Disconnect to reconnect

brokeniphoneA few months ago I was flying from Hawaii to Germany. Total transit time was almost 24 hours and for most of that time I didn’t have any cell phone or internet reception. At the time I was dreading it. How could I get by with none of my electronic gadgetry to keep me on top of everything going on. As I was flying across the Atlantic though I experienced something profound – uninterrupted thought and productivity. Wow.

It can be hard to get stuff done with constant emails, phone calls, and text messages coming at you every minute. You spend all your time reacting to stuff instead of doing things on your own schedule. Although you’re still making progress – communication can be a big part of work – you’re still operating on someone else’s schedule, not yours. This, in turn, limits your productivity and drains your energy.

It’s the difference between running on a treadmill or running on land. When you’re running on a treadmill, you’re reacting. If you don’t, you’ll fall off the treadmill. Either way, you’re not going to get very far. Alternatively, you can go outside and run on land. Same action, different method. You’re no longer reacting, but rather setting and following your own path on your own terms. And you’re actually getting somewhere.

In the past I’ve talked about eliminating energy drain as a great way to maximize energy. Constantly reacting to stuff is draining. It keeps you from being productive, from contributing to your friends and relationships, and from really thinking through things. I’ve met lots of really hard working people who are unsuccessful. Some of the most successful people I know take days to respond to email and they take their time with everything they do. They work smart. They’re thoughtful and careful with their time. Most things aren’t as important as they seem.

The good news is, there’s an easy two step process to command and conquer your life. First schedule specific times in your day when you disconnect from everything. Schedule you time and stick to the schedule. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Don’t pick up your phone calls if you’re in the middle of something.

Second, when you’re working on something, disconnect. Turn off your phone, close your door, shut down email, disconnect your computer from the internet if you’re not using the web.

Disconnecting allows you to really reconnect. Not just with work, but with real people. It allows you to reconnect with yourself and what’s really important. So go ahead, turn off that phone. Or better yet, blend it.

[ photo: flickr / TheTechBuzz ]

Simple Clarity – Schedule your day to maximize your energy

The simplest and most effective way to regain control of your life and maximize your daily energy is to spend 15 minutes each evening or morning scheduling the upcoming day. Not just a to do list. But actually setting aside time blocks for specific things on your to do list. It’s important to include everything from eating, to personal time, to reading time, to email / communication time.

This puts your life on your schedule and allows you to thoughtfully work through things instead of just reacting to things all day. It also gives you scheduled time to rest and recharge your brain between periods of focused work. This alone will dramatically increase the amount of energy you have to actually engage in everything you do.  Here’s an example of the schedule I put together last night for today:

Yes, I eat a lot 🙂

[ photo: flickr / TheAlieness GiselaGiardino ]

Victory before the battle

“I can visualize how I want the perfect race to go.  I can see the start, the strokes, the walls, the turns, the finish, the strategy, all of it.  It’s so vivid that I can vividly see incredible detail, down even to the wake behind me.” – Michael Phelps, No Limits

I was really blown away by how intense Michael Phelps’ description of his visualization process is.  This reminds me of a conversation I had about a year ago.  Some famous olympic triathlete guy was signing autographs at a table outside my gym.   Curious I go to the table and ask him about what makes him win. He gets metaphysical on me. Tells me about how he projects his victory on others with his mind. He beats them by out thinking them. It’s an animal instinct. When he’s won – long before the race is over – he knows it and so does his opponent.

At this point our eyes are locked and we’re completely immersed in this spiritual mind domination conversation. I start to tell him about this amazing piece I read in Popular Science.  It’s about this crazy athlete who’s pushing the boundaries of physical performance and endurance with a revolutionary scientific approach.  He looks at me funny and says, “Are you serious?” I think he’s talking about the training methodology, so I answer, “Yeah, this guy’s intense.” Again, “Are you serious?”  Me: “Yes, it’s amazing.”

“My name is Andy Potts. I’m the guy in the article.”

He was the first person I ever asked for an autograph.