Notice how you feel exhausted when you ran a kilometer more than your usual? Or when you take up a new activity that stretches your muscle? Don’t you also feel the same after doing a mentally challenging task on a busy work day?
Tasks that require our thinking power and decision-making skills drain our mental energy. Mental energy is a concept in psychology which is assumed to be the driving force of the psyche, emotional as well as intellectual power or the “energy of the soul.”
Ideally, our mental energy would be at the highest peak at all times. However, different factors present in our environment have the ability to reduce our mind’s power. Most of us drag ourselves until the end of the work hours, trying our best to survive the mind-numbing work, just to simply get through the day.
How can you expend your mental energy wisely? How can you get more work done in a day?
Schedule hard tasks.
Scheduling your hardest task to the time when you feel most focused can improve work performance. However, each one of us is different. Times when we feel most productive can vary according to our mood. Some like to take the early parts of their day to do the most challenging tasks so they can leave out the easy and light task in the afternoon. While others work their best in the late evenings after they’re done with their third cup of coffee.
Not sure about your most optimal time? Try asking yourself these questions:
- What part of the day do I have the greatest amount of energy and focus?
- When do I have the fewest distractions and interruptions?
Don’t waste mental energy solving problems beyond your control.
Conserve your mental energy. Stop trying to fix things you just can’t. When there’s absolutely nothing you can do, let it go. Exhausting your mind’s power in things that are beyond your capabilities is nothing but a waste of time. Excessive rumination not only drains mental energy, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, says it can also lead to depression and anxiety. Stop over thinking. Focus on solvable problems.
Free up your brain storage by taking notes.
Our brains can store just about enough data. This is why we can’t remember everything at once. Taking notes and storing all the other data in external storages conserves your mental energy.
You can also set reminders using applications like Remind Me, Wunderlist, or Google Keep. Let your brain focus on the present. On what’s important NOW. By doing so, you are helping yourself make fewer mistakes and have more mental energy to breeze through your day.
Increase your mental energy by socializing and forming connections.
Humans are social creatures. Our lives depend on each other. We survive better as a group than in solitude. Even our brains are hard wired for social interaction.
Our neocortex is much larger compared to primates and even mammals of our size. It is comprised of the parts involved in social cognition like our language, behavior and emotion. This is why socialization is one of the things that make us humans, well, human.
Socializing and building connections is known to increase our mental energy. It helps exercise our mind. When we connect with people, we learn so much about the world, more than we do when only focusing in ourselves. By taking time to socialize with great people you can increase your mental energy.
Take breaks after working for an hour or two.
Breaks are refreshments for the brain. When you work with complex tasks non-stop, you can easily use up your reservoir of mental energy. Our brains like computer RAMs need downtime to function well. Recent studies found that throughout the day our mental energy gets depleted when faced with complex tasks, and needs some form of rest and downtime to replenish.
In fact, in a study made by Desk Time showed that the most productive employees in a company were those who took breaks all the time. Don’t spend your breaks sorting emails, or doing your to-do list. Do activities that take your mind off work. Activities that interest you and stimulate your brain. Like playing chess, scrabble or by being alone with your thoughts while meditating
Do something different for a change.
Do you notice how routine work dulls people? This is the case with factory workers who spend their day doing the same monotonous tasks all day and all year round. Dull routines can drain our mental energy. The brain is a muscle. If you don’t exercise it and expose it to stimuli that improves its capability to think, it will slowly reduce its mental power. However, if you can’t afford time, or the situation doesn’t permit, you can simply choose an activity which you always do and do it in a different way. For example, you can read books that you haven’t read before. Visit areas you haven’t explored, or talk to strangers.
Spend time doing things that interest you.
Ever notice how you get an instant energy boost when you’re working on something you are really excited about? Activities that fuel our passion give us the highest flow of mental energy. It makes us feel alive, it feels right. The more you like doing the activity, the more you spend time doing it, the more you get better at it. It’s easier to achieve flow during these times. Take time to spend your energy on things you really love to do. Don’t spend time on activities that make you feel out of sorts.
Over to you
How do you ensure you spend your mental energy in the wisest way possible? Any great tips to add? Tell us about them in the comments below.