In previous blogs, I have written about the ways in which our brain automatically saves energy for survival reasons. I’ve also given you some tips on how to save your time and space for the more important things in life. Now, let’s look at ways to deliberately save brain energy, so we can use this energy for what really makes us happy and fulfilled.
As humans, we actually still use a lot of energy on trivial choices, worry, judgement and time-management. Even though our practical lives become easier and more time and energy saving every day (think of the appliances in our home, AI or algorithms), our brains are still not always spending our energy on the most important things. Luckily, there are some interventions we can do you change this, so we have more energy left to do things in which we find happiness- like the realisation of our dreams.
Eliminate trivial choices
The first and most obvious tip is to waste less energy on making choices that don’t really matter. During the day, we have to make many decisions, and this starts from the moment we wake up: What am I going to do first? What am I going to wear? What do I want for breakfast? And this continues all throughout the day: What am I going to do when I arrive at work? Who am I going to ask for lunch? What do I eat for dinner? When am I going to do my laundry and my groceries?
Of course, having options during the day feels great and makes us feel more free. But making all these decisions every single day takes our brain a lot of energy, while they don’t necessarily make our day much better. At the end of the day, did making wearing a blue sweater instead of a red one make that much of a difference? Did having chicken for lunch instead of fish make you really happy?
When you look at the bigger picture, these choices are actually not worth turning on your brain for and just lead to decision fatigue. This is why really successful people usually eliminate this type of ‘small decisions’ during their day. Have you ever wondered why Steve Jobs always wore the same black turtle neck?
One way to incorporate this trick into your life (without getting really bored) is to decide at least on a category of food for every part of your day, or to limit the choices. For example, I always either have oatmeal or a green smoothie for breakfast. A way to make your outfit choices easier is to make a capsule wardrobe: this way, it doesn’t matter what you pick from your closet – it all matches. Planning ahead and applying the same structure in every day also helps. Then you don’t have to decide on your next to-do’s, as they are already planned out.
Keep an open mind
As human beings, we also spend a lot of unnecessary energy on judging, trying to comprehend, and making sense of people and events. Even though this is in our nature (and was once essential for survival), in modern day life where we don’t have many threats, judgement and understanding is very often unnecessary. We don’t have to understand everyone and everything – as long as we somewhat understand what matters to us. We don’t have to know everything or have an opinion on things that do not affect our daily lives.
I know, it is not in our nature to leave spaces blank and to say ‘I don’t know and I don’t have to’. However, getting used to this state of mind – state of life I would even say – does come with a lot of peace, and a lot of important brain energy left to do other things.
So stay open, don’t judge, and keep your attention on what’s really worth your focus. Everything else will do just fine – even without your brain wrapped around it.
Use your excitement and inspiration
The next tip is to listen to your feelings of excitement and inspiration in every moment. If you have a task that you really don’t feel like doing, don’t stress on it and spend hours and hours struggling to get it done. Decide that this is not the moment in a very early stage, and feel that this really is the moment later that day, the next day, or the next week.
This way, you will waste a lot less energy on the same tasks, and you will also find it way easier to do and more exciting. If the burden of starting at all is what’s keeping you from doing the task and what’s taking up all your energy, read this blog to make that easier.
Of course, not every thing on your list will some day excite you if you just wait for inspiration. Some things just need to be done. In that case, use the moment right before the deadline (where you can do it on the adrenaline provided by time-pressure) or wait for a moment where you don’t like doing it, but don’t hate doing it either; a moment of indifference.
When you use the right moments to do the right things, and make these decisions fast – based on initial excitement/inspiration and intuition – you will learn that certain tasks or problems take up less energy than before. Because you are basically taking your brain’s easiest way out. You will also see that feeling whether or not this is the right moment to use your energy, will become a easier after doing it more often.
After eliminating some trivial choices, accepting that I don’t have to know or understand everything, and picking the right moments, I have found that I have more inspiration and good ideas than before. At work and in my private life, I just feel more calm yet energised during the day, and I’m more aware of where I want my focus to be.
Let me know if you try these tips, and if you feel the same way!