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Why You Should Evaluate How You're Spending Your Mental Energy

Published 3/29/2017

In today's episode, we'll be talking about a simple reality of mental awareness. The first step into mental awareness can change your behavior - that's exactly what we'll talk about in today's episode.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What do you spend your time thinking about? We're going to talk about that in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. Before we jump into today's episode, I want to encourage you to go and sign up for Soft Skills Weekly. It is a weekly curation of tons of content around Soft Skills. We're doing all kinds of articles and books and that kind of stuff. Really great content that I'm finding each and every week. It's basically the stuff that I'm finding valuable and I don't really have a way of sharing it here on the show. So instead, I decided to create another avenue to share these resources with you. Go and check it out, Soft Skills Weekly.com. Thank you so much for listening today. We're talking about how you spend your brain energy and really it's about how you spend your time and the time that you're thinking. A lot of us go through our days and we don't really consciously think about what we're thinking about. Let me phrase that another way. We aren't thinking about how we are spending our thinking energy. Most of the time we wake up and we go through our routines and we localize what we're thinking about to whatever the current situation is. So we're thinking about what we're going to wear and then we're thinking about what we're going to eat and then we're thinking about the fact that we need to lock our door on the way out and we forgot to take the trash out today and then we're thinking about driving and our brains are actively engaged but we aren't really taking a moment to take a step back and observe what we are thinking about. And it's kind of an amazing phenomenon because we can go multiple days and weeks, perhaps years of our lives without really taking a step back or another way of looking at it is kind of zooming out away from the small picture and elevating ourselves up a little bit away from our day to day activities and thinking about how we are spending our brain energy. Imagine that you are renting the most expensive server on something like Lenoad. Lenoad is not sponsoring today's episode but let's say you're renting their biggest server. How would you spend the resource of that server? Now, how much more important is your personal time? Your personal brain energy or brain allotment? Whatever you want to call this, your cognitive attention. Now by no means am I saying that you should, for example, not think about locking your door and not think about what you're wearing today. That's not what we're saying here. Instead what we're saying is it's important that you take even the smallest amount of time to evaluate how you are using your brain power, right? And we're not trying to turn brain power into something like a battery that drains down even though there's some compelling evidence that says that our decision making power is kind of like that. That we can only make so many decisions in a given day. We've talked about that plenty of times on the show before. But what we are talking about is awareness. I'm going to tell you kind of a little story from my life that I've seen kind of shift our behavior at my house, the people who live here, my wife and I specifically, our dog doesn't really have the ability to be aware of her cognitive attention. So it's just my wife and I. And a practice that we hadn't always kept was a monthly budget. And it was something that we adopted a few years ago. And this is something that a lot of people actually don't do. A surprising number of people are not aware of their monetary situation. In fact, you would probably be surprised if you do keep a budget. How many of your friends don't? And a lot of the time this decision not to keep a budget is because people don't feel any pain or perhaps they don't see a particular benefit to keeping one. And so what they've always done, which is nothing, seems to work fine. Now, this episode isn't about telling you that you need to have a budget, even though it is a pretty, probably pretty good idea to make one if you never have. But instead, I want to tell you about this profound effect that keeping a monthly budget has on the way I think about money. Now that I keep a monthly budget, I understand and connect with much more closely the money that I earn and the money that I spend. And I have a much more clear understanding of the value generation of the work that I do. It's a very interesting thing that happens because very similar to a recent episode where we talked about the first guideline, when we're taking what is kind of put on automatic, right, for a lot of people. Once again, they've never created a budget. They're kind of running on automatic. They're using the same system they've always used, which is something like intuition mixed with blind luck. And the moment that you take that step into cognitive awareness, the first guideline was an episode about that. But the moment that you take that step into awareness with something like money, now you become aware and suddenly your behavior changes. The reality is whenever I sit down and make my budget, each and every month, I walk away with actionable thoughts. What does that mean? Well, when I do my budget, I see things that I've set goals for or I see things that I've set restrictions for. And I have to think each and every month, how do I want to put my resources into various aspects of my life? How do I want to save my money or how do I want to invest my money? How much am I willing to spend on giving to other people? What goals do I have with my money? You see, what this does is it creates a cognitive understanding of the very simple minute decisions that I'm making with my money and getting it's connecting those decisions all the way up to the much larger kind of meta goals that I have with my money. So I walk away from my monthly budgeting with actionable ideas on how I should behave. And with these ideas in mind, my behavior is different than it would be if I hadn't done the budget planning. So here's what I want you to do. This is kind of the whole summary of today's episode is actually thinking about how you're spending your energy. And in this particular scenario, everyone spends their time thinking about something. And I want you to evaluate how you are thinking. What are you thinking about? How do you spending your brain energy on? So here's a simple kind of homework exercise for you, right? Not every day. I'm not even asking you to do this every day. But once a month, I want you to have the equivalent of a budget meeting, but with yourself about your career. Quite simply spend 30 minutes thinking about the state of your career. How are you investing in your career? How are you spending your time at work? Who are you spending your time with in your professional life? See, the truth is most people don't do this. Most people are not evaluating their career like this in an intentional way. I talked about a very similar concept with Dane Miller when he was on the podcast. If you have not listened to those episodes, highly recommend you go listen to those. But we talk about this concept of chess moves, right? And we're thinking multiple moves ahead. How much growth and how much decisive ability would you be able to cultivate if once a month you think a few steps ahead? Once a month you invest 30 minutes into actively managing the way you are spending your professional energy. I hope this has been a challenge to you. I hope you will actually take this idea and go through this exercise. Take the 30 minutes to invest in your career. By simply thinking a few steps ahead, thinking about how you're spending your time, how you believe you should spend your time creating that kind of mental budget. I believe this is an absolutely essential practice that anyone who is looking to grow their career should adopt. So thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you enjoyed today's episode, make sure you subscribe. Of course, we always appreciate ratings and reviews and iTunes. This show is not for everyone. And it's not because we have explicit language on it or anything. Instead, it's because a lot of the things we present are extremely challenging. And they're challenging because they demand a lot of work. They demand a lot of contribution. They demand a lot of commitment and excellence. Not everybody is cut out for that, not everybody wants to put forth the hard work. And so if you are listening to this show and you are one of those people, you're one of the few who are willing to put in that hard work, I'd love for you to reach out to me. You can email me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. You can also find me on Twitter at ad developert. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. And until next time, enjoy your tea.