Being an entrepreneur or a leader is no easy task. It requires relentless decision making in a manner that most decisions will carry some form of short-term or long-term impact on your business, your customers, your product, your people and you. Decision making therefore, requires alertness and is a tiring job even when only mental faculties are engaged.
As Mr. Han tells Xiao Dre in Karate Kid, “Being still and doing nothing are two very different things”.
Even on a day when you have been in relatively less physical strain, you can feel mentally fatigued which in turn dulls the brain into cognitive simplicity. You simplify, generalize, operate from your deep seated biases and dismiss most contrarian opinions. Research shows a positive correlation between cognitive simplicity and prejudice in decision making.
To be a successful entrepreneur therefore, one needs to build mental strength and alertness as much as physical fitness.
Mental alertness helps you focus on the truly important things and use all your decision making skills optimally.
For your mind to be alert, it needs to get regular boosts of energy throughout the day. Here are five things you can do:
Smiling is a natural way to release muscle tension and relax facial nerves that we unknowingly constrict through the day, causing additional stress. Smiling also releases endorphins, commonly called the “happy hormone”, our natural pain killers, putting us in a good mood. Smiling also forces us to be polite and think before announcing decisions in conflict or tense situation
As entrepreneurs, we are prone to seeing ourselves as responsible for everything in the business. This makes us take on more than what we can handle and prevents us from sharing our thoughts and delegating our work to others. Trusting your team to be your partners and talking about what you are going through can be an effective way to calm the mind. Sharing can also help your team trust you more and you figuring out your real priorities to focus on amidst all that mental clutter, aiding the decision making process, not to mention receiving new ideas you may otherwise have missed
Breathing in the most under-utilized energizer. In closed spaces such as rooms and offices, cars and trains, we all learn to breathe shallow and quick. Consciously breathe deep and slow at least a few times a day. Three to five times at a stretch should do. Filling our lungs and brain with oxygen instantly awakens and energizes us. It can alert us to our moments of simplistic or biased decision making, making us wonder, “What the hell am I doing?!”
Take 10 minutes to not think about anything. When you are used to doing all the time, being can be difficult at first. Your mind will wander and think about that customer, that feedback, that bug in the app, that supplier. Tell yourself to stop and focus on that coffee you are drinking. That coffee at your desk or over a team catch up is not going to help. That coffee with yourself will. It needn’t be coffee. It could be anything. Find 10 minutes for yourself during the day to zone out. Often once you are back at work, you will be able to look at the situation from a fresh perspective
At the end of the day, think back on all the decisions that you took. Focus on nagging thoughts and immediately write them down so you know you can tackle them the next day. That way you can calm your mind to enjoy the rest of the day without worrying. And then move to your accomplishments of the day to make you feel good about all the things that you did do. This is the first step towards greater self-awareness, the secret to the success of most entrepreneurs and leaders
These tips to keep mentally alert are a great way to ensure all that physical energy you carry is spent focussing on the most important things. They can help you make the right decisions about your time, people, finances and business.