Dr Perpetua Neo
Cognitive Energy #FTW

Real ways to boost your brain energy

[This DrP article was first published on Next Evolution Performance]

Imagine if you woke up with 100 energy credits everyday. The things you do either take away from that, or add to that. So you have to spend these gold nuggets wisely.

Then imagine if you had poorer sleep, more background stress, or compromised physical health– you wake up with way less than 100 energy credits. Seen this way, we learn to stop taking our energy for granted.

Here are some quick actionable ways to boost your cognitive energy.

1. Seek clarity, create clarity in your culture especially if you’re a leader

All that guesswork regarding someone’s role and the scope of their work, what and when they’re supposed to be where– that chews up needless energy. Yes, as hybrid cultures take deeper foothold, things change. Nonetheless, if you’re a leader, create clarity. Ask your team what’s unclear, and put it in simple writing. And if you’re not a leader, ask. Prepare your questions beforehand, so the session goes about smoothly.

2. What can you invest foundational time in, to make the future easier?

I have more than 100 types of plants at home; watering them used to take twenty minutes, twice a week. Whilst that is technically an okay amount of time, it is cognitively exhausting to my ADHD brain. Especially when it’s 10pm or I’ve just returned from a workout. And when I looked at my garden everyday, I started to resent it. In January, I bought 9 beautiful black concrete pots, and spent 6 hours designing and then transplanting every single plant. The result? My watering is now down to 3.5 minutes. Everytime I look at my garden, it energises me.

There are plenty of things we do because we think we’re supposed to do them, right down to self-care where we think we need that bubble bath or latte, because #selfcare. The truth is, unless those float your boat, you don’t have to do them. Instead, take the time to find what recharges and replenishes you.

In truth, self-care and mental health really are unsexy and unglamourous.

  • It could be:–
    Taking care of your finances, by spending a few hours to create a large system and then automating it (I love Ramit Sethi’s Conscious Spending Plan)
  • Figuring out the activities you love to do yourself, and with others; and scheduling them in automatically
  • Setting two alarms to make sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Spending time to figure out which meal plan you want delivered to you, so you eat a few nourishing meals a week.
  • Investing 3 minutes to turn off all the unnecessary notifications on your phone (and a minute before then to decide which you’d like to turn off instead of a blanket ‘all’ just because you read this).
  • Deciding when you’d like to use social media, the number of times you’ll divert that autopilot response to doing something else (e.g. reading, learning a language), rather than an all-out ‘social media detox’.

Or at work, they could be template emails you design for the most regular emails you send. Such as:–

  • A checking-in email for your team.
  • A summary email after each meeting with basic headers like what you’ve agreed on, who does what, when does who follow up.

3. What privileges can you stop feeling guilty for?

Ahh first world privileges. Guilt. So much unnecessary energy haemorrhaged that way. It is all-too-easy to compare your journey to someone who struggled much more. Maybe someone opened doors for you, or maybe you were at the right place at the right time.

Whatever it is, keep comparing and it’s a senseless race to the bottom.

Here I leave you with Lily Rose-Depp’s response to being called a Nepo Baby:–

“Maybe you get your foot in the door, but you still just have your foot in the door. There's a lot of work that comes after that.”

Here’s another thought: use that energy you’d otherwise expend on guilt, to open someone else’s door.

4. Stop wasting time trying to be 1000% authentic.

That extra zero wasn’t a typo. There is so much talk about authenticity and pressure to be real. But, what are the guardrails and boundaries around that?

So maybe you’re an immensely private person and don’t want to share about your private troubles. Perhaps you like to share only after you’ve gotten over to the other side. It is no one’s right to mine details you don’t want to give. Or, your Instagram feed is your gratitude diary, so no whining goes on there.

Authentic authenticity comes with a responsibility-– it is not the red carpet to emotionally vomit on someone else, or hurt someone else. Or, as a very wise catchy headline I once read said, “Your introversion is not an excuse to be an asshole”.

Here’s the deal about authenticity.

When you’re triggered and your fear centre takes over, that rage/fear/anxiety/despair you’re feeling is authentic to you at the very moment. So is the calmness once you ground yourself. But unleashing everything all at once might give everyone more messes to clean up.

Authenticity could be as simple as, “I’m going through something challenging right now, so please bear with me. I (don’t) need solutions, I’m simply informing you”.

5. What baseline conditions in your life do you need to accept?

Recently, I had an epiphany as I read about how a few top estheticians and dermatologists shared about their own recurring skincare issues. Much as I intellectually understood that I have psoriasis, an autoimmune issue, I was always angry whenever I saw bumps on my skin after washing my face. Somehow, reading that piece showed me that everyone has issues they grapple with, and I shouldn’t expect my skin to be that of that flawless poreless friend that I have. That epiphany gifted me a strange sense of emotional composure.

And then I sat down to write down the things the baseline conditions in my life I have to accept; things I was in denial of and lived as though I was doggedly overriding them. Tinnitus, multiple huge mouth ulcers, falling sick at a more frequent rate than my peers, and . . alot more. It’s not pretty.

But instead of feeling sorry for myself or fighting myself, I learnt to really appreciate the good days.

And I’ve miraculously noticed that I’ve become more energetic.

This doesn’t just happen with physical conditions.

It could be busy seasons at work. Temporary times when money is tighter or there are greater fears in the context of a recession. Illness or the suffering of a loved one.

Acknowledging these-- just like acknowledging our emotions-- doesn’t mean knuckling under. Rather, when we stop wrestling with them-- oscillating between denial and overwhelm-- but instead looking them in the eye, a new equanimity sets in from which we ride the waves.

6. Feeling fulfilled at the end of the day, or . . engineering future days when you feel that way.

It was so easy for me to utter ‘nothing’ (and truly believe it) when someone I haven’t seen for a while asks me what’s great. Anyone who knows a fraction of my life knows that ‘nothing’ is utter bullshit.

The deal is, it is so easy to spend a whole day doing loads– even great, meaningful and fun stuff– and not be able to take stock of the day. Ditto the week. Ditto the month. For that, I learnt to do The End Of Day One Liner.

It’s where I list the things I’ve done as a quick summary. They can look anything like:–


In this summary, I add the things that mean something to me, from facials to massages to exploring a new place to doing a long fast. At the end of every week, I collate my One Liners. And I review that every month, quarterly, and then yearly.

This practise allows me to see what I’ve been focusing on; how symmetrical or lopsided my energy allocation is; and how much I’m taking care of myself, my loved ones, my health and business. Based on this, I can then tweak how I’d like to spend my energy.

And best of all, as I take stock of every day, I feel good everyday.

Keen to really boost your cognitive energy in a way that’s tailored to you? Book your free Chemistry Call today, and let’s get started!