With increasing distractions and information coming at us from all angles, it is more important than ever to pay close attention to those small but essential behaviours that help to manage our modern lifestyle.
Think of your energy as currency (because it is). Your energy is your attention, time, mood and general mental effort. You have limited energy in your mind bank, the same way you have limited money in your financial bank. When you spend money, it is likely that you budget, plan and weigh up decisions to determine if something is worth buying based on the value it brings to your life. If more of us exercised this same method with our energy, we could significantly reduce stress and allocate our time and attention to things that truly matter and make us happy.
Before I get into some of the practical changes you can make to manage your lifestyle, let’s try an exercise…
Grab a pen and paper.
In the corner of your paper write the number 100. This is the amount of energy you have to spend each week. Let’s just say our energy is quantified using neurons.
So you have 100 Neurons
On the left hand side of the paper, write down all of the things you spend your neurons on in a single week and the amount of neurons allocated to that thing. For example, many of you probably spend a lot of neurons on work, therefore you would put something like ’60 Neurons- work’, this leaves you with 40 neurons to spend on everything else in the week. Continue to do this until you have spent all of your neurons.
Remember your neurons are spent on pretty much anything that requires mental capacity which, is pretty much everything!
Now on the right hand side of the page, do the same thing but this time write down the ideal activities you would like to spend your neurons on and the ideal amount of neurons you would like to spend on them. For example, maybe you would like to spend more neurons on exercise but exercise didn’t make it to the list on the left. So you would write something like ’20 Neurons- exercise’
By the end you should have 2 comprehensive lists. One (left) which demonstrates how you currently spend your neurons and one (right) which demonstrates how you would like to spend your neurons.
Take a moment to compare the two lists. If they are exactly the same, you are doing an excellent job at managing your attention and mental capacity. I imagine this isn’t the case for most, though. This exercise is designed firstly, to encourage you to take a moment to reflect and secondly, to allow you to compare how you currently use your energy versus how you want to use your energy.
More often than not, we do not use our energy in the most optimal way. We spend attention and time on things that really do not bring us value or happiness, but rather stress, worry, fatigue and anxiety.
A simple list of things you can do today to manage your energy
Turn off notifications
I have seen so many people that keep any and every notification on on their phone. Shopping apps, food apps, apps they used once and never need again! The literal purpose of these apps is to take your attention away from whatever you are doing to whatever they are selling. Glancing at your phone and realising the amount of notifications you have from useless apps can make it seem like you have so much to do, when really they are meaningless and do nothing but cause you stress. Further, glancing at your phone, seeing the notifications and then spending time scrolling through them is even worse and a poor use of your energy. Before you know it, you have spent 10 neurons on a meaningless activity when that could have been spent catching up with a friend or family member.
Unfollow people that do not bring value/you don’t care about getting an update on their life
How many of you follow people on instagram or twitter purely because you don’t want to seem rude or create a conflict if you unfollowed them? The more people you follow, the greater the opportunity for instagram to take your neurons. I challenge you to go through your list of followers and unfollow every person or page that you either do not care about having an update on, or does not bring any value to your life. If you’re going to spend your neurons scrolling, ensure they are neurons well spent on people and things that give you something in return!
Remove all apps you do not use
Last on the technology front and similar to turning off your notifcations, delete all the apps you do not use or that you actually do use, but is not a solid use of neurons. By removing the apps, you remove the possibility of spending neurons on just another thing that really doesn’t matter. Another benefit to this is that a clean, tidy and organised phone can do wonders for your mind. The same way your environment influences your mental state, the tidiness of your phone can have a similar effect. If it’s messy and unorganised it can lead to you feeling frazzled and anxious yourself.
Have a health and fitness goal
I don’t have to tell you how essential a healthy lifestyle is. Eating well and engaging in exercise is quite literally life changing and deserves neurons. However, without a goal or plan, it is difficult to direct your behaviour in the best way that produces the best results. So even if the gym isn’t for you, you can still set goals that align with what you enjoy e.g. going for a walk, going for a bike ride, doing yoga and being more self-aware about the food you are consuming.
Limit your alcohol intake to one day a week
The effects of alcohol last well beyond the few hours is seems like a great idea to down or do shots. Excessive consumption or even regular consumption quite substantially effects your energy levels and what you spend neurons on for the next few days. Maybe it takes a day to recover and a further day to get back into the swing of things. That’s 48 hours you have spent neurons on tasks that do not provide progression e.g. sleeping, feeling sorry for yourself, watching Netflix, eating comfort food and whatever else goes into making yourself feel better after a heavy night. Limiting your consumption to one night a week and ensuring you don’t over indulge allows you to protect those neurons you would spend on recovery and use them on more constructive or beneficial activities like maintaining relationships, reading, completing chores etc.
Prepare meals in advance
I’m not talking about prepping your meals and putting them in the freezer for when you’re ready. I mean think and plan ahead so that you use your neurons efficiently. At the beginning of the week think about what you’re going to eat each day not just tomorrow or the day after. That way you spend a larger amount of neurons at once on thinking about food, but in the long run you save yourself neurons as you aren’t spending them 2 or 3 times a day when it comes to meal times.
Allocate at least half a day a week to alone time
Today, we are constantly connected. People and things in our environment our constantly demanding our attention which, can be draining. To protect that energy it’s important to spend some neurons on yourself. Just like you might buy that dress or gadget to treat yourself, spend some neurons and treat yourself to being alone, no people, no phones and no distractions. Like your bank account gets topped up every month, your mind bank needs topping up with neurons now and again. Without giving yourself time to refuel and re-energise, you will spend all of your neurons in the first week and nothing to live on for the rest of the month.
Cut off demanding relationships/people
Following on from the above, talking and maintaining relationships with people is a demanding task. It requires mental and physical effort, attention, emotion, time and money. So when spending all of these things on a relationship with a person, you would hope that you get something in return. That might be joy, empathy, memories, love etc. However, when you entertain and spend neurons on relationships that bring you nothing but stress it’s time to weigh up what you’re putting into the relationship and what you are getting out of it. Relationships are mutually beneficial at the end of the day. If it’s costing more than it’s benefiting, think twice about your investment.
Give these a try and see the impact it has on your energy and where it allows you to spend more neurons.
Join the movement
Written by: Natasha Bains