Ep 42 // Mindfulness for Busy Leaders

Ep 42

The challenges of running a business, regardless of where you live, can create a lot of anxiety. In this episode, Akua outlines nine exercises that will help any startup founder or leader increase productivity, decrease stress, and recalibrate, especially if you experience heightened uncertainty from living in an emerging market. 

Akua is very familiar with various environmental stressors (she brings you this episode while experiencing a power outage as well as trying to avoid ambient noise from the nearby airport in Accra, Ghana). This episode seeks to normalize stressors like these that are beyond our control, particularly in developing countries. Those living in this type of environment don’t always acknowledge the added stress that comes from not having things work as expected. Examples could include having your time hijacked by needing to find diesel for your generator or having the internet go out during a Zoom meeting.

It’s important to recognize the impact this constant unease can have on our leadership or business and to create routines and habits that help us adapt. In this episode are nine that you can adopt into your routine today to help your mental health and boost your productivity.

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What's Covered in this Episode About Stress Management

  • Akua describes some of the environmental stressors that can come from living in an emerging market. 
  • Learn how being mindful helps recognize your stress and its cause and the first step to limiting it. 
  • What to do before tackling any difficult task in order to keep yourself present, curb nervousness and ease stress. 
  • The importance of building your emotional intelligence. 
  • How to track your time so you can decide what to focus on, whether it makes sense to outsource or delegate, and how to use your time to the fullest. 
  • The Circle of Concern versus the Circle of Influence and how to spend more time in the latter. 
  • Distractions cause anxiety. Akua describes the biggest distractions we face and how to recognize and eliminate them before they become an issue. 
  • Humans are not hardwired to multitask. Learn a few ways to focus and find out the ideal amount of time you should work before taking a break. 
  • The time management technique of batching is a method of grouping smaller tasks that are similar and completing them all at once. Akua highlights some of these tasks and how to tackle them. 

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "Being aware of your past, but choosing to make the most of your present to maximize your future results." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Your feelings have a direct impact on how you show up and engage with others." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Recognizing that you can track how long you spend working on specific tasks, so they then become part of your routine, they then become a habit." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Every time you waste valuable energy complaining about those factors you can't control in business you lose out on the time that can be used to make money, connect with the right clients, and build and manage an effective team." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Mentioned in Mindfulness for Busy Leaders

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about Akua’s services if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization’s culture.

  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 42 about Mindfulness for Busy Leaders

