In a highly competitive global economy, innovation, creativity, and your business’s ability to differentiate itself through its ideas and products are essential for continued growth and profitability. However, information overload, 24/7 connectivity, constant interruptions, and complex systems and processes lead to overwhelmed team members. And overwhelmed team members profoundly experience time and mental scarcity.
When you experience scarcity of any kind—time or mental—you become absorbed by it. Your mind orients automatically toward an unfilled need.
The problem with mental scarcity is that it creates its own trap. It further perpetuates scarcity and reduces all components of our mental bandwidth—we are less insightful and less forward thinking; we have less mind to give to the dreaming about that next breakthrough idea—which are essential components of innovation.
If you want to support and nurture innovation in your company, it is time to start thinking about how to reduce mental scarcity and increase the mental bandwidth of your team members.
Here are three simple, yet powerful, ways to start.
Develop a routine for common tasks so that your brain can automatically repeat it with minimal input by you. Once the routine is established, it is interpreted by your brain as a pattern. These patterns, through frequent use, become hardwired into your brain. And the more you use a pattern, the less attention you will need to pay to doing this task. Thus, freeing up mental bandwidth for ideation.
Consider developing routines for the following:
- Phone calls
- Opening documents
- Filing and saving documents
- Sorting and processing mail
- Making travel arrangements
Email processing consumes significant amounts of time and mental capacity. Reduce the time and mental drain by automating frequent email responses, by automating email follow up, by automating the prioritization of incoming messages, and by automatically filing reference materials.
Automate frequent email responses. Use a free text expander software app like FastFox for PC or Text Expander for Mac, or a more robust program like Witty Parrott. These will work in any program, including your email platform, and allow you to insert commonly used text with just a keyboard shortcut or by dragging and dropping text. No longer will you waste your mental energy thinking about what to say, nor precious time typing out a response: you will reply automatically within seconds.
Automate your email follow up. Automate your follow up by setting up and using the "waiting for" rule. Here’s how it works: when you send an email where you need a response from the recipient, cc yourself on that email. That email will then be automatically saved in a folder you have designated for all of your follow ups. As new messages are automatically added to this folder, the numeral indicating how many messages are in the folder will become bold. No longer will you spend time searching through sent messages or trying to remember if you have followed up on your open requests.
Automate the prioritization of incoming messages. The most important mental processes, such as prioritizing, often take the most effort and are energy intensive. Let your email program automatically prioritize incoming messages. Color code your incoming message by sender priority. For example, you might color code your manager red, your top clients in green and turn the messages where you are cc-ed to light gray. So, when you open your inbox, you can quickly scan them for the most urgent messages, those from your manager or key clients.
Automate the filing of reference materials. Automatically file all of your reference materials, trade publications, and industry news by writing a rule. For example, you might write a rule to file all of your trade publications in a folder named "Trade Publication Reading". Now, when you open your inbox, it will only contain email messages that require action by you and you won't waste precious time or mental energy sorting through messages you can read at a later date.
Insights occur more frequently the more relaxed and happy you are. Take time during the workday to do something totally unrelated to work that brings you joy, makes you laugh, or just makes you smile. Spend some time on YouTube watching funny videos, call a friend, take a walk, or read for pure pleasure. It does not matter what it is as long as it brings you delight.
Don’t let mental scarcity rob you of your next big, bold, breakthrough idea. Support and nurture innovation in your business by increasing the mental bandwidth of your team members, develop routines for regular tasks, automate email processing and cultivate joy.