Brain Racer! - How to be on when it's needed, and off when you're home.
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Brain Racer!

How to be on when it’s needed, and off when you’re home.

In some of my most productive times, the times where ideas have been spewing forth from my head at the most rapid of knots, I’ve felt my most exhilarated. But, what do you do when every night you’re waking up in the middle of the night, brain racing, ideas ticking over… thoughts, thoughts, thoughts? Or worse still, when your brain is racing so much that you can’t even get to sleep, you just sit there, brain still churning.

While times like this can represent your most productive and creative times, we don’t tend to function well when we’re “always on” like this. Even the most hard working person (and their brain) need some down time where they can turn off and not feel guilty that they’re not still working at top gear. That’s right – I said guilty. If you’re a bit of a workaholic you’ll know that feeling well. Guilt when you’re having that moment of relaxation at home, guilt when you’re on a holiday, guilt when you’re ten minutes later into the office than you usually are (which is still an hour before most people).

There are ways to avoid that guilt though and that’s by ensuring that you’re at your most productive while the ideas are flowing – so that you can shut off when they don’t need to be.

Shutting off when you need to

1. Write your “what am I putting off list”

Each of us has loose ends that aren’t tied up in our lives… the fight with a relative, the criticism you know you must give to an employee, the client you need to call to give bad news to but just can’t, the project you should have started, the exercise plan you were meant to put in place… This list for some just goes on and on and can provide a major source of anguish and ‘brain racing’.

Make a commitment each month to write out a list of all the things you’re putting off at present and steadily work through them.

2. When you make a promise – write it down!

Don’t forget that my definition of a promise is: anytime you tell anyone that you’re going to do anything. You don’t need to have used the word promise, just saying you’re going to do something implies it. Now none of us has a perfect memory – so find your perfect memory helper.

Mine’s my mobile phone. While I’m having coffee with someone and I say I’ll chase up a number of a contact, I put a reminder in my phone. When I make a 7:00am walking date with my Mum, I put a 6:45am reminder in my phone to make sure that I’m up and ready. It’s that simple and it stops you remembering in the middle of the night that you’d promised (or just said) to do such and such.

3. Plan and prioritise your day

So many of us start off our day by checking emails, going through our in-trays, greeting our workmates. Am I saying this is wrong? Not at all! But so many people don’t sit down and work out what is vital for their day.

Sit down and ask yourself, 10-20 minutes into your day (once all that other stuff you want to do is done), “What do I need to get done today for it to have been productive?”.

Start identifying the 2-3 big tasks you can work on and hopefully complete (even if they’re just smaller parts of a bigger task). Completing larger jobs from a to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment in your day. But you won’t know what to work on unless you have planned and prioritised.

4. Set yourself some goals with benefits

Workaholics and brain racers typically work well to deadlines. So set yourself a goal for the month – work wise, but make your reward something that’s a personal relaxing reward you can enjoy without guilt.

5. End your day with pats on the back

Review each day in the last ten minutes before you head home. Quickly run through all the urgent things that needed doing today. Congratulate yourself for the big tasks you’ve accomplished. Identify the big tasks to achieve the next morning. And if you want to see real results in your relationships with others, take two minutes to email or call someone else and congratulate them on their result for the day.

By Kirsty Dunphey
Published with permission from the International Institute of Directors and Managers (IIDM) –


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