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How to be Highly Productive and Enjoy Healthy Work-Life Balance

- Raja Jamalamadaka

A mentor to startup founders and a coach to senior industry executives, Raja Jamalamadaka wears multiple hats. He is a venture partner at startup accelerators, jury member at startup boot-camps evaluating business-ready and funding-worthy startups, keynote speaker at conferences, LinkedIn featured top blogger, country head at leading technology organizations, board director and a neuroscience-based CXO leadership coach.

In 2015, an amazing episode shook the corporate world – Google’s CFO Patrick Pichette  retired from his $5 million-a-year job to focus on his missing work-life balance. He wasn’t the first executive to express this need- MongoDB’s former CEO, Max Schireson and Uber’s CFO, Brent Callinicos,  too, chose work-life balance over their high paying jobs.      

All these were highly paid executives. Why, then, was work-life balance such a big challenge? Could they not balance the high productivity required in their demanding jobs with the much needed work life balance? Can high productivity and work-life balance co-exist?

Let’s start that quest by understanding ourselves. When it comes to functional characteristics, the human brain is closer to a car engine than a supercomputer.  Like a car on a long drive whose gears have to be shifted based on the road conditions, the brain has to shift gears multiple times a day according to work conditions. And similar to a car, the brain operates with multiple gears – technically called brain waves - three of which are very relevant to productivity:

  1. Neutral gear or Theta/Delta - Rest waves: These occur naturally during sleep. They lead to reduced anxiety, aid relaxation and formation of memories, tissue repair and feeling of balance.
  2. 1st gear or Alpha - Relaxation waves: These waves occur in the mornings or at the end of the day when we take up relaxing tasks like walking, playing with our kids, watching sports or indulge in creative pursuits. These waves reduce stress and lead to formation of long-term memory.
  3. 3. 2nd gear or Beta-Activity waves: These waves are produced during the day when performing attention-oriented tasks like discussions, debates, presentations,N7

team work, analytical tasks and problem solving.  They create energy, increase focus and strengthen output.

For optimal productivity, the frequency of the tasks and the brain waves has to match, else there is a serious loss of productivity. Using our car analogy - if you cover a 500-mile drive on the first gear, you will eventually reach the destination but take a lot longer - in addition to damaging the gears.

The true key to optimal productivity is to know the state of each task that you undertake during the day and perform the task when the brain is in the appropriate wave state.

Let’s apply this understanding to our daily life starting with sleep.

Sleep: The brain relaxes in sleep when it operates in the neutral gear- Rest wave state. It goes without saying that what you do one hour prior to sleep is critical to helping the brain reach this wave state.

Productivity Enhancer: In the last one hour prior to sleep, read a positive article (my favorite is to read an article from “What Inspires me” channel of LinkedIn), meditate, or like venture capitalist Marc

N8

Andreessen does, celebrate your daily success by maintaining an anti-Todo list of all tasks completed that day. Such 1st gear-alpha-relaxation tasks are a mental lullaby for the brain to enter the neutral gear-rest-wave state leading to a restful sleep.

Morning:  If you slept well, the brain wakes up from neutral-gear-rest-wave to 1st gear-alpha -relaxing wave mode. This is the time when the brain is at the peak of its creativity but not yet ready for 2nd-gear-beta-activity state.

Productivity Killer: There is nothing worse than abusing the morning time by forcing the brain to jump headlong into 2nd-gear beta-activity-tasks like checking mails, accessing social media, or continuing or fixing previous day’s fight with your spouse.

Productivity Enhancer: Give yourself positive assertions, head to the gymnasium, take a mindful walk, enjoy your coffee, plan your day or like Oprah Winfrey does - sit in silence for 20 minutes. All such 1st gear-alpha-relaxation activities are the mental exercises to get your brain ready to effortlessly face the 2nd gear-beta-activity tasks.

Day time: For most people, the brain needs to be in the 2nd-gear- beta-activity phase for the larger part of the day. This needs efforts.

Productivity killer: Like car designed to work on one gear at a time,  brain is designed to run at one wave-frequency at a time. Multi-tasking is the ‘art’ of trying the biologically impossible feat of running the conscious brain at two frequencies at the same time.

Productivity Enhancer: Eliminate multi-tasking altogether. Restrict access to social media to breaks only.

Work Breaks: Most people would agree that asking Usian Bolt to run at the same lightning pace of 100 meter dash all through a 22-mile marathon is unrealistic. Likewise, expecting the brain to run on 2nd gear-beta-activity phase all through the day is unrealistic.

Productivity Killer: Continuing the meeting agenda over lunches, solving problems while having breakfasts,  etc. continue to keep the brain in a 2nd-gear beta-activity phase gradually reducing the productivity as the day progresses.

