Formula for More Mental Energy


Is energy management even more important than time management? I linked to an article on the topic yesterday. Lack of time isn't really the problem. Most of us have literally hours of free time every evening, but we're too mentally and physically drained to do anything but melt into a blob in front of a tiny screen or giant screen. And of course we can use that time to relax, to laugh at a funny show or meme, to let our minds and bodies rest. Of course we deserve to do that. But if we have a goal or a plan or a path we're itching to try and just can't find the "time"? That's where energy management comes in.


My favorite tag line on the topic comes from Paula Pant, who begins every podcast episode with these words:


You can afford anything, but not everything. Every choice that you make is a tradeoff with something else, and that doesn't just apply to your money. It applies to any limited resource that you need to manage, like your time, your energy, your focus, your attention.


(Sidenote: Paula's podcast is fascinating and inspiring, but her voice is also melodic and soothing. I turn it on while snuggling with my 8-year old at bedtime because it puts her to sleep within seconds. And I secretly hope that she's absorbing some sound financial advice while she's dreaming.)


I recently heard two eye-opening perspectives to manage mental energy. Annie at @thelaminimalist has a highlight called "More Energy Awareness" that is full of gems, but this is the part that made me sit up straight in bed and vow to never again mentally replay a political conversation with my mother-in-law:


Pretend you're a phone... what is charging you up? What is draining you? Worry, stress and anxiety are like apps running in the background, draining your battery. You might have had a bit more energy today to put toward something else if you weren't completely draining yourself replaying a fight all day that you had with a friend last week.


Manoush Zomorodi's viral Ted Talk, How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas identifies another way we are depleting our mental energy: attempting to multitask (which isn't really possible -- rather than accomplishing multiple tasks at once, we're just rapidly switching between tasks). Her talk includes this quote from a neuroscientist:


Every time you switch your attention from one thing to another, the brain has to engage a neurochemical switch that uses up nutrients in the brain to accomplish that. [When you're multitasking] you're rapidly depleting neural resources as you go.


I know meditation has been hyped to the point of making our eyes bleed, but it might be the cure for both of these conditions. It allows us to easily shut off those apps running in the background, and it renews brain neurotransmitters.


Here are a few more: