Have you ever spent hours doing something and then realized later that it was a complete waste of time? This is especially frustrating when the activity itself had absolutely no purpose or benefit. I call this empty-calorie time—we waste time doing nothing, but still use valued brain energy.

Leaders are extremely purposeful with their mental calories. They don’t waste mental energy on junk activities. They consume and stick with nutritious mental nuggets.

Some reasons why we are sucked into empty calorie activities:
• Too tired to do anything productive
• Want to stop working, but feel too guilty to take a real break
• Are bored
• Are procrastinating from a project or activity that we dread

According to one study, when people were mind-wandering, they reported feeling happy only 56% of the time. That is because in mind-wandering, our brain can’t recuperate and it can’t build–it’s stuck in limbo. Like eating cotton candy when you are hungry, you are eating, but it isn’t helping much.

Leaders are extremely judicious with their mental energy. If they want to take a break, they do a real break–not watching TV or skimming Facebook. They let their mind take a real break with exercise, meditation, yoga or creative activities, which actually boost brain activity.

Try for yourself
As more and more devices, games and social networks enter into our lives, we have to protect our time. If you need a break today, actually take a mental break–don’t fill it with empty calorie activities.

Reply to this email to let me know how it felt!

Read more about the benefits of mind-wandering here.


Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People