Most of you have heard Brian Tracy’s idea of “eat the frog”, in other words doing the task you dread most first thing so that you don’t have to worry about it the rest of the day.
While not having to worry about doing a dreaded task is better then spending your brain power worrying about it all day, if that task uses up a lot of your brain power it can also be detrimental to you to do first thing in the morning.
Your brain uses energy, just like your body uses energy. Most of us wouldn’t go for a 15 mile run right before we went out dancing all night because we know that our bodies would be hurting the next day.
What we don’t often think about in relation to being productive is the equivalent of our brains running 15 miles and then dancing the rest of the day. In the historic study by Roy Baumeister and colleagues they found that resisting a delicious chocolate chip cookie led participants to perform worse on later concentration tasks. The same is true for those tasks you do that lead to mental fatigue.
Here are 3 tips to be productive & limit mental fatigue –
Consider mental energy when scheduling your day – When looking at your schedule don’t just think about the time you will have to complete tasks. Think about the mental fatigue that might also happen with the different tasks.
If you have a mentally taxing activity make your next block of activity less mentally taxing. Maybe you use a lot of brain power to figure out your business accounting, make the next time block something less taxing on your brain like answering emails.
Schedule mentally fatiguing tasks at your best work times – Figure out your most energized work times. For some people it is first thing in the morning, for others it may be in the evening. Those tasks that use the most brain power should be scheduled when you have the most physical energy.
For example, I do not work well first thing in the morning. To get me up and running I spend time answering emails to get me in the grove. Once I have put in some time and little effort I am ready to go and can tackle more mentally challenging tasks.
Schedule breaks – Make sure you put time in your day for breaks. They don’t have to be long breaks, but they should be breaks were you physically get up and walk away or shut down your work (close out those tabs!). This will keep you energized physically and mentally.
We recently discussed things to do on breaks in my group coaching program and we came up with activities like – take a walk, read a funny blog, get a snack, go to the bathroom, play with your dog, or even return a phone call to a friend. I’m sure you can come with many more.
While you need to consider time when planning your day, you also need to consider how mentally fatiguing a task might be and make sure to spread out the tasks that are going to wear your brain down. The more you can schedule tasks that use more brain power in your ideal work times, the better off you will be. And don’t forget to schedule in breaks! Those breaks will help you get your brain back on track.
Keep Your Head in the Game –