September 7, 2022

How to Recover from Acute Mental Fatigue and Build Stamina So You Can Work Well Without Burning Out

“We wouldn’t run a marathon and then feel like failures when our legs are tired. So why do we treat mental fatigue so differently?”
— Becky Kane, What to Do When Your Brain Is Too Tired to Think Straight

Hey, you.

Yes, you — the one browsing for another “how to work when you don’t feel like it” article and listening to the nth podcast on “finding focus and getting into flow state when you’re exhausted.”

Take this post as a gentle reminder: You’re not dumb or lazy for not being able to create or produce anything today.

Give your brain a break.

Here’s a deep dive on what mental fatigue is, why we experience it, and how we can build mental stamina. My takeaways are:

  1. Experiment with meal times and notice how what (and when) you eat affects your energy.
  2. Shake the lethargy off with movement — a 10-minute walk with your dog would be a great start.
  3. Get your Zzzs and set a sleeping and waking schedule to stick to.
  4. Work with your natural rhythms, cycles, and tendencies.
  5. Take breaks!
  6. Lighten your mental load by taking tasks and thoughts off your mind and onto your trusty to-do list capture system.
  7. Unplug at the end of your workday.
No matter the size of the business, there’ll always be an unlimited number of tasks left to do, processes left to improve, and contingencies left to plan. 

The work is truly never done, so regardless of how much effort is put in, you’ll inevitably end the day unfinished. All you can control is what you’re willing to let slide. Most days that should be most things.
Letting things slide is not a sign of neglect. It’s an acceptance of our finite allotment of time, motivation, skill, and knowledge. It’s a recognition that if there are 100,000 things you could do, the difference between getting 8 or 12 things done in a day is not really a 50% increase in productivity, but a rounding error in the grand picture of completion.
— David Heinemeier Hansson, Let it slide

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