“150 minutes a week, heart pumping, working like an athlete; more than a brisk walk, break a sweat,” my friendly neighborhood neurologist suggests as the best thing we can do to preserve our cognitive ability. Though I’m familiar with studies showing the benefits of exercise for cognition, the 150 minute guideline and intense exertion were new to me.
It got me thinking about levels of cognitive effort we apply professionally. Have we come to feel that moderate effort is enough – in fact, beneficial? I mean cognitive effort: not just working hard, but thinking hard. If you had a FitBit device for your professional cognitive output, how would your tracking graph appear?
You might amble along with low to moderate cognitive output, peppered with periodic jolts of higher activity, and an absolute lack of intense effort. This level of effort may even put you above your peers!
But think what this means for your life at work. Beyond mere career stagnation, low cognitive effort may indicate a missed opportunity for significant engagement and fulfillment on your part, and the intrinsic rewards that come from putting your heart and brain into your work.