Problem Solving: Energy Management
There are few people I talk to that actually practice energy management. When I talk to people about what they do for rest (which is vital to energy management) their answer is typically TV and twitter/FB . A good rest period means not only doing activities you enjoy but also ones that reenergize you.
When I rest I take walks, listen to music, meditate, do something physical, write, draw or read fiction (to name a few). I even use it to spend time with or talk with friends and family. I used to think family time always required big chunks of time all at once. Then I started spending my 5min poker break every hour with them (wife + 2kids). I’d unplug the headphones from my computer so the music would blast and start dancing with them, I’d run around with them, play fight, give them love etc.. I realized that 5 minutes of my full attention and energy was more valuable than times I spent hours with them giving only half of it.
I’d come back from my break feeling reenergized and more able to handle the stress of the game. I created synergy not balance. My time with my family improved my quality of work and that in turn would lead to me doing that again the next break and thus repeating and strengthening the cycle.
If I’m not doing these things to recover I eventually burn out, I spend less time doing what I love and I’m less present in everything that I do. You don’t need a lot of recover time, if you’re doing the right activity the right way it can be done as quickly as 5mins. You only think you need a lot of time because you’re doing the wrong things.
The problem with TV/Internet is that you think it’s good because it shuts down the thinking part of your mind (the pre frontal cortex) that you use to make decisions. So you can literally feel relief in that area, the problem is you’re slowing down all the other areas of mental activity and physical activity too. The difference in activities like art, music or dance is that while they shut off your pre frontal cortex they also stimulate other parts of your brain. Parts that like to be stimulated. You need to change your mindset and try to simultaneously slow down your analytical mind while activating the other parts of it (extra points if you stimulate the body too).
I spent a lot of time trying to "go hard” without rest only to eventually burn out all the while neglecting the things in life that make it worth living. When I’d push myself too hard, I’d need a much longer break and then I’d be so tired that I had no interest in doing these fun activities. I just wanted to watch TV and crash. It’s a terrible idea to push, crash, push, crash for the rest of your life. What you should do instead is push yourself until you see a significant drop off in your performance then take a break. Or you schedule it, 1 hour work, 15mins rest or whatever works best for you. Use the 1st method unless you aren’t able to judge when your performance has dropped. Regardless of what method you use you then recover (I’m using this in place of rest) until you feel a significant increase in your energy.
To know whether you’re doing the right activities for recovery is simple, if you’re more effective when you get back to work than before you stopped you were successful. If you do social media for 15mins and felt great when you went back to work then keep doing it. It’s all about what works, fuck the theory. Just be honest with yourself.
When I’m optimizing my recovery my whole life is better, it has more meaning, more variability, more energy, more presence, more creativity, more happiness, more connection, more “success”, more love. Rest periods are not just “down time", they are to be protected, utilized and cherished.
The creativity part can’t be emphasized enough. When I was stuck on a problem I’d simply take a break and come back and I’m able to push past it or completely solve it in minutes. Listen to this podcast for an amazing breakdown on all the stuff i discussed in here.
To summarize, push until you feel the drop in performance, recover with activities that work for you, go back to work. There is one caveat, I think if you’re going to push yourself past your perceived limits (and this is important to do sometimes) it is best to do it at night because you can fully recover with 8-10 hours of sleep (obv this might not be possible for people with real jobs).
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