Q. I’ve heard you speak about the difference between “doing it well” and “doing it easily.” If you do it “well” won’t you do it “easily,” and why even try to figure it out?

A. Having learned to do something well doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do it easily (energy-efficiently) in terms of brain function. Typically, practice can help you complete a specific task more easily than when you originally were developing the required skills, but there will be an accompanying energy requirement that reflects an individual brain’s own innate advantage. The energy expenditure can be efficient or intensive.

For example, I have learned how to balance my check book and can do it “well” (with a minimum of errors). This specific task, however, is not “easy” for my brain to accomplish. Because it is energy intensive I tended to procrastinate.

As to the second part of your question, figuring out what your brain does energy-efficiently gives you the opportunity to manage your brain’s energy expenditures more effectively so that your brain energy lasts as long as possible (studies indicate levels of brain energy tend to decrease as the brain ages). Now I trade out the task of balancing my checkbook with someone whose brain does it very energy efficiently.

Become aware of the way in which your brain expends energy and identify tasks that are energy intensive versus those that are energy efficient. Here are several categories to consider:

  • Tasks your brain does well (minimum errors) but that require large amounts of energy to accomplish and that you might procrastinate if you could so without major consequences
  • Tasks your brain has difficulty doing well and that are also energy intensive
  • Tasks your brain does well (or could do well with learning and practice) and that are also energy efficient based on your own innate preferences

Tasks that fall within this third category are often energy-efficient for your brain.