November 10, 2022

Conserve Mental Energy

Do you sometimes feel so exhausted even when you've barely had physical activity during the day? Most of time, it's after big, mentally-draining tasks. I'm not complaining. I usually enjoy those. But I believe that our daily mental energy and willpower are finite.

And that's one of the reasons why I'm obsessed with systems—I look for ways to conserve energy, so that I can devote them to more important work. (The other reason is because I like to free up my time.)

That usually means automating repetitive tasks and being conscious of what thoughts I let occupy my mind.

Here are three ways to do that:

1. Build good habits and routines

Habits and routines are powerful. Habits are things we do automatically, saving us time and mental energy. Routines provide structure, something for me to follow and not have to think about.

I try to create routines for the things that I do repeatedly. In my daily exercise, for example, I follow a general pattern: warm up, stretches, functional strength training, run, cool down. Even the stretching has its own routine.

It helps me go through the whole program without much thought. It conserves willpower and mental energy. It isn't an exhausting workout program anymore. It's simply a routine to follow everyday.

2. Brain dump

Writing morning pages helps clear the mind. It's like a restart in the morning. After you dump the thoughts on paper (or a note-taking app), the mind becomes quiet and calm.

Instead of wasting mental energy on doubts, fears, and worries, the mind is free, fresh, and ready to power through the day.

3. Create a GTD system

The first step in Getting Things Done is Capture. I collect everything that holds my attention and put them in one place—my inbox. All those home projects I want to do, renewal of documents, important dates to keep track of, list of books to read and movies to watch. Everything. Then, they're sorted into their dedicated folders (or dashboards).

By transferring them into a trusted system, I can let go of those thoughts completely. I know that I will get back to them when it's time to process everything in my inbox. But at present, it's okay to forget about them. It's better to forget about them, so that I can focus on more urgent matters.

Our minds are valuable real estate. We should be selective of what we let in.