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time, and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Speaker 1 1:23 Hello, and welcome to this episode of the open door conversations podcast. And I am so excited to record this episode because it's been a while since I've done a solo episode. And I'm actually recording this episode in the dark. And so I think today's topic around how to increase productivity, practice mindfulness, stay present is incredibly relevant, especially for entrepreneurs, for individuals that live in places where everything doesn't necessarily go their way. This particular episode is slightly inspired by some amazing women that I met within this cohort based programme that I joined. And one of the things that we talked about was how those of us who tend to live in emerging markets. And so I live currently in Accra, Ghana, how we don't always take in consideration or take into consideration the fact that we do live in a difficult environment. And so if you are a busy leader, busy business owner or busy founder, you're really going to enjoy this conversation. And what I'm actually going to be sharing is nine exercises that you can use to really just help to recalibrate, okay, to help to increase your presence, and really help you to think about whether or not being more productive based on how you define productivity makes the most sense at this point in time. So whether you're new or seasoned leader, there's a good chance that the things I share in this conversation today will be relevant. So let's get into it. All right, the daily challenges and stresses of running a business or running your career, or even having a life, especially in an emerging market can easily begin to take a toll on your emotions and potentially create in xiety. And that's why I think it's so important that you create opportunities, routines, habits, and have conversations about some of the stressors, okay, the fact that you have to get a water truck, or the fact that you may have to get diesel for your generator, if you live in a part of the world where electricity is not constant. Those are things that we shouldn't feel bad about talking about. That's just our reality. For those of us who live within those environments. And other places, these anxieties might also look like where to find new clients write, having concerns about not having enough money to invest back into your business, or buy diesel, right, constant unease about the future, especially if you live once again, in a part of the world, maybe where your currency isn't doing that great. And I'm currently in a country where the currency is not doing that great, alright, or feeling like you never have enough time to make sure your business is sustainable, right? By putting processes in place. This might also look like and this is something that recently, I had to deal with having an illness, right. So recently, I've been a little sick, you might even hear it a bit in my voice. And that's one of the reasons why I haven't recorded a solo episode in a while. So you're busy trying to do all the things and you might be hijacked potentially by things that are out of your control. Right. And that's why I think it's so important sometimes remind yourself that you know, having electricity sometimes it's out of your control, finding a new client, right or converting a client might be somewhat out of your control, right? You can't control whether someone pays you but you can control how often you reach out to them, how you engage with them. Those are Two things. But there's so many things out of your control as a business owner, as a founder and as a leader. So I just wanted to make sure that I normalise this to a certain extent and that you recognise and acknowledge that you're not alone. This is a very common situation to be in. And there are so many of us that are in this situation right now. Right? I'm sure there's some of you listening to this right now that are also in the dark. And you know, who knows? All right. So what can you do to help? What are some of the things that you can keep in mind to help centre yourself help to keep yourself present. And the way I like to describe it, and how I like to teach this. And this is actually a variation of a workshop that I do is leveraging this concept of mindfulness. And this is one of the things that I like to use myself to get out of overwhelm, and to think about how I'm showing up. And once again, the word productivity may not resonate for you. It's the word I like to use. But I also like to keep in mind that I'm not a robot. So what is mindfulness? And why is this an important practice, in business or in leadership, my definition of mindfulness is being aware of your past, but choosing to make the most of your present to maximise your future results. I also think that a part of mindfulness is also recognising that everything is not under your control, okay? So it's really about becoming more aware of what you're doing in the moment. And so you can check in with your body and your mind, right, so keeping tabs on your stress levels, you know, checking in to make sure that you feel good, and that you're showing up and you're getting things done. This can also potentially look like you know, focusing on one task at a time, or trying to really get clued into the amount of energy and time that a different task may take. And so what I'm going to be doing is sharing nine different exercises that can really help to open your eyes around whether or not you can actually control that that opportunity, or that particular activity or task, or whatever you want to describe it. Alright. So the first one I have here, and this is something that I always love to do, it's something that I try to do even before I jump on and record a podcast episode, before I get up. And before I get up, and I present, it's something I try and do before I have a conversation with a client. And so this exercise number one, or eight out of the nine I'm going to share is centering myself and really trying to tap into my senses. And what I will actually do is share an older blog post where I sort of talk through this really quickly. So it's just a shortened dirty approach to how you can do this. But I think that being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride, and it really becomes so easy to become attached to the ups and downs. And so you're just so focused on that next high, or that next low that might come. And so you're not just you're not focused on the present, and it makes it difficult to problem solve, it makes it difficult to build the right relationships, because you're so focused on something changing in the future, or potentially something not going right. So to help, you know, get back to where you are and where you should be focused, I really love to recommend some level of breathing exercises, and there's so many out there. I'll link one also in the show notes. But it's just really helpful just to bring you back really to the present. If you feel nervous, if you feel stressed. You know, before I started recording this, right, the lights went out and I was like, Oh my gosh, right, it was a great opportunity for me to take a few breaths and just centre myself. So I'm clearing my mind tapping into my senses. So I can regain focus, and really