Although we can all agree that we have a limited amount of physical energy to use a day, we often neglect the fact that we have a limited amount of mental energy too.
Our brains are incredibly complex and constantly working, and every time we exercise our mind, we’re consuming some of that mental energy.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how you’re using this extremely valuable (and limited) resource to ensure that you’re being the most efficient and productive you can be. Here are a few ways to help you conserve your energy for the things that are most important.
1. Mono-task, don’t multi-task.
The ability to multi-task has been applauded by society as a sign of efficiency. But switching between jobs actually leads to mental exhaustion more quickly than focusing on one task at a time.
Don’t fall into the trap of mistaking activity for achievement.
By focusing on one task at a time, you’ll be able to save the amount of energy consumed when refocusing, leading you to become more productive and efficient.
Would you like to start doing this now? Download our free worksheet to help you get started straight away. You can get it here.
2. Practice the 80/20 rule.
Somewhere along the line you’re likely to have heard of the 80/20 rule; a simple principle that states that 20% of your tasks contribute to 80% of your success.
Applying this rule to your consumption of mental energy is a great way to prioritise your mental output. Simply start by identifying the tasks that are most crucial to your success, and refocus your mental strength to tackle those first.
You can then work your way down to implement the other 80% of work that is still important, but won’t have as big an impact on your overall results.
3. Focus on the big things first.
When it comes to putting your mental energy to good use, make sure you tackle your biggest, most important tasks first thing in the morning with a clear and energised brain.
To help you figure out what the most important task is, ask yourself which tasks you are likely to procrastinate on if you don’t tackle them right away.
This is a good indication that these are the jobs that you should be focusing on first thing in the morning.
4. Automate the simple stuff.
Decision-making is a huge drain on mental energy. That’s why habits and routines are a great way to conserve your energy and be more productive.
Find a system that works best for you and then repeat it every day. This way it will become an engrained and intuitive task that doesn’t require thought or decision-making, freeing up mental capacity for more important work.
This will also mean that you no longer need to rely on willpower to make good decisions, such as exercising daily or choosing healthy groceries, these decisions will happen automatically without taking up unnecessary space in your mind.
5. Monitor your internal dialogue.
All too often we waste time and energy worrying about things that never materialise. That’s why it’s vital to build a keen awareness around your own thoughts so that you can start filtering out the negative patterns that are keeping you from realising your full potential.
As soon as negative thoughts start creeping in, take a moment to observe your thinking and then make a conscious decision to refocus on something more positive.
Not only will this have an impact on your general outlook, but by letting go of the things that don’t really matter you’ll have more energy to focus on the things that really do.
6. Avoid unrealistic expectations.
Another common energy drain is brought about by unrealistic expectations. Constantly striving for perfection in every aspect of life can be mentally taxing and extremely time consuming.
Rather select the most important tasks to your overall growth and well-being, and focus all your energy into striving for perfection in these specific areas. Be realistic about what you’re able to achieve in one day, instead of spreading yourself too thin in all directions.
This helps you prioritise and know when to put in energy and when to refocus it elsewhere.
Would you like some help to do this? Download our free worksheet to help you get started now! You can grab it here.
Maternity leave is an incredible time, where you have the freedom to connect with your baby and adjust to life with your new addition. But as wonderful as this time is, returning to work after maternity leave can feel daunting. Often time spent away from the office leaves you feeling insecure, plagued with self-doubt over whether you’re competent enough to return to the workplace. Will people still take you seriously? Will you be on top of industry trends after such a long break? Are you still capable after months of baby talk? On top of these worries, mothers also have to deal with the added stress and guilt of leaving their new baby with a minder or at a crèche, while figuring out how to squeeze in a whole new baby routine around an already demanding workday.
That’s why it’s not surprising that a new study shows that both women and men notice a decrease in self-confidence when leaving work to have children, although men tend to recover far quicker than women when they do return to their work routine. For those of you who are feeling nervous about the shift back into work mode, here are five simple tips to help you build up your confidence after maternity leave.
1. Recognise your new skills Try to avoid feeling like you’re less that you were before, when the reality is that you’re better! Reflect on all the new skills you’ve learnt over the past few months and think about how you can effectively transfer these skills into the workplace. Everything from time management and planning, to problem solving and crisis management, not to mention negotiation skills and financial management experience; having a baby truly is a steep learning curve, filled with plenty of useful knowledge that can translate into a more productive employee.
2. Be clear on your role
Returning to work after maternity leave is a great opportunity to redefine your role and shape it into something that works for the new you. If you have an idea of a new direction you would like to move in, or even a new role altogether, schedule some time with your boss or manager to discuss it before you have a chance to fall back into your old position. Even if you’re happy with your previous position, it’s worth chatting to your boss so that they can outline what your role is, as some things may have changed in your absence. Starting off with a clear understanding of your role and responsibilities will help you feel in control and less overwhelmed.
3. Ask for flexibility if you need it
Before you return to work it’s worth wrapping your head around different ways that you’re able do your job, that may better integrate with your new lifestyle. Of course, some employers will be less flexible than others, but you'll never know what the possibilities are unless you ask. Remember that in the modern workplace, less importance is placed on the number of hours spent at the office and more on your ability to produce results (regardless of where you are or when you do it). When you have the discussion, make sure to emphasise the value you add and the quality of your work, as opposed to the number of hours you put in. As a mother, you’ll soon realise that you need to learn to expect the unexpected, and having the flexibility to stay home to look after a sick child can be vital to whether you’re happy in your job or not. Having a good understanding of what will be possible in these scenarios will help put your mind at ease, allowing you to better focus on your work.
4. Get a mentor If you’re feeling unsure of your career path and worry that you may have veered off track by taking such a long break, it can often help to get advice and support from someone you admire. If you feel awkward asking them to be your official mentor, simply make friends with them and ask for their advice. They will be flattered that you value their opinion, and getting an outsiders perspective can really help you plot the next stage of your career, building your confidence as you go.
5. Make sure you feel good about yourself
Although not strictly necessary, getting a fresh haircut or buying a new work outfit can work wonders in terms of boosting your confidence on your return to work, especially during those first few nerve-wracking days. After giving birth, many women tend to feel self-conscious about their appearance. Investing in a few new items can make you feel great, and can also help you separate your work identity by doing away with your daily mom-wear and maternity clothes. Another option is to update your makeup, to enhance your beauty and boost your confidence. Either way, it’s a good idea to dress up a bit those first few days, as you’re sure to feel better about yourself when you see the way that others react to you.
Are you feeling worried about returning to work, or maybe you are already back and managed to built up your confidence. In our facbook group, TAC She Sisterhood, there is a whole community of women on a similar journey as you. Join and share your tips and get support from others on your journey to create a life and career that you love.
HANNA GIRLING, wife, mother, business owner, mindset coach, sport enthusiast and forever an optimist.