Your Healthy Brain

Would you agree that your brain is your most important tool that you will use today? Now, if you are a manual laborer, you might argue that a strong body, controlled by your brain, is your most important tool. But, for most of us that live in the “knowledge worker age,” our brain is vital as we are paid to think, innovate, create and execute.

So, what are you doing to keep your brain healthy and sharp? Napoleon Hill said, “You are more apt to ‘rust’ out your brain from disuse than you are to wear it out from use.” Your brain grows stronger and healthier with use. What can you do today to stretch your brain, improve its health and ensure that it grows rather than rusts? Here are some ideas:

  • Read. Continue to learn. Sign up for online university classes. Acquire a new skill. Pick up a new hobby.
  • Eat the foods that properly feed your brain. Drink water. Beware of caffeine and stimulants.
  • Get the proper sleep that you need, relax, meditate, and reduce stress.
  • Exercise and move! Your brain thrives on the increase of oxygen.
  • Develop friendships and interpersonal relationships. Rich relationships are key to a sharp brain.

Pick two or three ideas to strengthen your brain and schedule them throughout your week!

Contributed by Todd Musig, Productivity Practice, FranklinCovey

Personal Energy Crisis

How is your energy level?  Do you make it through the day without nodding off to sleep or do you find that you need to use toothpicks to keep your eyelids open?  Or, do you find that you need regular stimulants just to get through the day?  What effect does your personal energy crisis have on your personal and professional life?

Here are a few ideas to help you fuel your tank and keep your energy level up:

  • Get up and move.  Research shows that sitting at your desk for an extended period of time is not good for your mental and physical condition.  Every 20 or 30 minutes you should look for an opportunity to at least stand up, stretch and even go for a short walk.
  • Eat energizing food.  Fruits and nuts provide sustainable energy.  And, eating large meals can make you feel drowsy and lethargic.  Eat small portions more often.
  • Take power naps.  Research shows that even 15 minutes to shut your eyes and relax can make a big difference.  Don’t be afraid to find a quiet place for a quick power nap during the day.

Having the energy to accomplish those things that are important to you is vital.  Be sure to take care of YOU and don’t burn out.

Contributed by Todd Musig, Productivity Practice, FranklinCovey

Walking into Walls

I was with a colleague the other day. After a long week of travel and customer meetings we decided to take a moment to relax. As he turned the corner, instead of walking into the sitting area, he walked directly into the wall. His body made a large thump as he expressed surprise and confusion about what just happened.

In our exhaustion, we probably laughed louder and longer than we should have but since then, his little encounter has made me think.  Literally or figuratively, when we are really tired and run down, walking into walls is a pretty common occurrence.

Think about what happens to you when you are tired. You can’t navigate the plans you have made, or things you really want to do. When you hit a wall of exhaustion, you can barely make time for anything except the absolutes. You know why that is?  Because your pre-frontal cortex, the front part of your brain that thinks, makes decisions, handles relationships, is completely worn out.  Think too, about the people around you. When you are tired, your co-workers, your boss, your kids, your friends all have to contend with your wall of exhaustion. You have nothing left to give from the executive function of your brain and suddenly you become less accessible, less creative, less solutions oriented and far less fun!

So what can we do to stop walking into walls? Choice 5 in The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity highlights our ability to re-fuel our brain by focusing on 5 energy drivers.  They are:

  • Move
  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Relax
  • Connect

Making time to attend to these drivers on a consistent basis will fuel both our brains and our bodies. The key is to intentionally make those high value decisions that keep us charged and refreshed, so we can head off those walls of exhaustion.  Burnout and stress create a perpetual wheel of dysfunction. Yet, it is possible to break the cycle by simply consciously deciding that restoration of our bodies and our brains is one of the most important things we do each day.

Of course, this takes planning. These drivers often slip; because they are an afterthought or something we’ll get to “if” we have time. Don’t forget these all important big rocks! Add them to your master task list. Plug them into your calendar and keep the 5 driver promises you make to yourself with the same diligence as the promises you make to others. If you do, you’ll see your energy go up and your stress, guilt and exhaustion go way, way down.

After all, nobody likes walking into walls.

