats. Vipassana is a silent sitting meditation and is taught over a ten day period. If sitting for ten days in silence seems to woo woo, try Chi Gong. Chi Gong is a moving meditation and develops mind body energy awareness. Chi Gong is also the basis of Tai Chi, Kung Fu and other martial arts. Both Vipassana and Chi Gong were helpful for me.
How do you manage your energy? What’s your approach to tough or even mindless tasks that every business has to deal with? Do you delegate? Do you procrastinate? Do you avoid them until the pain of not doing them forces you into desperate action? Please share your ideas by writing a comment or sending me a note. I’m really interested in knowing more about this topic.
Next week we will be discussing “Work Place Balance”. How to cultivate an environment that maximizes your peak performance ecologically. Join us on February 5 at 6:45pm.