You’re Sabotaging Your Mental Energy

You may have noticed that your mental energy is at its peak in the morning. But then you wake up before sunrise, endure long commutes at the beginning and end of the day, encounter endless challenges at work and manage personal commitments and tasks in the evening. After all of this, you’re mentally exhausted! Yet you’re back on the laptop with a project that will now take two to three times longer to complete than could have earlier in the day.

This scenario doesn’t have as much to do with the depletion of physical energy. It really comes down to your mental energy and what’s known as decision fatigue. Because as the day progresses, you’re faced with decision after decision after decision.

In fact, the second you wake up, you’re faced with decisions. Should I hit the snooze button or get out of bed? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I pack my lunch or buy lunch today? Should I take the train or drive in? Should I wear a heavy or light jacket? You haven’t even left the house and you’ve already faced numerous decisions.

Add to that the even longer list of decisions you’re required to make at work and then again at home in the evening. Your mental energy slowly diminishes with each decision made.  It’s no wonder you can’t seem to get it together to finish those late-night projects.

As much as you’d like to blame your spouse, your kids, your boss or your coworkers, the truth is that you are to blame.

You’re sabotaging your own mental energy by making mundane decisions at peak times.

Read on to see if you're self-sabotaging and how, with a slight change to the time of making decisions, you’ll reserve peak mental energy for those that will greatly impact your success.

You hit the snooze button.

Before going to sleep at night, decide what time you truly need to wake up in the morning and set the alarm for that time. Not 10 minutes earlier. The exact time. Make a commitment to yourself and attack the day.

You pick out your clothes in the morning.

It’s said that one of the reasons Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans was because he understood decision fatigue. Imagine if Steve Jobs spent his mental energy on picking out his clothes in the morning instead of deciding on which new product to cultivate. I’m not suggesting to go as far as wearing the same thing to work every day (unless your job requires a uniform), but make the decision at night versus wasting mental energy first thing in the morning.

You can’t decide what to eat.

Meal planning is one of the most effective time savers and ways in which to reduce decision fatigue. Breakfast should not require much thought. Have a pre-planned menu of two to three options and choose one the night before. Packing the kids lunches in the evening? Do the same for yourself. Finally, spend 15 minutes on a weekend afternoon scheduling dinners for the upcoming week.

You put off the big project until the afternoon.

Now that you’ve eliminated at least three decisions from the morning, you arrive into the office. What do you typically do? Check email, return messages or review the calendar? Yikes! Aren’t these just as mundane as picking out what you’re going to wear that day?

Instead, tackle that challenging project. You know, the one you really want to procrastinate starting. Set aside 45 minutes of focused attention each morning until it’s complete. Then compare that time against the time it would’ve taken if you didn’t begin until 3 o’clock or during a late-night work session.

Final Thoughts

This topic may sound so simple you’re questioning why I make mention. But I challenge you to assess how well you make decisions by the mid-afternoon and whether or not you’re wasting mental energy during peak times.

What other decisions might be sabotaging your mental energy that could be shifted to another time?