As leaders, innovators,executives, or entrepreneurs, our brains are often stuck in overdrive. There is so much to think about and often we take little time to to park these mental challenges. Add to that a million daily distractions like con calls, meetings, and email and the result can be running out of gas in the middle of the fast lane.
When this cartoon from Mark Anderson at Andertoons popped up in my email (I subscribe to Mark’s blog) it reminded me of a lesson I learned from Rich Ward (then a group president at Avnet, Inc.) over a decade ago. That lesson was about the importance of scheduling a mental health day.
Don’t let this happen to you
We’ve all seen it happen or sat in that chair. When the brain hits its point of overload, it simply shuts down. We might be in the room, and the lights may be on, but nobody’s home. If you are present when this happens to someone else, it can be frustrating. If you are the one that just can’t connect to the moment it can prove embarrassing or even career limiting. So how can you prevent this from happening to you?
Refresh and recharge by checking out
The place where folks are counting on you, whether it is at home or in the office, is NOT the place to take a mental health day. You need to officially check out and get out. My friend Joan Gustafson (she’s @LeadershipCoach on Twitter) likes to say:
This is great advice. If you never take the time to follow it, eventually you can and probably will run out of mental energy.
Play to your strengths
My friend Kathy Kolbe taught me that there are three parts to the mind: the Cognitive (how we learn and what we know), the Affective (how we feel and behave) and the Conative (how we get naturally get things done.) We all know what happens when we hit a cognitive overload. Too much information and we stop learning or even being able to process. The same can happen with feelings – too much – even of a good thing can be overwhelming. The same is true of our conative energy. We only have so much and then we run out and have to recharge. More importantly, when we are working against our conative instincts, we use up more faster. A great way to efficiently use mental energy to take a few minutes to learn how you do what you do best in the way you do it best by taking the Kolbe A and then listening to Kathy’s explanation of your unique MO. She will share lots of really helpful information. Plus, if you would like a few more tips, feel free to send me a note and share your 4 digit Kolbe A score and a way to reach you and I am happy to schedule a time to chat.
If it’s important, make it a priority and find a distraction free zone.
Sometimes those important professional or personal items need to be made a priority. That means turning off all the distractions and usually a change of venue so you can give them the attention they deserve. For work projects, I have found that the local library can be a great location. You have research tools at your disposal if you need to look something up and libraries are defined as quiet zones. Turn off the cell phone, make yourself comfortable and focus on what you need to get done.
Schedule daily time outs
Another great way to to keep your mental engine charged is by taking a little time out. You may not be able to get away for days or weeks, but anyone can carve out 20 minutes a day if you commit to do so. Find a spot and an activity that works for you and do something that you enjoy. It might be working out with your favorite music playing through some headphones, finding a quiet corner to read a good book, or talking a walk in a local park.
In June of 2009, I shared a little life story about how I learned about the importance of taking a daily time out and the power of these moments. You can find the story here at Little Life Stories titled: You deserve a time out!
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned….
I’ll be sharing more tips to help you get ready for 2011 throughout the month of December.
About the Joan:
An entrepreneur, author, speaker and corporate advisor, Joan Koerber-Walker’s journey has spanned from corporate America to entrepreneurship and non-profits, as well as into community leadership and into the halls of Washington D.C. To learn more about how CorePurpose and the CoreAlliance can help you grow your business, you can contact her by clicking here.