7 Times You're Wasting Mental Energy Without Realizing It

Adulthood is exhausting. With the responsibilities of work, family, friendships and more, we are expending a lot of energy and are even limiting the amount of rest we can get to replenish it. (See also: 20 Free (or Really Cheap) Ways to Relieve Stress)

At this point in my life, I figure I should save as much of my energy as I possibly can for the important things. These are some ways I've found that I was wasting energy and I didn't even know it.

1. Allowing Background Noise

Background noise raises stress levels, making it harder for us to focus on concentrate. When we continually require ourselves to perform tasks with noise — even if it's just a droning air conditioner — we are using more energy than we need to.

While it might not be possible to eliminate all background noise, especially in our loud world, you can almost always do something to make it quieter. Buy some noise cancelling headphones and wear them without listening to anything, use earplugs, or turn off the TV to save your energy.

2. Giving Away Your Power

There are so many ways to give away your power. The basic idea, though, is that you give away your power when you say or perceive that someone or something else is in charge of your life (or an aspect of it), rather than you. This can be as simple as always waiting for directions before you take action, or more complex like blaming your genes for a medical condition that limits you.

When you give away your power, you give away your ability to make choices that will make your life better. For instance, you may not be able to do anything about an inherited medical condition, but you can still choose to live life to the full with that condition. Doing this will energize you.

3. Keeping Lists in Your Head

Sometimes, I find myself exhausted because I'm trying to remember so many things. When I take a moment to write them down, my mind can relax because I know I won't forget anything important.

The simple act of writing things down saves me energy now, but it also saves it later. If I insist on keeping all my lists in my head, I almost invariably forget something. That causes all sorts of stress and wastes so much mental energy later, when I have to scramble to pull something together or apologize profusely for missing an event.

4. Checking Email More Than Twice a Day

Most people really only need to check email twice a day. Most of your messages aren't urgent and, if someone has something that you really need to know right now, they can always call, text, or come find you themselves.

When you check email all the time, you're distracted all the time. Sometimes, you're even trying to check your email while you're doing something else. However, multitasking doesn't really work. You're actually switching rapidly between tasks, not doing several things at once. All of this switching takes energy, which you wouldn't have to spend if you could focus on each task alone.

5. Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

I like to be in control, even when that isn't possible. In the past, I've wasted a lot of energy trying to control people and situations that it simply was not within my grasp to control. When I can let go of those things, I find that I have more energy to spend on the things that it is within my power to change.

Letting go of the desire to control usually comes from places deep inside of us, and you probably won't be able to let it go overnight. Start by figuring out what you're afraid of that causes you to need so much control, and begin to work with the idea of letting go from there.

6. Working Long Hours

Working longer hours doesn't necessarily make you more productive. In fact, productivity tends to drop significantly the more hours you make yourself work.

When you're working long hours, you're wasting your energy. That energy would be better spent finding a way to rest and to rejuvenate, so that you can come back to your task later, at optimum levels of productivity. Even if you don't get every second of rest that you need, a short break will help you focus again, without expending so much energy just to keep yourself on task.

7. Being a Perfectionist

Perfectionists tend to be exhausted, and that makes sense. They are putting a lot of time and energy into getting every detail just right. Being that detail-oriented can, in and of itself, make you pretty tired. When you add into that the fact that perfectionists tend to forego rest when or struggle to achieve it when everything is not just so, it makes sense that they're tired.

It's good to want to do a good job, but it's impossible to be perfect. When you accept this, you'll find out where "good enough" is and you'll be able to stop working and rest once you've achieved that. This will save you all of the mental energy spent pouring over details, and you might sleep better, too.

Energy Saved

Most of these are little changes that save little pieces of your energy. When you add that energy up over days, weeks, months, and years, though, you're likely to find that you have more of yourself to give to the things you really care about.

So think about it. What will you do with the energy you save? What would you love to invest yourself in but have been too tired to even look at?

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Guest's picture

I think smartphones make it easy to waste a lot of mental energy. It's restorative to just have moments of quiet without constantly reading email, surfing the net, or even texting.