A Simple Fix to Gain 5–10 More Productive Hours a Day
Energy Saving Stickers
I dropped my youngest son at university yesterday and his halls of residence were plastered with stickers saying, ‘Turn it Off!’ and ‘Save Energy!’
It got me thinking about how those new smart meters we have are supposed to alert us to our energy usage because we see them whirring away, and we act to turn something off — thus saving energy.
What Do We Notice?
The principle of first noticing, and then acting, is pretty straightforward.
There’s no us being told — how often do our instructions fall on deaf ears! But, if there is a strong enough incentive, then alerting someone to something like energy usage should be enough to create the desired change.
If we value the pay-off (saving money, feeling good about saving the environment!), if the solution is easy enough to implement (flicking a light switch), and, if it seems to get a result (we notice, or have pointed out to us, the savings on our electricity bill), then it will probably make sense to take the action to create the change. These small changes then become habits, and, thus, larger change happens.
It’s like that with the energy we burn in our brains; the constant rumination of thought that becomes so familiar we no longer notice it.
Like the background noise of living near a road, we tune it out, and we forget how quiet the world can be until we go to the mountains and rest in the peace of nature. We become so accustomed to the voice in our head, we don’t even notice it’s there. Except when we do.
It’s there until it becomes such a drain, and we feel so exhausted we can’t think straight. That’s the equivalent of the kitchen light shouting at my teenage student, at whatever top volume a light can get to, “turn me off!!!!!”
What does it take for you to notice the metaphorical noise in your head? A random experience of silence that makes you aware of the contrast? Or that the volume gets turned up enough to drive you to breaking point?
On Your Mind
Let’s look at this in specifics. For you.
Answer this question if you will:
What are the top three things that you think about most days? They’re probably relatively minor but, go ahead and list them.
Take a minute if you need to, there’s no rush.
Mine are moving house, walking the dog, and a new project I’m working on. Well, on that last point, I’m spending more time thinking about it than I am actually working on it.
Obsessing it, you might say. Sound familiar??
All day, every day, my thoughts are full of those three things.
They shift, obviously, over time. Moving is something on my mind now, and it takes various forms. When we were looking for a house, it was all about looking for a house. Now it’s all about telling myself I should be packing and therefore, even when I’m not doing those activities, I think about them.
Not all the time. I’m actually a relatively chilled person and I spend a good part of my day writing and talking to people, enjoying the gorgeousness of the woods, playing with the dog and sitting with him, just appreciating how cute he is and what a bundle of love he brings to our lives.
‘Thinking’ Isn’t as Relevant as You Think
The doing isn’t all at a frantic pace; it’s often very relaxed and enjoyable. And, sometimes my ‘thinking time’ is productive — or, at least, it’s enjoyable, a kind of playful musing.
But the time I spend thinking is mostly unproductive.
Especially those parts where I think I’m planning and problem-solving, but I’m actually just going round in pointless circles thinking about problems that don’t exist, or, at least, that exist only as I create them in that moment.
Like the dog chasing its tail, it really looks, in that moment, as if there is something to solve. But there is nothing more than the stories i am whipping up in my head.
It can look as if this is productive time, sorting things out, playing through ideas, but I want you to notice how much time you spend thinking about those one to three things that are top of your list, versus how much time you actually spend doing.
What’s the solution?
How can we let go of the unproductive thinking, so that we can gain those productive hours I promised you?
What’s the simple fix that can give you back five to ten hours of productive time in your day?
What’s the simple energy boost that will leave you feeling alive and refreshed and will actually set you to do the stuff you want to do?
…Stop thinking about those things!
It’s really that simple.
Or, if you find that a little tough, if those problems look a little too real to you, then notice that you’re thinking about them and ask yourself whether there’s any action you want to take, in this moment.
Is there something to do now?
If the answer to that is ‘no’, then why not let that thought go. It will re-surface when it needs to, without you having to ‘hold on to it’ and remember to do anything.
Honestly, that’s how the mind works! It’s knows what we need in any moment, and it’s fantastic at just-in-time delivery.
When you realise how much energy you can save, turning off those noisy thoughts, it will become as obvious as turning off the kitchen light when you walk out of the room.
P.S. In case you didn’t catch it, last week’s podcast dove into the question of are we silently suffering even when we think we’re getting it all ‘right’?
Could this apply to you, or anyone you know? It’s tailor-made for those of us who think we live an enlightened life, who think we’re eating healthily, being a good boss, and yet we still find those niggles, physical and mental, surface to poke holes that assumption. If this sounds like you, or anyone you know, I’d love you to forward to them.