Manage Your Mental Energy To Be More Productive At Work


I cover work-life balance, leadership, and executive health.

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You glance at the to-do-list on your desk. There are eight simple tasks and one challenging project. You have already put off the project for a couple of days because it’s complex and will take most of your day, if not your entire day, to complete. Nothing on the list is due immediately. What do you do? Some executives knock out all of the smaller projects first and save the intimidating job for the end of the day. The thinking is that you will be more productive and ready to tackle that behemoth job. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong choice. Executives should be focusing on the most important or challenging tasks first thing in the morning, according to experts.

“Our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions per day and once we reach that limit, we can’t make any more, regardless of how important they are,” explains Daniel J. Levitin in his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.

If you wait until you have completed all the easy tasks on your list before starting that intimidating project, the day is half over and by then it’s already too late. Odds are your mental energy is depleted and your decision-making ability is at its lowest. Not the best time to start an important project where you need to be at the top of your game.

Studies show that people have a limited amount of mental energy to spend each day. Once that resource is depleted your decision-making and productivity decline rapidly. This is why you should tackle your most important projects first when your mind is fresh—regardless of how time-consuming those projects may seem. By the end of the day, your mental energy is waning and it will be harder to focus and critically think.

The following steps can help business leaders ensure that they are not only productive at work, but also functioning at their highest level when it counts…




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