Since I am at the Tableau Conference right now, I thought I would write my next emotional intelligence blog post through the lens of a dashboard. You might not be aware of this, but dashboards have use outside of the field of analytics and reporting. The concept of a dashboard can act as a mental model for us to better understand specific components of life; in this case – emotions. In this article I want to outline how we can use the idea of a dashboard to better our emotional awareness, which can enable us to make better decisions and produce better work.
First, let us establish why dashboards exist. There are a few reasons as to why someone might make a dashboard, but a major one is to monitor important metrics. If you have a bunch of metrics in a dashboard that updates every day, you can go into the dashboard and make sure nothing is wrong. If you see revenue drop for one of your stores in your dashboard, then you can investigate more and take further action. Because you were monitoring your metrics, you were able to save your store from declining further into the pit of negative profitability, yay!
Well, it just so happens that this same concept of monitoring can be applied to our emotions, and is actually a major component of emotional awareness. Emotional awareness is defined as knowing when feelings are present in ourselves and others; and how do you know what your emotions are if you are not monitoring them! People have come up with hundreds of ways to become cognizant of their emotions, but because I’m a data person, I like to believe that I have a dashboard for my emotions. My dashboard is a collection of the most important metrics I use to gauge my level of emotional health. If any of these metrics move into the red, then I know I am in danger of behaving in a way in which I shouldn’t (yell at someone, become passive aggressive, complain about my co-workers, etc.). Essentially, I monitor my emotional dashboard so that I can become a more emotionally healthy person to myself and others around me.
So, what are the most important metrics to have in your dashboard? I’m glad you asked. Below are the 3 most important metrics to have in your dashboard, as they are key indicators for when you are are slipping in your emotional health.
1. Hunger Level
Have you ever experienced someone who is hangry? I think we all can agree that people are not at their best when they are hungry, and neither am I. I get grumpy, irritable, and generally not fun when I am hangry, and that is ok! Because you were designed to need sustenance, and the state of being hangry is a reminder that you need to take care of your physical health. But, the reason hunger level is the first metric is because we tend to ignore the importance of food, especially during lunch time. How many times do we skip lunch because we have “so much work to get done”? I am tempted to do this every day, and sometimes it is completely fine. But, there are other times where my meetings in the afternoon end up not going as well as I had hoped. I am more defensive when people ask me about my work, and I become more judgemental when people don’t understand what I am talking about. These reactions can be avoided because they are product of my choice earlier in the day to not eat food! Working on important tasks while being hungry is simply not a good idea, which is why we should be monitoring our hunger level throughout the day. If you see this metric getting into the red, re-prioritize and feed yourself soon. Give yourself the permission to get something delivered to the office if need be. It’s not frivolous to ensure you are doing quality work for which you are getting paid to do!
2. Anger Level
I think it is more obvious as to why we ought to monitor our anger level, but that is not necessarily why I mention the metic here. It is important for us to monitor our anger level because we are not very good at identifying this emotion. And when we cannot identify our anger, we cannot take steps to dealing with our anger.
Anger is what I like to categorize as a blinding emotion, meaning that it puts blinders on our visibility into our emotional state. As soon as we start to become angry, our emotional brain starts to take over and the logical part of our brain gets put on the back-burner. When we are angry, we care less about outside perspectives and more about our own perspective. We become convinced we are right, and of course are not willing to hear why we might be wrong. And while you might not be full-blown in this state every day, we have micro-moments where we enter this state a lot more than we think.
So what does it look like for us to monitor this emotion? Below are two scenarios in which our anger level can rise:
- You are presenting/explaining something you worked on for a long time and someone doesn’t like it. You pride becomes hurt and therefore you start to become angry/defensive.
- You are convinced about the direction your company should take and yet no one is listening to you. You become angry because you are not given the time you feel you deserve.
It is important to note another aspect of anger which pops up in these scenarios: the fact that anger is a protective emotion. We often become angry, not because we are monsters, but because we are protectors. Anger surfaces because something we care about has been hurt, which in many cases is ourselves. When you pride is hurt, you become angry because your pride is a representation of your self worth and value, and you care about yourself. Your anger is not a bad emotion (in fact, it is a healthy sign that you actually care about things), but it is a dangerous emotion because it often leads to us saying/doing things we ought not to do. And this is why we monitor our anger, not to suppress it, but to ensure that we handle it appropriately.
3. Tiredness Level
The final and important metric to have in your emotional dashboard is your tiredness level. Similar to being hungry, we often are not at our best when we are extremely tired. According to the Sleep Association, 50-70 Million US adults have a sleep disorder. And according to this Harvard study found in this Forbes article, insomnia led to a loss of 11.3 days of productivity in a calendar year, which is roughly $2,280 worth of work. Sleep depravation is not to be trifled with, which therefore means we should be paying attention to it. And we not only pay attention because we want to be more productive, but also because we long to treat our fellow co-workers with respect and kindness.
If you are feeling tired, you ought to do two things: come up with a short-term fix, as well as a long-term solution. You need a short term solution to get you through the moment, because you are tired RIGHT NOW. Things like getting up for a walk, drinking a glass of ice-cold water, or taking a 15 minute nap in your car are easy solutions to soften the edge. But, you cannot keep living on short-term solutions, you must also identify a long-term plan so that you don’t have to rely upon last minute hacks. Study your optimal hours of sleep, ideal diet, and level of activity. Generally, people experience constant tiredness because they are either not getting enough sleep, eating a lot of unhealthy food, or not exercising enough (not exercising can cause you to not be tired at night, which therefore causes you to not sleep enough). Getting enough sleep is critical, not only for the work you do, but maintaining a healthy emotional state.
Please leave comments below and let me know what you think. I hope the concept of an emotional dashboard can lead to you becoming more emotionally aware and therefore more healthy.