“Finally, the wretched day is over and now I am heading back home, I feel so exhausted.”
“Work, work, work… I feel like my mental energy is totally depleted.”
“Why am I not as productive as others are… I feel overwhelmed all the time.”
“I want success so bad but I don’t know if I can push forward any further, I am so drained.”
Do any of the statements I mentioned above sound familiar? Well, we’ve all been there. If you’re a victim of brain drain and incompletions in life, then need not be afraid as you aren’t the only one suffering. Just the other day, I had a detailed discussion with one of my friends who happens to be a psychologist as well as a personal counselor. His day job is to advise those who don’t actually know where their life is going. He is an expert in his field and has spent over two years in coaching practices. He educates entrepreneurs and business evangelists helping them open up their visions.
Some of the stories he shares, I must say are truly remarkable. In our discussion, I realized that many of the clients he deals with usually visits him feeling extremely overwhelmed or very distracted. And after taking a comprehensive look at their case, he usually focuses and examines the areas in life which are becoming hindrances in their daily routine. By removing these elements which are leading to energy drains and incompletions, my psychologist friend helps his/her clients to focus on tasks that are of priority. I was shocked by how a simple shift in priorities can help a person to achieve.
Here’s What the Research Says…
Is it just me who feels so overwhelmed or brain drained or is it a common problem? Let’s get that fact straight first. Each and every one of us has a finite amount of attention which we can devote to our daily tasks. However, there are a few gifted individuals who have a large attention span unmatched by any. But, in general, a major percentile of the world’s population have a finite attention span.
Do you know that in an 8-hour work shift, an average employee is highly productive only for 3-hours?
In the same article, they said that the remaining five hours are littered with unproductive activities. Some of these activities involved going through news websites, checking social media, discussing non-related work, watching videos on YouTube, checking out e-commerce stores to purchase, messaging friends, smoke breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, politicking, and the list goes on.
These little short bursts of activities may look small to us but when summed up they do take away a large chunk of our precious time. And often, we are left wondering what is the cause behind it all.
Understanding Drains and Incompletions
We all have some daily tasks that are essential to perform and yet, they are not part of our production cycle. Tasks that are essential and are not part of productivity are commonly known as drains. Some of the common drains that average individual experiences all in a day’s work are commuting, email correspondence, meetings & calls, personal administration, eating lunch, smoking and coffee breaks.
Incompletions, on the other hand, are by-products of drains. When we feel that our energy is sapped, we often leave important tasks unattended. As a result, these unattended tasks become incompletions. When piled up, they often become a priority of our inner monologue and instead of focusing on the tasks at hand, our mind goes into fits of worries. We start asking questions such as:
“Have I emailed the boss regarding the year-end report?”
“I forgot to make a call to Jennifer for the year-end report.”
“I think I have to break my promise of getting a drink with Jonas today.”
Often these self-talks empower our emotions and we feel just more drained not knowing what to do.
How Should One Overcome this Hassle Permanently?
The solution to your bludgeoning problem is incredibly simple. As my psychologist friend states,
“When you address and accept both, drains and incompletions, you are able to free your mind of the worries of their existence. As a result, you become more present and get more productive in your day.”
Are you familiar with the concept of Deep Work? It might help. Previously, I covered an article on how deep work can wipe out distractions and boost productivity. Here I quoted from Cal Newport’s amazing masterpiece, the book called Deep Work is where he explains that clarity about what matters also helps individuals to identify what tasks are unimportant. It may help the individual to re-evaluate.
So the first thing you need to do is categorize important tasks accordingly.
Step # 1: Find out Which Tasks are Draining You
If you ever feel like Spongebob when your tasks are lining up, don’t become lazy and let it cloud your mind. You might want to go to bed and doze off a bit, but DON’T you do that. Every day, take out around 15-20 minutes before you head to work and analyze which of the tasks are important and which of them are totally unimportant. To do so, you will first have to list them down. Take out a notebook and list down all of your day’s tasks in one place. Now, identify which of them can possibly drain your energy. From conversations with your friends to that dress, you need to replace, list all of it.
Step # 2: Understand Which of Them You Can Control
Once you know which of these tasks can consume a lot of your energy, determine which of them you can control. There will always be a majority of tasks that are not in your control but there’s no point worrying about them. Just imagine how much time you can save by not finding ways to solve that problem. Hence, it is better that you focus on tasks that you can control. You won’t feel overwhelmed, helpless or disempowered. Instead, do something about the drains/incompletions you can control.
There will be times when you will feel that you are not quite in control but take a step back, choose how you aim to engage with the problem. If you respond to it reactively, you won’t have proper results. Instead, if you take a proactive approach to resolve the problem, you might get a positive outcome.
For example, if you drive your way to work every day, it can sap you off a good amount of energy. Instead, if you take a bus or a subway to work every day, not only will it save you the hassle of driving, but you will also have plenty of time to do something more creative like reading or talking to a friend.
Step # 3: Make an Action Plan Which Works for You
After accomplishing the first and the second steps, time to move on to the third. Take a look at the list of what you’ve crossed out and what remains. Now, take 10 minutes to ponder on how you’re going to accomplish these tasks without facing any energy drains.
Some of the ways how you can address and overcome incompletions:
- delegating or outsourcing
- stop procrastinating and do it
- identifying if you’re missing a resource to complete the item and, if so, how you’ll find the resource(s)
- let it go altogether
- putting an end to perfectionism that causes you to wait until the “perfect” time or until you can do the task “perfectly”
- automating the task on your calendar if it’s something that needs to be done on a regular basis so you don’t forget
As far as the drains are concerned, you can consider doing the following:
- setting clear boundaries around what you are available for and when (i.e. scheduling time on your calendar to work without distraction)
- shifting the way you use your time (i.e. finding a way to make your commute more enjoyable or using it as an opportunity to decompress)
- limiting time spent on drains that can consume your day (i.e. only checking email at certain times throughout the day)
When asked, what is the biggest hurdle that you face in overcoming your drains and incompletions? People answered, “It’s the amount of energy you will have to spend to overcome these complications.”
You may feel like its an overwhelming request and you may find yourself depleted of all energy. But trust me on this, a short-term investment in prioritizing tasks will have long term rewards with action.
Addressing drains and incompletions may seem like a small, simple idea, but it can dramatically improve your workflow and increase your energy and feelings of productivity. Until next time, cheers.