As we are striving to do big things and juggling many balls on any given day, we may discover that we can’t get in the groove or find our inspiration and motivation to be on top of our game. Even self-proclaimed high-performers, like me, have struggled to find consistent footing as the extended work-from-home model persists.
Effective leadership, consistent productivity, and creative, passionate service require sustained focus and an inspired mind. Over the last year, I have adopted many new techniques and tricks to optimize my time and harness and channel my energy to make progress week over week.
Walking, fitness, and outdoor activity are perennial favorites for getting the juices flowing and fueling sustainability in even the most challenging of times. The body movement has a profound effect on our minds. Going outside for a walk is my top cure any time I feel uninspired.
In addition to walking, here are some other effective ways to recharge the mental battery, flush out the distractions, and carve out time to release your inner creative:
- Micro-Meditation: Brendon Burchard, author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, talks about how high performers generate energy throughout the day by leveraging the transition between activities to release tension. Whether you adopt the formal practice of meditation or take a few minutes to be still, quiet, and breathe, you can bring yourself back to center to prepare yourself for the next activity. Sometimes, it’s as simple as closing your eyes and stretch your neck, arms, and legs between calls.
- Check-In to Check-Out: Have you ever noticed that having a change of scenery can help you focus and get more done? It seems counter-intuitive since new surroundings would seemingly be a distraction. However, if we are up against a deadline and/or facing a pile of mounting work, getting out of our daily space can inspire and open our minds to tackle tasks with a fresh perspective. It also creates a time-boundary in which you need to make progress before returning to your home base. In a recent coaching session, a client was struggling with making progress on writing her book. She found that checking into a hotel with a scenic view for 24-hours allowed her to clear her mind and tap into her inner-most thoughts for authoring a large section of content. The same effect can be achieved through going to a local library or café, or even a winery or other open-air venue such as a park…anywhere that allows you to “check out” of your daily mental space and sparks positive emotions.
- Refresh the Playlist: Many of us have created music playlists for various daily activities or circumstances. We listen to them to hype us up during workouts or calm us down for bedtime or countless situations in between. Music is powerful brain food, and its benefits on cognitive behavior have been researched many times over. If you want to spark creativity, create a new playlist of songs that is completely different from your others. Your brain will stretch out of its comfort zone to make sense of the new vibes. In my experience, this stretching creates the space to let the creative juices flow. Recently, I discovered The Piano Guys on Apple Music and have successfully busted through several frustrating bouts of writer’s block while listening to their masterful mash-up of classical and pop music.
- Timebox With A Twist: If you have not yet heard of “timeboxing,” it is a time management technique that increases productivity by blocking out time on your calendar in advance and then completing that activity during that time. It helps limit distractions and reduces the amount of multi-tasking you are doing while completing a task. I’ve found that if I also timebox transition time on particularly busy or mentally-challenging days, I am more likely to maintain my energy levels and effectively manage my stress. For example, if I box out time to write my weekly blog post, I follow that with a 30-minute block to step away from my computer and refresh my brain (see number one above) ahead of serving a coaching client.
- Bookworm It: Reading is total brain food and often inspires us in ways we least expect. Whether we read a daily article from a publication we subscribe to, or we end our days with a book in hand in bed, reading takes us on a journey and often leaves us with something to apply in our lives. Non-fiction can teach us practical skills and lessons, and fiction can provide an escape to an imaginary world that feeds our creative spirits. In recent months, I rediscovered my love for books and reading. I had abandoned the practice of regularly reading for pleasure when I had my kids, and my career kicked into high gear. I had too many competing priorities for my time, and, quite frankly, I was too tired at the end of the day to even think about reading anything that was longer than a text. However, at the start of the year, I committed to learning new things and employing new habits for my overall wellness. I have found that developing the habit of reading at least once a day has allowed me to experience “quiet time” and a fantastic opportunity to marry up decompressing with lifelong learning.
Whether we seek greater focus when approaching our work or need to find our creative muscles, forming new habits and trying new techniques can fuel improved performance and enhanced personal sustainability.