be able to tackle whatever tasks I have at hand. And as I mentioned before, this is something you can do before meeting before a difficult conversation, or even before you need to make a big decision. Alright, so that's really the first exercise that you can do. The second one you can do. And this is gonna probably sound super simple to a lot of you listening to this. But I'm telling you, this is not something that we spend a lot of time and energy on, right? We typically just dismiss this question by saying I'm fine, I'm good. And I really would recommend that you take a second to go beyond the good and I feel bad and really start to to build that emotional intelligence muscle, right. And so if you want some additional reality, as I record these podcasts episodes, I'm also recording this near the airport. So I'm currently in my parents near the airport. And this is the time that all the airlines, the big big airlines all start to land. So a lot of things are happening. It's not all necessarily going my way. But I'm breathing through it right so very much using that exercise number one. So with the second one, ask yourself how do I feel right and as I mentioned before, a lot of times, we aren't necessarily being very nuanced and how we actually talk about how We feel but the more nuanced and specific that we can get, the easier it actually is for us to really work through some of these emotions, especially if they are on more of the negative side. Okay? And so your feelings have a direct impact on how you show up and engage with others. So when you ask yourself how you're feeling, you bring awareness to your feelings, which can then help you have more control over your behaviour, and ultimately, how you're perceived that's important to you, right. So for example, in business, when a problem happens, you have a responsibility to prepare and creatively solve the situation. So if you're paralysed with fear, overcome of overwhelm, and don't snap out of it, it might be hard for you to pull your team together and make decisions. Understanding how you feel will also allow you to step back or step away, if necessary, as well. If you want to be able to show up for yourself and others, being able to recognise that certain feelings can block you from taking certain actions can be incredibly empowering, right. So that's number two. Number three, your time is valuable, right? I don't want to scare you, but your time is valuable. And if you want to make sure that you're using it in an effective and efficient way, do number three, which is find out where you're spending your time. So this is very simple to do, you can find lots of different templates online, I share a template with my clients, and it's something that I do every so often. But recognising that you can track how long you spend working on specific tasks, so they then become part of your routine, they then become a habit, right? So recognising that you right can spend your time and energy on certain things that probably will have a lot higher value for your business. So for example, a task like accounting, if you do it yourself, it might take three hours versus if you hired an accountant, they might be able to complete the task in an hour, right, and they do the same amount of work, right. So that is time that you spent on an accounting task that could have been delegated, could have been outsourced, right, while you spent time maybe connecting with new or existing clients. So really just recognising that once again, if you're tapping in to how you feel towards things, and you have a good idea of where you're spending your time, right, you may not be the best person to make decisions around that, right. And you also might not be the best person to get things done because you get so anxious about your finances or caught up in stories, that you're the only one that can do your bookkeeping, that that keeps you from being the best decision maker within your business. And maybe members of your team don't even want to be around you. Because when it comes to doing accounting tasks, you just become a terrible human being. All right, this next thing I think is really important to keep in mind, right? And it goes back to what I was sharing earlier on around how we can't control everything. So this is number four, stop stressing over what you can't control. Easier said than done. But do you find yourself worrying about all the things in your business that you have no real control over. So we can say business in life, if you find yourself using up valuable energy on this, a concept that can be helpful is thinking about it from this perspective of the circle of concern versus the circle of influence, right? So in short, the circle of concern is for those factors that you have no control over, whereas the circle of influence is for factors you do have control over. So building that out for yourself can be incredibly helpful. Examples of actions that fall into the circle of influence could be over your words, behaviour, you know, actions, right? All of that can be summarised as you having control over your management and leadership in business, right? How you're showing up there, you get to decide what your boundaries are, what your plans are, how to make the most of yourself, right how to communicate with your teams, how to build relationships, right? The other circle is that circle of concern. And those are factors you have no control over, but you still have concern over right. So that could be tax rates. The whether or not the electricity is on whether or not a plane is flying over you other people's opinions and actions and government regulation. Right? You can keep these things in mind. But you have to recognise and acknowledge that you can't control them. Right. All you can control is your response and reaction to them. Every time you waste valuable energy complaining about those factors you can't control in business you lose out on the time that can be used to make money, connect with the right clients, and build and manage an effective team. I do want to point out here though, it's important that we do acknowledge them right and we recognise that they exist, because especially for those of us who live in emerging markets, electricity, you know, water, those are things that do have an impact, right. The areas of concern they do have an impact. We don't have come Fleet control over them. But it's something that we do need to mention, right? Because it is a challenge a hurdle we have to overcome. And that can have an impact on our business and an impact on us well, an impact on us that ultimately can have an impact on our business. Let's continue on. Number five. Another exercise or another thing you can keep in mind is a limiting, eliminating sorry, distractors, alright, so distractions, right, we deal with them, they're inevitable, especially in our tech driven society. Alright, so number five, in terms of this exercise, is recognising that you can do a lot to eliminate distractions before they actually become an issue. Right? There was a US study that was done and the top five drainers are distractors, right? Are one push notifications to interpersonal gossip, that might look a little different now, right, because we're not in offices, but it's something to keep in mind. Maybe you're chatting