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Strategic insights
Effectiveness - 4 essential elements

Written by on February 13, 2006

We have all seen many articles about effectiveness, just yesterday; To-Done published yet another one. Each of these articles points out very interesting things... but, there are 4 basic elements that are far more important - feeling rested, not being hungry, having physical energy and keeping a positive state of mind.

Combined these 4 elements will provide you with much more energy, motivation and focus than any other method of effectiveness. Being good at handling list, tasks, schedules or emails are worth nothing if you are not physically on top of things.

So what does this all mean?

Feeling rested

We all know the feeling of ineffectiveness when we are feeling tired. Getting enough sleep is an essential element. Enough sleep is generally 8 hours of continues sleep every day at a regular time.

I know 8 hours might sound like a lot, but that is the time your body needs to go trough varies stages of sleep during the night. At the very least, you should reserve 8 hours for sleep, even if you are not sleeping all the time.

Being rested is not only about getting a good night sleep; it is also about taking breaks during the day. A short break can improve your efficiency by as much 50-300%.

You should basically take a break every 30 minutes. By taking a break I mean get away from what you are doing - focus on something else. You need to get you mind of things.

A break can mean something as simple as 30 seconds of looking out the window, breathing deeply, and thinking of something that makes you feel good. Other times you might need more time - like 1-5 minutes. A simple exercise of Qigong is also a very effective way to relax.

It is important not to feel guilty about taking these breaks. I often see people working so hard to seem effective that they skip breaks and even lunch (I use to do that too). But, this is counter-productive. Taking breaks is a guaranteed way to be more effective throughout the day.

Of course there are times when you cannot take a break, like when you are in a meeting, or in the middle of a phone call. This is generally not a problem, as long as you remember to take a break afterwards.

Not being hungry

Just as important as getting enough rest, is getting enough food. Food is the source of energy for our body, and you cannot be effective without it.

You should generally eat 6 times each day - yes, I do mean 6 times. You need this to keep your energy supplies at a sufficient level.

  1. Breakfast
    When you get up (and before you get to work). Use it as way to establish a good strong energy level. I recommend eating light food - like cereals, fruit, and bread. It is also important drink water.
  2. Snack-time
    2-3 hours after breakfast. This is not a full meal, but merely a way to replenish your energy supply. Eat an apple, a couple of carrots or a piece of bread (Wasa is great for this).
  3. Lunch
    Usually around 12:30-1:00 P.M. The purpose is the same as breakfast. Get your energy supplies up to 100%.
  4. Snack-time
    2-3 hours after lunch. Similar to the morning snack-time, this is simple meal to help you keep up your energy. Eat fruit or something similar.
  5. Dinner
    5-6 hours after lunch. This is also a very important meal, as it is the foundation for having enough energy to get a good night sleep.
  6. Snack-time
    About 2 hours before you go to sleep. Again fruit, carrots, bread are good choices. Tea is also good choice, as is a glass of water.

I know this seems like a lot, but "snack-time" is usually something you can do while working, or in the space of the 1-5 minutes breaks. But, the effect is fantastic - it prevents you from feeling "drained".

Physical Energy

Being in shape physically is equally important. It determines how effectively you can store and use your energy reserves. If you are not in shape, your energy storage is limited.

There are two types of exercises. One is the type where you push your body to the extreme. You do not have to have the same physical shape as an Olympic runner or look like a bodybuilder. Neither would be good for you.

The other one is exercise for normal people. You need to get your body to a physical shape that you can run a mile without feeling that you are about to die. It doesn't really matter how long it takes.

Then you should exercise gently every other day. Go for a 1-hour walk, or take your bike for a gentle 3-4 mile ride. It doesn't have to be every day, but over a period of one week, you should exercise for a total of 3-4 hours.

The effect is that you can store more energy in your body, which allows you to face stressful situations better.

Positive state of mind

The 3 elements described above are all physical in nature. They help you to be physically ready for work. Having a "positive state of mind" allows you to be mentally ready too.

We are all facing situations that are boring. Maybe something happened at home that made you angry or your co-worker is simply just being annoying. But, these negative feelings will very drastically reduce your effectiveness.

You need to force your brain to think positively.

One way is to remember:

  1. No one is willingly trying to be evil.
  2. Your point of view might not be the same as their point of view.
  3. Take a fresh look!
  4. This job will help another person.

A simply but powerful way to get over problems is to "forgive them". Sure enough they made you angry, but by forgiving them you can remove the negative thought and focus on your work.

Effectiveness comes from within

The 4 elements, "Rest", "Food", "Exercise" and "Positives" allows you be able to do much more. It will make it easier for you to enter "the flow", and stay there even after your have been disturbed.

Of course, you will always benefit from focusing on concepts like "Getting Things Done", resource management and "saying no". But, being in a positive physical and mental state is like magic for your effectiveness.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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