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When are we really out of energy?
Takeaways from Building a Second Brain.
Welcome to Ideothetic Flow, my newsletter sharing my reflections on finding balance, sufficiency, and security.
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When do you start to plug in your phone, or look for a petrol station? I notice there’s two kinds of people. I tend to start hunting for a petrol station once I hit my last 2 bars of petrol, but my sister doesn’t even think about it until a warning indicator starts flashing.
How about the energy level of our body? When do you think you’ve run out and need to recover?
I watched an entertaining YouTube clip of someone trying to cram as many martial arts classes as he could in a day. His ending takeaway resonated with me. Each class tired him out, but somehow, he still found some energy to get through the next one. Even when we think we are completely spent, sometimes we can dig down and find a hidden reserve somewhere to push through.
It left me thinking about how I might be too conservative in how I approach challenges or new projects. I wait till i’m sure I have enough energy and the right conditions before committing to things. But these causes me to slow down my progress, or miss a chance altogether as the perfect moment never appears.
I'm learning that, for things which are important, I can have more confidence push forward even if i’m unsure if I have enough capacity. I’ve been making use of my flexibility at work to try and get in more training. I realise there are some days where I don’t feel up to it. Now I try to ignore it, and show up anyway, and I realise by the end of the class that I came out of it much better than I expected.
I tell myself to give my kids attention first, even if there’s a pile of work or chores waiting for me. I trust that I can find energy to get the done later on. I used to be afraid of committing myself too much, in case I don’t have enough time for my family. I realise that I don’t have to fear that commitment as much as I thought, there’s many unimportant things taking up my energy that I can get rid of to make space. Things like gaming, browsing social media, keeping up with the news or culture. I merely need to find the discipline to do so.
Of course, operating in this mode, without fear of emptying the tank, and being optimistic about my reserves, is not optimal. It risks burnout and injury. It might hurt me in the long term. But, for the things which really matter, that I might regret not doing, I think it’s worth it.
It must be paired with the opposite, taking a conservative view to protect my energy for the less important things.
This isin’t easy. Many others want us to push to the limit. In corporate work, when a deadline is coming up, its normal to skip sleep and work all the way up to the last minute and put in the absolute maximum possible amount of effort. No one would complain. This was a necessary part of work, and an excellent show of grit culture.
Looking back now, it feels like a needless waste to push to the limit for prettying up a bunch of words. We could have planned ahead and put those hours in earlier. But the world didn't work that way. It was only fine if we gone through the theatre of burning every drop of energy in the process.
It is our responsibility to guard our last bits of energy from others who want to claim it. It’s not just work that might ask for this, it could be friends who are overreaching, or even one’s own false desires - using up energy for things we think we want.
Love the egg analogy to getting started on things in this article. Getting started is like cracking an egg. It needs some momentum, but not too much. Most things tend to start with too little or too much energy and fizzle out.
My 3 takeaways from Tiago Forte's Build a Second Brain
A book I read on productivity and knowledge management I enjoyed reading recently. Sharing some of the points which resonated.
The actual brain is the CEO and the second brain (your notes or knowledge management system) is the worker - note taking systems should organise around the action of the actual brain, rather than one being a slave to the note taking system. The problem with many systems, be it personal knowledge or institutional processes, is that the system tends to be so strict that we have to plan the doing around the system, when the system ought to exist to support the work.
“Mise-en-place” - an idea in running a professional kitchen where Chefs put things back in the right place after using them, and keep their workstations in order as they go along. There’s no time in the middle of service to stop everything and reset the kitchen. Likewise, when we work, there's a tendency to get the final product out without bothering with the clean up. That clean up is what allows us to scale and move fast for the next project. Time must be allocated for moving things into proper knowledge management systems, or they will be lost.
The Hemingway Bridge - rather than stopping at clear intervals, where it's hard to build momentum to pick up again, stop in the middle of a thought and write down how you want to continue. This leaves a good starting momentum to pick up a task again later.
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P.S. Visit www.jameschanwz.com to read more about me and what I am working on.