Marshall Kirckpatrick blogged about 10 ways to increase your personal bandwidth a few weeks ago as a way to “avoid being overwhelmed, make fewer mistakes, catch problems earlier and be more effective.”  To be honest, I am not exactly sure what personal bandwidth actually means.   I have heard the term before but never payed much attention to it until I realized increasing it could be a way to help me feel less overwhelmed and more effective – neither of which I have been feeling lately.

So I decided to ask google what it meant and then create my own list.

Googles Answer.

  • personal bandwidth is defined as the range of intuition, beliefs, emotional intelligence, energy, preferences and skills which reflect our capacity to function as entrepreneurs (via Consulting by Hart )

This helped but I wanted more.  I still didn’t quite “get it.”  So I kept digging and came across an article in Time magazine on the mistakes busy people make by Sendhil Mullainathan. This is when it clicked for me.   Personal bandwidth is our cognitive resources.

As Sendhil states” Bandwidth is what allows us to reason, to focus, to learn new ideas, to make creative leaps and to resist our immediate impulses. We use bandwidth to be a good participant at an important meeting, to be a good boss to an employee who frustrates us and to be attentive parent or spouse.”

One of the other things that Sendhil mentions is that we often end up focusing on “managing time and end up mismanaging bandwidth” as we don’t take into account that different tasks require different amounts of bandwidth (aka mental energy).

I so do this.  All the time.  It’s a really bad habit.  Its the perfectionist in me and the monkey mind that never let’s me let things go.   I’ve talked about some of these things on this blog before but never really looked at my inability to say no as mismanaging my personal bandwidth.   Now I have a better name for what I am doing I can make my own list of ways to better manage it..

Thanks for the inspiration (and reality check) Marshall.

Ways to Increase My Personal Bandwidth

  1. Drop the ball.  Seriously do it! Don’t just talk about it.  Say no to those things that don’t align with your values and so no when you know you have reached mental capacity.  It really is OK.
  2. Delegate it.  The world isn’t going to collapse if you let other people do things.  Which is a yet another reminder for me to . . .
  3. Ask for Help.  Everyone needs help.  You can’t do it alone – nor should you.
  4. When planning your schedule, don’t plan tasks requiring heavy bandwidth right after tasks that drain your bandwidth.  Instead schedule time for an activity that will renew it bandwidth.  It can be as simple as a walk around the park (there’s one right outside my office).
  5. Learn something new everyday.  I love learning.  I love reflecting.  I love sharing what I am learning.  
  6. Meditate.  Clear and refresh your mind.  Return focus to what matters.

 PKM Note

#5,which is really my PKM practice, has been dropping from my list of to dos lately.  This rabbit hole of exploring personal bandwidth has reminded me that this is one of the things that brings me joy.  It gives me energy. It increases bandwidth.  It should not be the first thing to go when I get busy and overwhelmed.