As an entrepreneur, I tend to run hot and cold. I'm burning the midnight oil for weeks, then I have several days where my intensity and, seemingly, my passion seems to dissipate. Unfortunately, that means wasting excess energy when all the work is done and potentially not being as thorough as possible when the energy is low. I know the extreme decision-making trap firsthand.

One practice that helps immensely is palate cleansing. Like the culinary-inspired cook versus baker concept, palate cleansing is taking something to wash away the previous experience to make way for the next one. Mint, bread and even plain old water are popular palate cleansers, but what if you applied it to your daily actions? Here's food for thought.

Focus on something else: In food, a palate cleanser is usually a light drink or snack that makes your senses focus on something else. It serves as a bridge between two courses. The courses themselves are usually strong or intense. The palate cleanser serves as a break between two extreme experiences, helping you digest the former and get prepared for the latter.

The irony is delicious, here: The more focus you want, the more you need to step away.

Make time to rebuild your focus: I love deep diving into work, but intensity, by its very nature, is in limited quantity. In fact, researchers estimate that you can only hold your complete attention onto something for a couple of hours. (It's the reason why public speakers follow the adage, "Say what you're going to tell them, tell them what you're going to tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.")

It is the reason why it doesn't make much sense to do a 20-hour day with little or no breaks: Your productivity will drop, sooner rather than later, and you may actually be wasting time rather than maximizing it. The 25-minute Pomodoro Technique is the epitome of short focus, but even a 15-minute break every hour or two would be much more efficient than creating a marathon day.

Give room for thought: Why do palate cleansers make you more productive? While you may have checked out, your brain is still focused on the previous project and creating smarter strategies for you to use when you start again. As I recently talked about, resting may be our most powerful entrepreneurial tool. People in traditional lines of work usually can't build their own schedule from scratch! It is a perk that may have gotten us into entrepreneurship, but something we tend to forget after we become entrepreneurs.

A short, daily meditation is my palate cleanser, as is taking a walk and, whenever possible, getting a brief nap. Yours may be checking social media, doing a quick exercise or reaching out to a colleague for a quick chat. We all should find ways to take our ostrich-like heads out of the sand.

Have you already built palate cleansers into your day? Let me know how they have helped you become more productive.

Published on: Nov 18, 2015
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