Why your mental energy is the new productivity paradigm

As humanity progresses, new untapped resources are optimized. That new resource right now is mental energy.

The big challenge used to be moving objects: How do we get the honey out of that bee hive? How do you get this spear into that gazelle? How do we make it so that tiger can’t eat us?

Then, it was about organizing people: How do we cooperate without cutting off each other’s heads? How do we build a pyramid for the Pharaoh?

Then, it was about repetitive tasks: How should we divide up the tasks of manufacturing this car? How many bolts can this guy screw in in a day?

Then, it was about managing time: I have eight potential accounting clients today, but I also need time to prepare their taxes. How do I fit it all in?

Then, it was about managing priorities: The market is down today, and I want to panic, but it’s more important that I work on my long-term goals.

Then, it was about managing mental clarity: Emails are coming in faster than I can handle all of them. It’s overwhelming. How can I feel in control?

It’s not that we’ve got all of the above completely figured out. But we’ve got each them figured out enough to move on to the next level.

Once you’ve got your priorities straight, once you’ve got your calendar filled up, once you’ve got your life and work organized so you can think clearly, what can you do?

Think about what you can do in one minute. Maybe you answer an email. Maybe you publish a tweet. Maybe you do nothing. Or, maybe you have a breakthrough idea that completely transforms your life and business.

The difference in impact amongst these options can be zero to one.

What do you need in order to have that breakthrough idea? Yes, it helps to have food in your stomach, and to not have a tiger stalking you. Yes, you need priorities to focus your efforts, and the mental clarity to think.

Once you have all of that in place, you need the right mental energy. Sometimes your mental energy is good for having a breakthrough idea. Other times, you really should do nothing so you can allow that breakthrough idea to incubate.

Even though creative insights seem to come suddenly, they take preparation, and they take fresh mental energy. Sometimes you have the capacity for these insights, and sometimes you don’t. Your creative energy ebbs and flows.

Mental energy is the next resource that you can optimize. If you can harness your best mental energy, you’ll have an edge on your peers. They may be too busy answering emails, tweaking their calendars, or running from a swarm of bees.

I’m writing Getting Art Done to help you manage your mental energy and make your masterpiece. Sign up so you’ll know when it’s available.

If you enjoyed this story, please recommend and share to help others find it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

The Mission publishes stories, videos, and podcasts that make smart people smarter. You can subscribe to get them here.