Your mental energy is a critical resource. You use it to make wise decisions, weigh alternatives, and avoid temptation. Mental energy is a lot like physical energy. Use it hard and you deplete it. Conserve it and it’s available when needed. Here’s how to get the most from your mental energy.
Develop Your Mental Energy
Your mental energy is a lot like physical energy. The more you use it, the stronger it’s likely to get. But, also, if you use it hard in a short period of time, you’ll be mentally tired.
Develop your mental energy and discipline consciously. Test yourself. Push yourself. Get better.
Stay Healthy and Rested
Get enough sleep. Quit imagining sleep as time you can’t work. Think of it as “sharpening the saw.” Eat right. Maintain good cardiovascular fitness. All those things will help you increase and maintain mental energy. But you already know all that. Quit nodding your head and start doing what you know you should.
Do Routine Things Routinely
You want to have as much mental energy as possible available when you need it. Don’t fritter it away in insignificant work. Use habits, checklists, reminders, and rituals to take the thinking out of routine things. You don’t have to think about tying your shoes; why think about when to exercise?
Conserve Your Energy for Important Decisions
Important decisions and stressful situations can drain off important mental energy. If you know you’re going to need it, don’t waste your energy beforehand on less important things. Conserve your energy for the big moment, like a long-distance runner saving energy for the kick at the finish.
Allow for Mental Recovery
Give yourself time to recover your mental energy after a stressful situation or an important decision. Do things that don’t put a drain on your resources. Do things you enjoy that give you energy.
Take breaks throughout the day. Breaks keep you fresh. They’re short-term mental recovery.
Sometimes, the best way to conserve your mental energy is to find ways not to use it. Why use your willpower to decide if you’re going to eat ice cream late at night? Don’t buy ice cream and it won’t sit in the fridge tempting you.
Here are the three best books I know about how to get the most out of your mental energy.
The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson