Catalyst

Learning from Life and Leadership

When You Don’t Have the Bandwidth

In the internet age bandwidth refers to how much information can move online.

But every person has a personal bandwidth.

In life, three things determine what you can do at anytime.

Time–if a task takes 1 hour and you have 10 minutes, you can’t do it.

Opportunity–if you need to pickup a medical prescription and you’re in the office, you can’t do it.

But there’s one more area–energy. Just as the internet slows to a crawl when bandwidth gets squeezed, personal energy can slow work or play to a crawl.

I know. Recently, my week with meetings, interruptions, and ever-burgeoning project lists. Compounding the situation were three straight nights of meetings to midnight. My bandwidth was shot.

My mind was slugglish. My movements slowed to a crawl. Interruptions took on a new sense of irritation. Fuzz replaced focus. But work had to continue.

When energy is down to the last drop, I’ve discovered some things that help.

Go shorter. An hour of concentration may be as remote as the moon. Work for 30 minutes (or less)  and then break for 15 minutes. Your body needs recovery and pushing forward does not help.

Go easier. I keep a pile of things that take little or no mental energy. One pile is things to shred. When I cannot do anything else, I can at least feed the shredder and move something off my plate. Defer the more mentally-challenging activities until capacity returns.

Go dark. Unplug from email. Turn off the phone. Go to a cafe to work. All are ways to keep the mind from facing the overstimulation of things tugging on your attention.

Go wet. Drink plenty of fluid (preferably not coffee). When tired, the body will also feel dehydration. Simple hydration will keep what little energy is left alive.

Go down. Find a soft chair and quiet place at lunch and nap for 30 minutes. It won’t substitute for a night’s sleep, but it will jump start you until you can get a good night’s sleep. (Even if you can’t nap somewhere, close your door and put your head down for 5 minutes–it makes a difference).

The good news is a full night’s sleep makes a tremendous difference. But you can still make progress, even with bleary eyes and a fuzzy brain.

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