Love what you do… if you possibly can
For the best mental energy at work, you have to love what you do. I strongly believe that what you ‘do’ must be aligned with who you are ‘are’. It has a huge impact on your wellbeing. It’s bound to. Maths has never been my strong point, but even with my limited grasp of the Pi theory and long multiplication, it’s not difficult to work out that a high percentage of an average waking life is spent working. If you’re doing something that doesn’t add up for you for too long, the results could be disastrous.
I learned the hard way that if you simply have your nose to the grindstone to keep the money coming in, through some warped sense of obligation, even though things have become intolerable (whether because you are being bullied, your work is too hard (your talents lie elsewhere), your work is too easy and repetitive, or whatever other reason), you will end up getting hurt real bad.
Don’t let the grindstone… grind you down
So if this is your case, look up, get up, walk away. The world won’t explode (or implode, for that matter).
There are countless articles and books about finding your purpose, and in an ideal world, if we were all doing something that we believed in, as an extension of who we are, where we could see ‘the point’, then Planet Earth would be an even more marvellous place than it already is. If you have a job which just fits you right, respect! In this case, you may not need to read how to increase your mental energy at work.
But whatever your position, and whether you’re happy in your work or not so much (for now), here are nine ideas for creating some mental energy, avoiding that afternoon slump, and having a day which is productive yet totally zen, man!
1 – Listen to your body talk… and breathe
Forget what I just said about avoiding that afternoon slump, and as far as your working environment permits, listen to your body. If you need a break, take one.
Even a few minutes can work wonders. If you focus on your breath, this will take you away from your work, and straight in to the here and now.
One really simple exercise you could try, from Dr Chatterjee’s The 4 Pillar Plan, is to breathe in through your nose to the count of three (really fill up and expand your chest cavity), hold your breath for four, and then breathe out for five.
Top tip: Singing is a great way to learn to breathe, but maybe try this one at home rather than in the office.
2 – Mental energy bursts
So now we’ve covered the breaks, I guess we could get down to some actual work.
We tend to treat work like a marathon rather than a series of sprints. But if we work in a succession of 90-minute sprints, it is much easier to really focus and achieve great things. Many high achievers aim for three 90-minute bursts of energy every working day, and use the breaks as recovery time.
Use a kitchen timer or an online alarm, or there are these really beautiful hour glasses I’ve seen with pink or golden sand in them…
3 – One thing at a time
Reduce distractions. You know what I’m talking about and you’ve probably heard it before, but if your social media accounts are turned off, and you aren’t receiving constant alerts, then you’re able to concentrate better on the task in hand. Every time you are disturbed, it takes time (some studies say almost 25 minutes!) to refocus. So use your distractions as a reward after some hard graft.
4 – No means no
Learn to say ‘no’. This is a biggie for some people (I’m still learning) but it’s such an important lesson.
I heard the expression, ‘Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean,’ for the first time, from transformational life coach, Nicky Clinch. If people don’t know your boundaries, then you can’t blame them for crossing them. If your boss hasn’t worked out that you are already overloaded (and she has conveniently forgotten that now you are half time, you should work… half of the time), you need to tell her you can’t accept another project right now, or she won’t hear you say it!
This point is just as relevant for those who work from home.
Repeat after me:
‘I would love to talk to you about (fill in the gap) later on (you could even be super-anal and schedule in a time in your diary), but right now I am working.’
A couple of variations of this mantra could be:
‘It would be great to delve in to the mysteries of why the cat always pees on your trousers when you leave them on the chair in the bathroom, shall we say at five o’clock? But right now…’ (you know the drill),
and we mustn’t forget:
‘I respect your right to believe that the end of the world is nigh but I do not want to invite you into my home to discuss my salvation now, or ever, thank you.’
As for telesales calls, just hang up the phone (only kidding – that would be mean).
5 – Love your workspace
Have a clear and beautiful desk or workspace. At the end of your working day, use a couple of minutes to put everything away. When you arrive at work the next day, you won’t be greeted by chaotic overload. This applies wherever you work and whatever job you do. A carpenter is surely a better carpenter if their toolbox is tidy.
Some find that pictures of nature, and in particular, water, work especially well for calm focus. Then, when stress or monotony is threatening (I hope it doesn’t, but just say it does), you only need to cast your eyes in the direction of the exquisite dragonfly (which is actually a vicious predator if you’re say, a midge or a mosquito) to be transported back to a place of harmony. You could also position a limited number of aesthetically pleasing work tools within your sight, say, a gorgeous hour glass or two…
6 – Be a big cat
Don’t get kitten syndrome (a phrase I first heard used by singer/song-writer Wayne Lost Soul). Kittens like to chase things. Anything that moves. But they are easily distracted by the next shiny object that happens to roll by, a speck of imaginary dust floating through the air or, of course, their own tail. Kittens are cute. But they aren’t very productive. Cut down on multitasking.
7 – On your ‘to do’ list: ‘Make a ‘to do’ list’
If you have a ‘to do’ list, way to go! But make sure you only have one. When you’ve finished writing it, draw a line under it to avoid adding more tasks than you’re ticking off. This way, the list is working for, rather than against, you. Pick three things per day and do them. Any extras are a bonus.
8 – No bloodsuckers
Avoid negative energy and toxic gossiping. Don’t let the vampires suck out the worst in you (or would that be, suck out the best in you, thus, leaving the worst? – Answers in the Comments below please 😉).
9 – You’re having a laugh
Have a laughter break. This is when you can engage in office gossip as long as it doesn’t become toxic horribleness. The general rule is, if the person you are laughing at is sitting laughing too, this is okay.
And if you’re on your tod, you could watch those kitten videos. See, I told you. Cute, but not very productive…
There are always choices
I hope some of these tips are useful for improving your mental energy at work. And I really hope you’re happy in your job. But if you’re not, please remember that…
…there are always choices! Every decision you make now has a knock-on effect on your future life, the lives of those around you, and ultimately… the universe 😊
If you have any suggestions about how you create mental energy at work, I’d love to hear them in the Comments below.