on WhatsApp, instead, internet slash social media, dropins, emergencies and noisy coworkers, once again, it might look a little bit different, because a lot of us are working from home. And lastly, email, right. So remember, ultimately, we are not hard wired to multitask, right. And so that's why sometimes we get stressed out and have anxiety, when we have so many different distractions and are trying to do many things at once. You don't want to stretch yourself out too thin. So don't focus on things that don't matter. And really start to think about how you can focus on revenue generating activities. And the next few exercises and thoughts that I'm going to share our think are really going to help you with that. So the first thing that you can do in terms of really thinking about how to eliminate some of those distractors, and really stay focused and present is number six. And that is what I like to describe as having these blocked times or interruption free time locks on your calendar, right? Here's the thing, not only can we be distracted by things that are external of us, but we can also be distracted by our thoughts, right? And really recognising that, you know, social media platforms and team member disruptions. Don't help us with this. So one key management skill that all leaders and business owners need to learn is the importance of having boundaries. And that's what having an interruption free time lock or blocking your time really is all about. So what this actually looks like is that team members are honouring time on people's schedules, where people are saying, Hey, don't bother me, don't schedule things, I need to have good focus time now to get this critical project or task done. So ask yourself, is there something that you're doing that could benefit from some sort of time lock or time block, okay? And recognising that you can also delegate things that are outside your zone of genius, or outside of revenue, generating opportunities, if it makes sense. And by doing this, and having those boundaries, you'll be able to create time, for things that are important and things that are really going to fill you up, bring you joy, recognising that everything we do won't excite us, but you can do more rather than less. Number seven, right? Exercise seven. Another thing that you can keep in mind is really trying not to multitask. And so number seven, the exercise is about having a single commitment. So telling yourself, I'm going to try and do one thing for a specific time period, right, and really sort of get into the flow. And really just allow yourself to Yeah, you know, just get immersed and really into whatever that task is, for me, one of the things that I can really get immersed into is sometimes creating content. And I like to block out a certain amount of time to do that, because I really recognise that I can get into a flow. And I can produce a lot of content or Batula content within one period of time. So what you're doing really is telling yourself, you're going to honour this one thing for this specific time period, allow yourself to focus as much as possible, and eliminate distractions. Okay, so turn off the internet, if you need to turn off the internet. If you need to be that person who writes things out on pieces of paper, you write it out on a piece of paper, instead of being on your computer, if you think there are too many distractions on there, and really recognise that you can do a good job at this by breaking down that project into a single task that can be done within that time you've blocked out. Okay, so the idea is that you focus on one thing until you reach your goal in relation to that single task that can help you build towards that bigger project that you have number eight, this is probably something that you've heard, but just would love to reiterate the Pomodoro method. What this Pomodoro method pretty much means or says is that as a human being we are not designed to sit and work for six hours. hours straight. According to some of the research related to this, we are not even designed to sit and focus for over an hour. So what this shows or what this share is, is that it is a scientifically proven method that humans are great at about 25 minutes of focused attention. And so what you should think about doing is focusing for about 25 minutes on a task, and really trying to focus on it and get it done, or get a portion of it done within 25 minutes. After those 25 minutes, giving yourself a five minute break, right. And that five minute break can include, you know, getting up to do something, you know, drinking some water saying hi to someone, and then what you can then think about is having a longer break after a certain period of time. So this is a really great tip. If you find yourself struggling with focus, you can start even shorter than 25 minutes, but just set a timer. And then give yourself that freedom. One of the ways I like to think about it is reward yourself after focusing for whatever time period that you've given yourself. But try not to make that interval longer than 25 minutes. All right, number nine, batch your task, I love batching batching is really, really, really helpful for me, especially when I decided to get on social media and spending some time in the DMS and replying to certain things. But batching is where you take certain tasks of a similar nature that you can do at the same time. And so what you want to ask yourself is, what are some of those tedious tasks that sort of pop up or that you need to get done, they are important, but they're like smaller tasks that need to get done that sort of break you from some of that more deep focus work. For me, those are things like emails, DMS, sometimes meetings. And so what you can do is start to batch some of those meetings, right, so you can have back to back one on one check in meetings. If you feel like you have the capacity, right, that's not going to work for everyone, it might work for some of you. Another thing you can do is sort of batch process emails. That's something that I do a lot in addition to Basse processing my DMs and replying to DMS. So this is a really simple time management technique that can easily be put into your schedule, and also taught to other members of your team. So they can focus on tasks such as making sales calls, or answering emails. But I really think that it's a really great way for you to be able to focus and get things done. So I hope that you found some of these exercises helpful. If you think that you can use any of them, please let me know if you have any ideas or thoughts on some additional exercises I could actually add to this, please feel free to really reach out. But the key here is I really want you to recognise that first and foremost, you're not alone. And that secondly, you can think about how you can show up more effectively and more efficiently. But you have to keep in mind that you are a human being right you do need to take some time for yourself, you will not always be quote unquote productive and everything you do won't necessarily be successful. So as always, thank you so much for taking the time to listen, and I hope that you stay safe and stay sane. Akua Nyame-Mensah 23:14 Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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