Productivity Enhancer: Use breaks to enjoy your food mindfully, make a quick call to your loved ones, network with new people, exercise a bit, take a silent break or better still read a positive article/book. If your work doesn’t afford logical breaks, force yourself to take a 5-minute timed break every hour. continuing or fixing previous day’s fight with your spouse.

Evening: After a hard day’s work, the brain now needs to digest what it has done during the day, filter out the negatives and form long term memories of right tasks. The brain’s 1st gear- alpha-relaxation phase is ideal for this.

Productivity Killer: Continuing work or work discussions over post-office drinks will accentuate the beta phase and stifle the process of cleaning up your brain and formation of memories.

Productivity Enhancer: Walk your pets, play with your kids, or bond with your non-work friends. Reading works best, reducing stress levels by 68 %,  says cognitive neuro-psychologist Dr. David Lewis. 

Spending your evenings away from work slows the conscious brain into the 1st gear alpha-relaxation state allowing the sub-conscious brain to take over.

http://slouken.blogspot.in/2012/06/worklife-balance-in-games-industry.html

If you are busy executive reading this article, it is time you realized that you will maximize the ‘bang for your buck’ by helping your staff maintain a healthy work-life balance resulting in improved productivity. Work-life balance is as important for the employee as for the employer.

The examples set out at the beginning of the article are a grim reminder of this fact.

Synchronizing daily tasks with the relevant brain wave state can go a long way in improving productivity and helping you enjoy a healthy work-life balance.

Andreessen does, celebrate your daily success by maintaining an anti-Todo list of all tasks completed that day. Such 1st gear-alpha-relaxation tasks are a mental lullaby for the brain to enter the neutral gear-rest-wave state leading to a restful sleep.

Morning:  If you slept well, the brain wakes up from neutral-gear-rest-wave to 1st gear-alpha -relaxing wave mode. This is the time when the brain is at the peak of its creativity but not yet ready for 2nd-gear-beta-activity state.

Productivity Killer: There is nothing worse than abusing the morning time by forcing the brain to jump headlong into 2nd-gear beta-activity-tasks like checking mails, accessing social media, or continuing or fixing previous day’s fight with your spouse.

Productivity Enhancer: Give yourself positive assertions, head to the gymnasium, take a mindful walk, enjoy your coffee, plan your day or like Oprah Winfrey does - sit in silence for 20 minutes. All such 1st gear-alpha-relaxation activities are the mental exercises to get your brain ready to effortlessly face the 2nd gear-beta-activity tasks.

Day time: For most people, the brain needs to be in the 2nd-gear- beta-activity phase for the larger part of the day. This needs efforts.

Productivity killer: Like car designed to work on one gear at a time,  brain is designed to run at one wave-frequency at a time. Multi-tasking is the ‘art’ of trying the biologically impossible feat of running the conscious brain at two frequencies at the same time.

Productivity Enhancer: Eliminate multi-tasking altogether. Restrict access to social media to breaks only.

Work Breaks: Most people would agree that asking Usian Bolt to run at the same lightning pace of 100 meter dash all through a 22-mile marathon is unrealistic. Likewise, expecting the brain to run on 2nd gear-beta-activity phase all through the day is unrealistic.

Productivity Killer: Continuing the meeting agenda over lunches, solving problems while having breakfasts,  etc. continue to keep the brain in a 2nd-gear beta-activity phase gradually reducing the productivity as the day progresses.

Productivity Enhancer: Use breaks to enjoy your food mindfully, make a quick call to your loved ones, network with new people, exercise a bit, take a silent break or better still read a positive article/book. If your work doesn’t afford logical breaks, force yourself to take a 5-minute timed break every hour. continuing or fixing previous day’s fight with your spouse.

Evening: After a hard day’s work, the brain now needs to digest what it has done during the day, filter out the negatives and form long term memories of right tasks. The brain’s 1st gear- alpha-relaxation phase is ideal for this.

Productivity Killer: Continuing work or work discussions over post-office drinks will accentuate the beta phase and stifle the process of cleaning up your brain and formation of memories.

Productivity Enhancer: Walk your pets, play with your kids, or bond with your non-work friends. Reading works best, reducing stress levels by 68 %,  says cognitive neuro-psychologist Dr. David Lewis. 

Spending your evenings away from work slows the conscious brain into the 1st gear alpha-relaxation state allowing the sub-conscious brain to take over.

N9

http://slouken.blogspot.in/2012/06/worklife-balance-in-games-industry.html

If you are busy executive reading this article, it is time you realized that you will maximize the ‘bang for your buck’ by helping your staff maintain a healthy work-life balance resulting in improved productivity. Work-life balance is as important for the employee as for the employer.

The examples set out at the beginning of the article are a grim reminder of this fact.

Synchronizing daily tasks with the relevant brain wave state can go a long way in improving productivity and helping you enjoy a healthy work-life balance.