In overloading our brain we limit our ability to perform at our best. This is why finding ways to manage the use of our brain is important to our effectiveness.
Each day we’re faced with making thousands of decisions. Some decisions are mundane, like what cereal to have. Others are more serious, like whether to sell our home or not.
The thing is, decision making is taxing on our working memory — the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, comprehension, learning and processing, and working with new information.
So what can we do?
The mental demands of responsibility
I occasionally feel overwhelmed with the number of thoughts going through my mind, let alone the decisions I need to make. And in the past I’ve suffered with tension headaches as a result of the load.
When this first started happening I began to see that just like the muscles I train in the gym, my mind could only take so much before it felt like it was going to fail.
So I started to consider how to look after my mind and ease the stressful load, and soon realised that a simple solution was to begin occupying less space in my mind.
This was good to know because it meant I could start having more control over my mental well-being and have more mental capacity to function at my best.
Here are 4 things I practice that have worked for me.
#1. Avoid unimportant decision making
Though it might sound strange, the first is to remove the need to make decisions altogether. One example of this for me is having a simple wardrobe consisting of mainly black t-shirts and jeans.
Also by taking a few minutes to put out the clothes I need for the morning — gym, work, or DIY — the night before, I don’t have to decide what to wear when I wake up, so can give my mind to more important things.
#2. Use routines to remove distractions
There are loads of distractions throughout the day. Text messages, phone-calls, and countless app notifications can pull our minds from giving our best to our most important work.
So though some may not like or understand it, I remove these distractions by turning off notifications and regulating calls and emails.
For example, by limiting when I check email, I reduce the amount of decisions I’d have needed to make had I read them on an impromptu basis throughout the day.
#3. Store ideas on an external (brain) hard drive
Some things are stored on my internal mental hard drive. For example, significant memories and dates. But I keep other things on an external mental hard drive that I can refer to when needed.
For this I use Evernote, of which I’ve been a fan for some years now. Evernote is a brilliant app that allows me to organise my thoughts and ideas into a single digital work space that I can access at anytime.
Using Evernote helps to keep my internal hard drive free, as I can dictate, write, or even store photographs for later reference whilst on the go.
#4. Share thoughts and feelings with others
I’m by nature a secret introvert.
What that means is that I can be quite intense in my thinking and have a constantly running inner dialogue that can take it’s toll on my mental energy.
Though it has its benefits, my continuous thinking can lead to an overuse of my working memory and become a distraction preventing me from giving proper focus to other important tasks.
In sharing, either by writing in my digital journal or speaking to someone, I free up the space in my mind that those thoughts and feelings would otherwise keep occupied.
Wrapping it up
Our brains can only manage so much and our capacity to make good decisions depletes throughout the day.
So with needing to make decisions each day, it’s key to our effectiveness that we limit as many non-critical decisions as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of decision fatigue.
Keeping space free in our brain for high level decisions, reflection, and idea creation, is key to performing at our best.
What do you do to keep space free in your mind in order to perform at your best? Share in the comments below.
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