4 Bad Micro-Habits That Drain Your Cognitive Battery

These stop you from doing important work.

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Your mind is like a battery.

It gets depleted when you use it. And it needs to be recharged from time to time. I’ve been playing with this metaphor for a while to try to answer a few questions —

  • What are the habits that deplete my energy unnecessarily?
  • What are the fastest ways to recharge my mental battery — that is — where can I get a fast charger for my brain? 
  • How to make sure the health of my mental battery stays close to 100% lifelong?

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In this article, I want to address the first question.

Here are 4 bad micro-habits that drain your cognitive battery:

1. Keeping your table untidy

I noticed this about a month ago.

An untidy table acts as a guard you have to deal with before you enter into your work state. It’s “I have to clean my table” and then “I have to get to work.” This creates unnecessary mental friction.


At times, you’ll clear your table — and get to work. But other times, “I have to clean my table” becomes an excuse for you not to get into work-state. And you procrastinate.

Here’s how I fixed it:

I took a tape and divided my table into two unequal parts. The left column is meant for my stuff — books, pens, wallet, and keys. Basically, anything that I’m not using for my work. And the bigger right-hand part is where I do my work. I keep this part entirely empty except for my laptop and the love of my life — a hot cup of coffee.


I know what you’re thinking. It seems stupid. But trust me, it’s actually astonishing how well this simple fix might work. Whenever I want to work — either my table is prepared for that, or all I have to do is shift all my stuff to the left side and get to work — it’s easier than worrying about “where?” to keep my stuff.

This is just an example. But you get the idea. Do whatever needs to be done — and keep your workplace prepared for important work.

2. Other guards that prevent you from getting to work

  • Are you going to work today or not?
  • How much will you work?
  • When will you work?
  • Where will you work?
  • What will you be working on?

Each of these questions is a guard to be dealt with. If you try to deal with them in real-time — it’s very tough to get to work. Almost impossible. And did I mention — stupid?

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Here’s how to fix them:

All these questions should be addressed beforehand, not when you’re supposed to work. For instance, the night before I answer all these questions by creating a schedule and reaching for a work statement:

Yes. I will write one article tomorrow at 11 AM in my room on the topic “Micro-habits that drain your cognitive battery”.

If you see, that statement answers all the questions beforehand. So all I have left to do is work.

3. Being turned “on” all the time

In today’s day and age, it’s easy to be in work mode all the time due to two reasons:

  • You work remotely or online. So you don’t necessarily have a “9–5” window for work. All hours turn into work hours.
  • You have a side hustle. So after your 9–5, you’re still in work mode.

This obviously drains you cognitively, and even ruins your battery health in the long term. Being in work mode even at night raises your cortisol levels. And cortisol is a hormone that should be minimum at night. This interferes with your sleep.


Here’s how you can fix it by having a work shutdown ritual.

Set a cut-off time from work mode and announce it loudly so that your mind actually knows that you’re done for the day.

Decide on a time, say 7 PM, to have your work shutdown ritual. And after this, chill out.

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4. Things taking up your cognitive RAM

We all have chores to complete in life. But most people don’t unload these chores off of their minds by writing them down. So for instance, let’s say it’s Tuesday and you have to do something on Friday, but you haven’t written it down or scheduled it for Friday — you’re unnecessarily keeping it on your mind for 3 extra days. Mentally tiring.

These unloaded chores take up space in your cognitive RAM — and hence, affect your performance when you sit down to do important work. They’re like dripping faucets at the back of your mind — slowly but surely, depleting your cognitive energy.

Here’s how to fix it:

Write down your chores. Schedule them. For instance, I complete all my chores on Thursday at 4 PM. So whenever something comes up during the week, I don’t do it immediately unless it’s urgent. And I don’t keep it in mind to do it later.


I unload them immediately on a list. And at Thursday 4 PM, I check that list and knock them off all at once. As Matthew McConaughey once said,

"I write things down not to remember, but so that I can forget."

Forget your chores until you actually need to remember them. Save up space in your mind.


These micro-habits suck up your cognitive battery and prevent you from doing work that matters.

  • Keeping your work-table messy.
  • Answering questions about your work in real-time, like when you’ll work or what you’ll work on.
  • Being in work mode all the time.
  • Letting chores occupy your cognitive RAM.

RELATED: 20 Unsexy Micro-Habits That Save Me 30 Hours Every Week


Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.