Whether you work in a company, as an entrepreneur or freelance, you know focus is a difficult effort and it can easily be split.
You know you need energy and clarity to make better decisions, find creative solutions and stay sharp overall. And yet,
We get pissed at little things, we react with anger at stupid behaviors, we worry and spend lots of energy doing it. We get obsessed on little things that offended us. We get distracted and lose focus.
The result: we get tired more quickly, irritable, incapable of making decisions and we have a hard time to focus and be efficient. So, we spend even more energy to refocus, loosing time along the way.
Protect the energy you have
We can focus on how to generate more energy everyday (and it is possible) but the simplest way is to simply stop wasting the energy you already have.
Basically, there are two ways we lose energy: 1. We can either lose focus – because we got distracted or because Bob needed “5 minutes of your time”, and then we spend energy to get back in the game. (This is without mentioning that we accumulate frustrations when that happens, that drains even more of our energy).
2. We get our energy drained by emotions and overreactions, and constantly spend too much emotional energy on little things.
And I’m not sure there is ONE official definition for emotional energy so I’ll just give my definition of it here. On my terms,
Emotional energy is the amount of energy you create from positive emotions or the amount you spend on negative emotions
So, what can you do?
#1 PROTECT YOUR FOCUS
When we get interrupted by someone, or by an external stimulus, we have to “get back at it”. Studies have shown this requires an energy tax. You know, asking yourself: “where was I at again?”. Well, this has a cost.
You might not realize it because it is only a few percent of your energy but we actually have to do this a LOT of times during the day. Think of a number. Well, it is more (lol). 🧠 In the book “Deep Work” from Cal Newport (great book!), he specifies that we are actually very easily distracted by external stimulus. Our brain is waiting for them and the slightest sound, smell, visual moving object will distract us.
When you have to read the same paragraph over and over again because you can't focus
So, what to do? Here is a couple of things you can implement right now:
👉 Block moments to work on specific topics, projects and shut down your phone, emails and possible interruptions. The world can live without you for an hour. Those moments can be 60 mn, 90mn or 120 minutes. 👉 Allow moments for people to interrupt… “but not right now”. Gently explain you want to help but “you need to finish this first” (talking about your 90mn session). 👉 Break the pattern of those who want to break your flow.
When someone interrupts your flow, interrupt suddenly with “Wait, I want to help you and I think we should sit ___ minutes for this, but I just want to finish this. At __ pm is ok?” . As long as you explain, you won’t hurt too many feelings. And if they are still offended, well sorry but your focus and energy is valuable.
#2 BECOME A STOIC TO AVOID OVERREACTING
More than 2000 years ago, a group of guys were practicing everyday a philosophy to gain peace of mind, clarity and a bulletproof mindset. Known as Stoicism, this philosophy not only survived but helped countless leaders over the years to manage their emotions.
Already thousands of years ago, people were overreacting and over worrying to important and unimportant events alike. Liars, cheaters, thieves or some ancient version of Bob who wanted 5 minutes of their time, already used to piss them off.
Many philosophies exist but this one is especially actionable and aims to help having a piece of mind. But why philosophy? Why not meditation for example? I think they are 2 different things. I do practice meditation every day but it is a practice to focus and center. It is also good to have a philosophy, an approach to what happens to you. And Stoicism is a great way to reflect on how you see and react to life. Check out this quote for example:
“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice” EPITECTUS, DISCOURSES, 1.18.21
Boom. Epitectus drop the mic. If you live by it, you can imagine that you will raise your level of awareness on how you react to things. So, what does Stoicism teach that you can apply now?
👉 Our perceptions are the most important. The way we react is the reality we create. Not the actual events.
👉 The only thing you can control are your mind and emotions, not the external world or even people. This is why you should practice letting it go on a daily basis and accept what is outside your direct control. In other words, you can say to yourself: “fuck that, you can’t touch me. Your drama goes through me”. 👉 Practice journaling and the way you handle what happens to you. Aim for clarity, peace of mind and solid values. It is really a training more than a one shot decision you make to incorporate this philosophy.
💡 If you want to know more about them, I recommend this great book about it: “The Daily Stoic”, easy to digest - and also the Daily Stoic Journal to practice it.
#3 ADOPT A PRACTICE TO COOL DOWN AND RECENTER
How do great athletes, performers and entrepreneurs do to manage their stress?
The entire world is watching your game, your business is going through ups and downs with so many employees that can be impacted. Damn…I’m already stressed when I forget an ingredient for tonight’s recipe!
Turns out, they all got a method to manage their emotions they’ve practiced over and over again. They are all different, but some of them often come back.
Emotional intelligence techniques, mindfulness, meditation, NLP techniques, you name it. But you need one or two because if you get caught in a tornado of feeling and overreacting every time, it is on you.
The best I could find is this: have a daily practice to train your focus, like meditation, because again, it is really a training. 💡You can’t meditate? (I hear that a lot); know that the very act of training and trying is working out your focus. Here is a guided meditation from Sam Harris you train on every day. But on top of that, work on your self-awareness to see what triggers you and decide what to do instead. It is the basics of emotional intelligence. Angry? What do you do when you are angry? What triggers you usually? What are you going to do instead? You can train to follow those steps:
1. Think about what usually triggers you and how you get caught in overreacting. Tell yourself to pause when that happens. Decide what you’ll do instead: the words you’ll be saying to yourself, the way you’ll breath. Maybe you need to say “people do what they do. I have no control on external events” or something like that and go take a walk.
Maybe you need a few deep breaths and say “we will find a way to work it out”. Decide now. 2. Train to see the trigger next time and pause – this is the hardest part and even if you work deep on yourself you’ll always need to do this. Pause.
3. Remember your philosophy and do what you trained to do instead.
You can know make the decision to not get caught in emotions anymore and train for it.
It is all a training. I don’t think just breathing and smiling would do for everyone. Self-control and emotional intelligence is being able to stop yourself before you go nuts and have some serious reasons to do it. A philosophy to back it up and a training to put react in accordance. I’ll give you an easy reason right now if you are hesitating: you need energy every day, not only to work but also after work, for your personal life, your family, kids, your body and especially to continue making better decisions.
Like Tony Robbins said: the quality of your life depends on the quality of your decisions. But you need your focus and a good mindset and energy to make them.
So practice and have fun!