Management tips: exercise the brain and know when not to work

Our columnist Manar Al Hinai advises engaging the brain when it comes to knowing when not to work. Physical exercise is important, but don't overdo it or work out when not in the mood. Likewise, with our jobs. It's more productive to take time out on occasion rather than becoming stressed by the task in hand.

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For the past couple of months, I have been working out more than I have ever done before. I have spent a lot of time horse riding, biking, walking, and kayaking. And while doing so, and when by myself, I have been able to hear my thoughts, and reflect on my business and career.

While participating in a nine-kilometre mountain biking session two weeks ago, and admiring how my stamina has improved, I realised how one can progress on an athletic scale, and can do likewise throughout one’s career, and in business management, if the same mindset and steps are applied.

Just like when going for a run, or participating in a sports activity, work only when you are feeling productive and focused. I used to force myself to exercise because I felt I had to, and not because I wanted to, and I ended up not giving it all my energy and effort. And so I decided that I will kayak, run, or go riding because I want to and love doing so, not to because I have to exercise five times a week for an X amount of time.

And so when I started to bike, or do some yoga exercises, and then felt that I was not in the mood for it, I would stop. On the other hand, sometimes I would intend to exercise for an hour, but end up working out for two because I felt productive and focused that day.

Same thing applies to work.

We sometimes force ourselves, such as in my case writing or working on a project, because we have to, even though we are totally out of it and not feeling productive, and often end up not giving it our very best. But even if we are on a deadline, I have discovered that the best thing to do is get up, do something else, preferably something that is fun, and then come back when feeling focused. That way you are likely to do more than you expected.

Nonetheless don’t overdo things – avoid collapsing. As driven as I am, I have a bad habit. When I get so immersed in a project or even multiple projects at times, sleeping and eating are the least of my concerns. What often happens then is that I end up being so stressed out that I am forced to stop – for days at times – until my energy is restored.

If you are an entrepreneur or a driven hard-working individual, then you know how that feels. Sometimes our adrenalin levels will rocket and we do not know how to stop. And then when we do collapse or stress out. It is not the pain or illness that gets us, but the frustration of having to wait till we are better to get back on the wagon and continue working.

We need to realise that there will be times, especially in relation to projects with strict deadlines that we will not be able to afford time off. And so, as engrossed we are in our work, it is important to remember to dedicate enough sleeping hours, to eat healthy meals, and to indulge in non-work activities.

All of that is necessary to main our balanced energy level and our ability to be continuously driven and successful.

Embrace consistency. Horse riding and doing other sports developed into a habit, and became a part of me, and that is why my stamina improved and I was able to participate in that 9-km mountain biking session a couple of weeks ago.

The same applies to work. Many of my entrepreneur friends constantly complain about having to reply to emails that flood into their inboxes, and how time consuming it is to sit down and reply to each sender. But by avoiding the pile-up by timely replies to emails, I avoid that problem and the stress accompanying it. In business and in life, consistency is key.

Last but not least, get rid of extra baggage. In business, and in the office, extra baggage takes many shapes, and a large chunk of our time as well.

It could be that you are responsible for matters outside your work scope, or you are tied with things that you could delegate to your staff instead. Prioritising and delegating are essential, and help to enable you to get much done. Just like exercising, shedding that extra baggage will assist you in running or swimming more easily and reaching your destination faster.

Work, as much as we may enjoy it, can end up being very stressful. Work when you feel productive not when you have to, take a break, be consistent, and lose the extra baggage.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai