It’s just ticked past 11am and I have been at my desk for about three hours now. I am onto my third coffee of the morning and I’m not sure it is doing anything; I am shattered. This is Groundhog Day, today is a repeat of yesterday, which is a repeat of the day before. As the day moves on, it’s getting harder to focus. I long ago realised that if I have important decisions to make, discussions to have or negotiations to enter, I need to do them in the mornings as that is when I am most on my game.
Building a business while raising a young family surely doesn’t need to be this hard, so I am out to fix my energy issues and document the trip along the way. To do this in a slightly more scientific manner I am working with Frontier Wellbeing who use wearable technology, psychology and mindfulness to transform lives – particularly of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
In the first article in this series (check it out here), we looked at a few quick tips on how entrepreneurs can increase their energy and were introduced to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Today I want to delve a little more into the science and start introducing a few actual results from a crash test dummy – me.
To recap on the ANS, we are continually sending messages from our brain to our body and from our body to our brain. These messages tell us that we are hungry, we are happy, we have plenty of energy, or that my four month old son has kicked me in my man parts again – seriously, it’s like he has a built in guidance system! There are two main communication systems that our bodies use to move messages around – the ANS (nerves) and the Endocrine System (hormones). Here we are only focusing on the ANS.
As humans, we often believe that our brain can and does control much of what goes on in our body, and this is partially true. The brain is the part that makes the decisions of how we react to situations. However, what we need to understand is that 85 – 90% of the information flow is actually from our body to our brains. So our bodies have more power than we think in influencing those decisions.
Boiling it all down to oversimplified basics, think of your body like a bank - an ‘energy bank’. You are always either in energy use mode (withdrawal), or in energy repair mode (deposit). Like a normal bank, if you withdraw more than you deposit, you go into overdraft. Our tip today is about how we can use the body to push us into deposit mode while we are still awake and increase our overall energy levels throughout the day. The team at Frontier Wellbeing use wearable technology to get a reading on how we use our energy. The graph below is my results from day one.
I will better explain the graphs in a future post, but for the moment, know that green is energy repair/recovery (deposit), red is energy use (withdrawal).
From my graph you can see that throughout the day, I am all red, which means that I have no recovery or deposit periods through the day. In discussing my results with the psychologist, he said this is very common in entrepreneurs and small business leaders. We push hard, all the time – then we burn out. When we are stressing over a difficult situation or sales pitch, we work harder and longer. However, you cannot think your way out of a stressful situation because we actually turn that part of the brain off (more in a future post) but you can, through breathing exercises move into deposit mode and turn back on the part of your mind that helps to solve complex issues.
The above graph is a high powered business leader (think hundreds of staff) that did some mindfulness and breathing exercises in the morning (7am) and again at set times through the late morning and afternoon. As you can see, his energy expenditure is much lower than mine, meaning he recovers faster, has the energy to keep going and will make better decisions throughout the day, particularly later in the day. Over time he will be able to out-work and out-think me.
Our weekly tip is from Christie Little, Partner at Frontier Wellbeing and is this:
“Your brain can only focus for about 90 minutes before it needs a break. Why? It's the natural rhythm that determines how our focus ebbs and flows throughout the day. The key message here is that in regards to your productivity it doesn’t pay to push through. It pays to take a small break to re-energise (and not with stimulants).”
Every 60 – 90 minutes, get up a take a walk to the kitchen to refill your water bottle or outside for five minutes if the weather is nice – you get to enjoy the sunshine too
Take a walk to visit a colleague you need to speak with that day rather than phone or email
Do some simple breathing exercises each hour – try in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds for 5 cycles.
That is it for this post – try implementing these simple tips and I’ll see you next week where I explain a bit about how those beers/wines you had after dinner last night to ‘wind down’ actually meant you used more energy through the night and robbed you of the recovery time!
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