Students & YPs

Young Professionals’ Voice: Mind Management

By Devon Ryan

In my last column, we discussed the importance of willpower in our decision-making process. Building willpower up is one thing, but sustaining it is another, and that’s where mind-management comes into play. Mind-management is crucial-not only to our success-but also to our sanity. Life’s too short for madness and mayhem.

How many distractions do you have throughout the day? How many decisions do you have to make? Have you ever taken the time to count them? Perhaps, you should try—I bet you’ll be surprised.

Every time you are distracted, every time you have to make a decision whether small or big, it chips away at your willpower. The less willpower you have, the less likely you are to make the correct decisions. What happens when you are overwhelmed, and you need to make a withdrawal from your willpower bank?

The good news is: you are in control of your mind. Here are the fundamentals for mind-management:

Fundamental #1 – Just Say “No”

Most individuals underutilize saying “No” very often. This one-syllable word is like a sword for you. Whether it’s a new project idea, a trip somewhere, or simply someone asking you to go to lunch-just say “No.” It sounds simple, but most people have a tendency to feel bad when they tell someone no; but we shouldn’t. Why should we feel guilty when we are simplifying our lives, or keeping our lives simple?

Let’s say for instance, you have a fitness goal. And every single day at work, you have people who ask you to go out for lunch. Most of the time, the people asking you to go out don’t share the same goal as you. When you mull over the decision, you chip away at your willpower, but you tell yourself, “I’ll just go and eat a salad.” Then, you get to the restaurant. Now you have to observe your colleagues or people around you eating and enjoying very appetizing entrees. This scenario requires even more willpower, because it’s a longer process. Instead of tormenting yourself and wastefully diminishing your willpower-nip it in the bud-and just say “No” at the beginning. Simple, done, and now your goal is that much more achievable-because you are less likely to slip up and become unhinged.


Some of you might be thinking, “Well saying “No” uses up some of my willpower,” and you’re right! But think of it this way: If you say “Yes,” and commit to yet another project, you will need a whole new subset of willpower to shun off distractions-spreading your willpower even thinner. Moreover, saying “No” ensures you even more time to work on what matters-to achieve your goal.

Fundamental #2 – Eradicate Distractions

Every time you get an email, text, or someone talks to you and breaks your focus, it chips away at your willpower. This sort of lifestyle stunts your ability to achieve results. It inhibits you from focusing your willpower on what truly matters in your life.

When we truly focus on a task at hand, we not only increase the likelihood we will accomplish the task, but we increase the quality of the result.

Instead of being distracted, take control of your surroundings. Here are few starters:

  1. Automate your email: Create rules to automatically allocate your emails in folders so you don’t see them.
  2. Turn your email/text/social media notifications off, when it’s “game time.” Game time is when you are devoting all your good mental capacity towards an important task that will help you achieve your goal.
  3. Find solitude”—or don’t. Some people are energized by others-some need pure silence. Figure out what works for you, and do it the majority of the time.

Fundamental #3 – Don’t Think

Taking the time not to think is also important for mind-management. Sounds counterintuitive right? It’s true, though. Whether you’re sleeping, or watching a movie; your subconscious is still processing problems or experiences that you encountered. Organize your thoughts. Be mindful of your subconscious, and leverage it by taking your conscious mind off the task at hand-when you believe it’s necessary for you to do so.

Cut away time-thieves from your life once and for all. Instead, focus your valuable time on the most important things in your life-whether it’s your kids, your passion or attaining a goal. Life doesn’t have to be complicated. Make an effort every day to simplify it.


Remember, if you seek clarity and cognizance, mind-management is the answer. But it’s a full-time job, and there are no breaks.

Devon Ryan is IEEE-USA’s Young Professionals Voice columnist, and the Young Professionals Representative on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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