I run a twice-monthly open mic night in my local pub. Musicians turn-up to play while I fill in any gaps, encourage appreciation and roughly hold it all together.
Last night was quieter than usual – the end of January perhaps, a long slog since the early-December payday. That’s fine though, and it’s a good excuse for me to work through a few songs I don’t normally get chance to play.
At the end of any such a night I find, just for a few minutes, that I have to work a bit harder to remember simple things like someone’s name.
We have limited reserves of almost everything: it’s why we have to sleep, of course. But it’s more specific than that. As I work through a few songs, especially if they’re less-familiar, I’m delving deeper into my memory. The chord shapes and progressions, the lyrics, the beat.
Decision making is exhausting. You have a finite amount of mental energy, just as you have a finite amount of physical energy.
It’s why it’s so easy to buy a bar of chocolate at the supermarket checkout after you’ve spent thirty-minutes thinking about whether to buy 3 litres of fabric softener for £3.75 or 4 litres for £4.95, how much fruit and veg you should get given that you had to throw out three rotten apples last week and why on earth they always seem to hide the eggs.
There are two things you can do: one is to train, to practice. Much like if you want to get fitter, you exercise. The second is to help yourself. One of the reasons meal planning for the week is popular is that you can go shopping and not have to make so many decisions. Even the humble shopping list helps.
We’ll dip in and out of this over the next couple of weeks. But what techniques do you use (or try to use) to reduce the mental load? Let me know in the comments below.