I’ve been working with my idea of “Mindshare” for a couple years now and it’s helped shed new light on the daily grind and make me more proactive in utilizing the mindshare I wake up with daily.
Mindshare – the finite amount of brain function available to you in any one day. Sleep restores mindshare, quality of sleep matters. Most activities use up mindshare and then it’s gone. Some activities replenish it (like talking something out with a good friend).
Mindshare Pie – the useful pie chart visual I like to use to illustrate the idea. The total area in the chart is not fixed. If you wake up with a cold, you’ve got less pie.
Mindshare Tax – the amount of peripheral pie any one activity eats up. Coping, or any psychological necessary, is often a large component of the mindshare tax.
For instance, if receiving an email from your boss by default pisses you off, you’re going to
1) be pissed,
2) have to swallow whatever resentment you have, and then
3) craft a professional, not-pissed-sounding response to the email.
The responding part and whatever effort that requires obviously eats up mindshare pie. The being pissed off and swallowing the resentment part is the mindshare tax. Answering an email to your friendly coworker and to your boss might require the same mindshare in number 3 above (responding), but your boss sucks up more share by adding in the coping (1 and 2) you have to do to get there.
*Important Note: One goal in understanding mindshare is to learn how to operate at your highest capacity, which means the lowest mindshare tax rate possible.
Coping – as illustrated above, coping is the psychological necessity required to get through various daily activities that aren’t fun, desired, or energizing. Coping is most often required when things elicit a negative reaction from us, but have to get done nonetheless. Coping is learning to “get over it” in whatever way you do that. Oftentimes I’ve noticed that coping is simply denying. Denial requires a huge amount of mental energy, and it’s dangerous because it’s typically invisible.
Denial – A dangerous, invisible, mindshare tax. Denial is ignoring something you know is there. You know it in your body, you deny it in your mind. This causes a lot of cognitive dissonance, but not the straightforward kind (like knowing smoking cigarettes is unhealthy but continuing to do so).
Mindshare in action
Imagine back to a stressful day in your life. For example, one that starts off with an empty tank of gas pre-commute that makes you late for an important meeting where you find out about some huge problem you’re going to have to work through. Finally you get your coffee and sit down at your desk, only to a deluge of emails that all seem urgent (because don’t they always). You start pounding through the emails in order, knowing in the back of your mind that you’re going to have to soon deal with the more important news you got in your meeting this morning. After lunch you start working through the new problem and by 6 ‘o clock you hit a wall.
I mean, that’s it. No more thinking is coming out of your head.
You’re irritable, hungry, and have a headache. You get home, ignore the stack of books about entrepreneurship on your coffee table you’ve been meaning to read for months, turn the TV on to some reality show you’re not proud of watching but love nonetheless, and zombie out for the rest of the evening.
In the example above, mindshare was completely spent by 6 ‘o clock, and not on the most important things, either at work (the huge problem from the morning meeting) or in life (the aspirations towards entrepreneurship).
Without considering the finite amount of mental energy we have in a day, we end up spending it on lower priority work. Slogging through e-mails takes both creative and coping mindshare, leaving less of the pie for problem solving on bigger projects. And using up all your mindshare in the office leaves none left to be productive and follow your hobbies and dreams outside of work.
Why managing your mindshare is important
First of all, let me say that I do not blame anyone for being “lazy” when it comes to following their dreams outside of the office. I’ve heard people say before “you’ve got all these ideas, why not just spend time in the evenings and on weekends working on them until you’ve built up enough of something you’re comfortable leaving your day job for?”
When the mindshare is gone, it’s gone.
If you are thoughtlessly blowing through it without realizing mindshare’s finite nature, you probably won’t save yourself any pie. Not only that, you end up bringing an irritable person home to your friends and family and may not be reserving energy for building and maintaining your relationships, either. Relationships and partnerships all require (oftentimes large) parts of the pie.
Every thoughtful, self-aware thing we do involves mindshare pie-eating.
When I started to reflect on where my mindshare was being spent, I found that I was using up a terribly high amount coping with hating my job but continuing to do it (cognitive dissonance mindshare tax) and another good sized portion on doing mundane parts of my job (low value mindshare pie-eating). At the end of the most days I had very little mindshare reserved to do anything to save myself, like practically plan out quitting and post-quitting life or make and adhere to a budget. Ironically, I often used up the little mindshare I had left on feeling guilty (coping mindshare tax) for watching hours of episodes of King of the Hill on Netflix. Watching King of the Hill is not a mindful thing for me, and an obvious choice given I didn’t have the mental capacity left to work on my dreams. When the mindshare is gone, it’s gone.
Without being cognizant of where my mindshare was going, I ignored the fact that I was not operating at my highest capacity (=lowest mindshare tax) and continued to do nothing to create the life I wanted to live. I was stuck in a loop and needed to re-prioritize my mindshare to even begin to get myself out of it. I had to decide to purposefully save myself some pie or else I would just keep being a useless evening Netflix zombie.