I am well aware that mental energy is something you can exhaust. After writing difficult articles and doing tedious work, I feel my mind has reached its limit. The problem with this is, I’m frustrated I can’t squeeze out more work when I feel like this.
I want to do more work—though I realize I’m not a working machine—because I know that my most important task require time and hard work. I want to devote as much mental energy to accomplishing these important tasks and making my dreams happen.
Yet, doing this becomes hard when we have a million other decisions to exhaust our mental energy on.
I admit, when I truly want a productive day, I get frustrated I have to think about dinner and what to do for the evening. I want most of my mental energy—in the time I have allotted for work—to go toward my work.
So what’s the key? How do we reclaim our mental energy from things that keep us from accomplish our most important tasks?
The answer: we streamline our life.
Streamlining is the art of simplifying our decision-making—giving ourselves less decisions (or any) to make. Once we can create effective decision-free zones in parts of our lives, we can free that much mental energy toward getting our most important tasks done.
The truth is, there are many aspects to our lives that we care too much about—things that waste our time and energy. If we simplify in these areas, we can give ourselves less to think about.
Here are just a few examples of things we can care about less and streamline for a more efficient and productive life:
1. Changing our wardrobe
Do you know why people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same wardrobe each day? It’s a marketing ploy . . . just kidding. It’s to free them of decisions.
Do you know how much time you spend in the morning deciding on what to wear? If it’s too much to count, this point is for you.
I’m not saying to wear the same clothes each day. What I am saying is that you could possibly benefit from wearing a signature style.
I try doing this with my wardrobe. For the longest time, people knew me as the guy with white pants, because as you guessed it, I wore white pants (not the same pair) every day. I loved the freedom in decision it gave me.
I love how Jesus does this to a lesser degree with the disciples. In Mark 6:9, He tells the disciples to not take an extra tunic. People usually wear two jackets when they travel so they have something to change into when they arrive somewhere. Jesus did this to either lighten the load, not make them appear too flashy, or as I would like to think of it, give them less to care about.
We too can give ourselves more freedom by choosing a signature style, and sticking to it.
2. Eating different meals
This is the one I struggle with the most. I know the health benefits of switching up your diet, but if I’m honest, I could eat the same meal for days and be fine. I don’t get bored of eating certain meals. I like having a meal I could simply warm in the microwave for days on end, but I don’t do this because I believe it benefits my family to eat different meals.
But what if you made a healthy meal your default when you want to keep busy? What if you built a habit of repeatedly eating a healthy meal throughout the week? It doesn’t hurt to try! Free yourself from the decision of having to come up with what to do for dinner.
3. Where to go for the day
I have a collection of places I like to go to work. I typically don’t like switching up and trying a new place, because that adds one more place to the collection of locations I have to decide on.
Instead of going to a different place each time you want to work or hang out, decide on a familiar spot. I’m not saying to do this every time. That would be boring. Just when you want to devote a day primarily to getting work done.
4. What to work on for the day
Sometimes you have tons of projects you need to focus on, but other times, you can simplify by giving yourself just one project to do. You can streamline your workflow by stating one mission or project, and then only doing the work that pertains to accomplishing that one mission.
You don’t have to hop between different projects. Just stick to your mission.
There are more ways to streamline your life to make it more efficient, but the four above typically deal with daily actions. I believe Jesus lived with an intentionality that cut down on these decisions. The disciples ate bread and fish, they didn’t wear extra clothes, they would hang around the temples, and they would stick to their mission. Jesus streamlined their decision-making so they could make headway with their ministry.
We have the opportunity to do the same with our life. Simplify, and get started.