A major issue I encountered in developing my business was lacking clarity among my different tasks. At one moment I would be looking at price structure, the next moment answering a referral phone call, and then zipping out to treat a patient. Despite considering myself a “multi-tasker”, these tasks are not easily switched in the brain and I began having trouble being efficient at any of them. In the same ten minutes, I would get far less done and lose efficiency, thus increasing my work without actually “doing more”. By categorizing every task and devoting a certain amount of time to each one, I actually got more work done in less time – which allowed me more free time.
The issue is with the executive function of our brain. There are billions of bits of information entering our brains at any moment and then being interconnected and disconnected from all the other billions of bits; however we “notice” only a small minority of these. A section of our brain just behind our forehead is our executive center or seat of consciousness. It controls what our “mind” focuses on. When my executive function has difficulty honing in on one topic (I hear that car/I remember I need to send an email/I’m listening to my music/I type an email response/I see the dog walk by me/I remember I have to get my tax bill sent out/I see a different dog…), this means when I actually get back to writing this blog, I have to re-read what I just wrote in order to come up with the next sentence. That was lost time, that was potential free time that is now lost forever on inefficiency.
I have found it beneficial to first put my tasks into two categories: ‘The Creative Mind’ or ‘Auto-Pilot’. My creative mind is when I have to come up with novel ideas, suggestions, or information. This is the time that I need to be calm, without pressure, and without judgment. We require a respite from the creative work and need some mindless, auto-pilot tasks that do not take nearly the amount of energy that being creative does.
I am a strength coach who designs strength/conditioning programs for all walks of life. When I write programs I need to come up with novel ways of improving people, allow them to learn the capabilities of their body, not over-burdening their stress responses, while keeping their mind entertained with variety. I must balance how much pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, jumping and running they do so as to not create too much in one area and not enough in another. For this, I need to be creative. I need freedom of thought to make new connections, develop new combinations of exercise, and apply that directly to the individual. If I cannot control my executive centers I won’t be able to focus long enough to get all this done. However, this control is EXHAUSTING and I need breaks from it or I get worn down quickly.
Auto-pilot tasks are the mundane things that we have all done hundreds, if not thousands, of times already. The auto-pilot functions may even be former creative mind functions that occurred so often that they have become entrenched in our psyche forever more. I need only moments of peace and clarity to bang out a few auto-pilot functions and these do not make me exhausted like creative functions. These are things like answering email, formatting a referral letter, scheduling a new client, book-keeping/billing, etc. I can do these tasks with other high pressure issues going on, when I may get interrupted. Because the auto-pilot tasks are so “automatic” when you return to the task you pick up immediately where you left off! No lost time!
When you’re first starting out in business, nearly everything is a Creative function and that is why being a new-business owner is so exhausting. However, acknowledging this and acknowledging the fact that you need rest after creativity should allow you to ease your mind. If you need a break, take it! You can’t be creative otherwise. Sometimes that’s a 20-minute cat nap. Other times, it’s a week in Jamaica. If you follow this process, you’ll eventually turn some of those creative moments into auto-pilot tasks and you can get more done each day. A little auto-pilot, a little creativity, a little rest, repeat! Then, if you’re successful, you can teach the auto-pilot tasks to others (the teaching is creativity, so be sure to rest afterwards) and then you have room for more auto-pilot tasks and more creativity! More done in less time = Efficiency!
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