You only have 4-6 hours of true cognitive energy each day. So how do you make your whole work day productive?

Sorry to break the news to you but according to neuroscience you only have around four to six hours a day of full cognitive energy – where you can really do those heavy energy tasks. The average is four hours but given that you are reading this blog, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you fall into the high performance category and that you’ve managed to train your cognitive energy up to six hours a day.

So either way, that’s still less than the average work day, and WAY less than the longer work day that many high performers work.

So that raises the question…

Should we only be working four to six hours a day or can we still manage to make the rest of our work day productive?

Good news: we can still make a long work day very productive. Bad news: it takes some understanding of neuroscience, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for everyone. More good news: we’ve done the heavy reading so we can tell you what you need to know!

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Know the difference between time and energy

We all know how to measure time, but energy…… not so much. This is why we developed our Energy Credit Performance Mastery System. It’s a system that allows you to measure your energy usage. So imagine you start with 100 energy credits (and not everyone does but again, benefit of the doubt) the trick is to monitor the energy usage of your tasks rather than time they take.

As an example, you may have a task that only takes you 15 minutes but drains 30 of your 100 energy credits. Productive use of time? No! The goal is to treat your energy credits like little nuggets of gold and to invest them very wisely. So in that case it might make sense to get someone else to do that task who finds it only drains three of their daily energy credits, so that you can save your valuable energy credits on other more productive tasks.

If you conserve your energy credits, you will get essentially get more effective time in your day.

Spend more time on tasks that take less energy credits

You can’t operate under full energy drain your whole day. And before you say, “but doctors perform operations for hours each day”, well there is enough research to say that they make mistakes too, and if it’s voluntary surgery it’s worth being a little picky with the time of the day you have your surgery.

So working on the assumption that you can’t operate at full cognitive energy all day, the good news is that we often have many tasks that don’t take full Heavy cognitive energy. We call these Lighter and Medium tasks and these are also very productive and a great way to conserve energy credits. So outsourcing or sharing tasks around your team according to whether people find tasks Heavy, Medium or Light is a super smart productivity strategy.

Match your tasks to your cognitive energy through the day

Different people have their cognitive energy peaks at different times of the day. The trick is to make sure you are matching your tasks to the cognitive energy you have at the time.

If you are a morning person, you are better to work on Heavy tasks in the morning. If you are not a morning person, trying to do Heavy tasks in the morning could mean that the task takes you twice as many energy credits and potentially twice as long to do in the morning as it would later. Again, failure to manage energy leads to very poor use of time and increased, unnecessary effort.

So by understanding a little neuroscience, how you are built to operate and our Energy Credit Performance Mastery System, you can make every minute of your day productive and have it feel way easier.

If you are interested in exploring many other aspects of energy management to increase your productivity and decrease your effort, please get in touch.


If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.