Contributed by Suzette Blakemore, Regional Productivity Practice Leader, FranklinCovey Co.

Lots of Improvement

Taking the 5 Choices course really helped me to improve the way I used to do things. I feel that I’m more productive and that I have more energy. I learned how to classify my assigments in order of importance, not urgency. Because of that I managed to change completely the way I work. Now I know that I’m working on what really matters to me!

Submitted by a 5 Choices participant

A Lot More Proactive

“Since I did the 5 Choices program, I became a lot more proactive and became more conscious of the moments when I am automatically reactive. In those moments, I recognize it, stop for a moment, try to get my consciousness back, and some of these times I read my roles’ statements to get in touch with what is most valuable to me (and sometimes read my life mission statement as well). And this is giving me a lot of effectiveness and self-realization when I do the 30/10 planning based on these valuable things to me. Regarding the fifth choice, I feel a lot more comfortable now when talking to people about how important “relaxation” and “human moments” are. The other three I think were already more popular to talk about. But those two relieved a lot of blame. I feel more integrated now having the ‘approval’ from science (confirming what I had always felt) that all these together make us more productive. I am very grateful for this program.”

5 Choices Participant

Relaxing to Be More Productive

THINK for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings?  If this sounds like you, CLICK HERE to read this New York Times opinion article by Tony Schwartz.

Submitted by Rebecca Hession, Senior Client Partner, FranklinCovey Co.

Exercising More and Eating Better

“I have started exercising more and eating better and taking time out when I need to. I’m also reconnecting with people—I have a lot of friends whom I haven’t seen in a long time, and that was something I wanted to do. Being with those who matter to me is very important and completely energizes me. Side note on the entire training: if you acted upon any of the items we worked on outside the office, you can’t fail.”

5 Choices Participant, USA

A Happy Facilitator

“I read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 1995, and since then I have made many efforts to organize my life around my mission statement and my roles, using planners and being loyal to my big rocks every week. By teaching (facilitating) the 7 Habits since 2006, I learned the process even more in detail, and I thought I was at the top of time management practice. However, after I went to the certification of 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity last year, I realized that much could be done for improving my levels of energy and the way I was using technology. It took me a few months before I could really practice all the tips in Outlook Technical Guide, but it was worth the discipline. Now I know what it is to prioritize my inbox. When I facilitate all day long I can quickly reach to the main messages at the end of the day and re-spond to them or transform them into what they really are. Plus, my schedule looks much better, with all the different colors indicating the nature of my appointments, and with ordered tasks, all of which I can access from my iPhone at any time. I also am improving my eating habits according to Dr. Amen’s tips, and that has had a clear impact on my energy level during the day.”

5 Choices Participant,  Brazil

A Walk and a Good Nap

When I woke up I instantly knew it was going to be “one of those days”. After a week of travel and accumulated missed sleep, I was dragging. I tried to work on various projects, but my energy was low and my ability to focus was almost non-existent. My multiple attempts to remedy the situation with caffeine and sugar produced a brief energy bump, but did nothing to improve my attention. Finally, around 2:00 p.m. and barely able to keep my eyes open, I was forced to take a nap. I felt guilty as I set my mobile alarm for 45 minutes and instantly fell asleep. 39 minutes later I was awake. No alarm needed. I still felt tired and hazy, almost worse than before I laid down. For a moment I felt a deep sense of regret. It seemed this small amount of rest just made me more tired. Knowing I had work to finish, I decided to take my remaining six minutes and go for a quick walk up and down the street. The fresh air immediately worked to clear my head. Moving my legs and my arms started the blood pumping and within minutes I felt like myself again. I went back to the office and completed more work in three hours than I had in the previous six.

It is funny the things we forget. When my kids were little, their moods and their actions warned me when they needed to take a nap or a quick stroll around the block. I was always proud of myself when I recognized the warning signs and found a solution before catastrophe ensued. Since my kids are all grown, it is certain that I am not a little kid any more. Yet, not much has changed. If I pay attention, I know exactly how to care for myself. I often ignore the signs or go for the quick fix. But occasionally I remember, to make the world right again sometimes the only thing I need is a walk and a good a nap.

Contributed by Suzette Blakemore – Regional Practice Leader – Productivity