How do you achieve mental balance to promote innovation?
This article was written with the collaboration of Mélissa Henriquez, Product Coach
In the fast-paced world of product management, frequent changes come with the territory. It can be easy to become distracted and lose sight of your original goals. Your brain may be overloaded; like a garden, it needs to be maintained to allow new ideas to flourish. This was the topic of the workshop we delivered this past November, as part of the Agile Tour 2022.
1. What is mental load?
We are human; we possess emotional and non-artificial intelligence. We are at the heart of innovation, but we need the right tools and resources to let our creativity run free.
And that starts with knowing how to take stock of our mental load. Your mental load is how burdened or taxed your brain is. Are you constantly thinking about work—even when you’re not there? Are some days worse than others?
This is completely normal. Tomorrow is a new day; your ability to manage your mental load is constantly evolving. Imagine you want to pick some tomatoes in your garden and you have a bowl to put them into. After a while you realize that there are too many tomatoes to fit in the bowl but you manage to pile a few more on top. But as you return inside, your haul tumbles to the ground; some of the tomatoes are smashed and you have to start over again.
This bowl represents your mental load. It’s important to know your limits and learn how to recognize your daily load to avoid an imbalance. This requires being kind to yourself!
2. Recognizing the pitfalls of mental load
What events do you find draining on a day-to-day basis? Conversely, what situations make you feel calm? By being more aware of these two aspects, you will be better able to recognize the pitfalls that may lie on your path. A few questions to ponder:
Are you forgetful? Have you had any water today? Do you have too many meetings? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like don’t have enough time for work?
You don’t have to answer these questions right away. We want to give you some food for thought and help you achieve a better mental balance. To do this, it’s essential to know how to let go. Learn to delegate and trust others, but also how to target what is most important and urgent. The Eisenhower Matrix is the ideal tool to help you get to grips with this.
3. Some tips to maintain your balance
As mentioned above, maintaining a balanced mental load can be a daily challenge. But there are tricks that may help—depending on what works for you.
- First of all, think about where you come up with your best ideas. Are they born out of chaos or do they emerge in a well-organized room? Structure your work environment to help you unleash your creativity.
- Taking breaks is important! Drink water, stretch or take a short walk to get some fresh air and re-energize your mind do whatever it takes to get your juices flowing.
- Reorganize your time and work in blocks of 25 or 50 minutes instead of 30 or 60 minutes.
- Avoid distractions and put your devices on silent to help you focus. The difference this can make is incredible!
- Use tools such as to-do lists, automations, a notebook or a whiteboard—whatever you find most helpful!
- If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and prioritize.
In conclusion, it’s important to understand that in order to feed our grey cells, humans need to disconnect—to have fun and think about other things. That’s just how our brains work. As a society, we should keep in mind that nobody is perfect and that everyone’s needs are different—as is their environment. We should avoid passing judgement and, when it comes to our own mental load or others’, we should always be kind.