News & Insights

Event Highlights: ‘Cognitive Energy – the foundation for going beyond resilience’ with Vanessa Bennett CEO, Next Evolution Performance

Cognitive Energy

We recently held an insightful event in conversation with Vanessa Bennett, CEO of Next Evolution Performance. During this, we discussed how cognitive energy is the foundation for high performance, and how we can begin to understand and work with the energy credits we have each day.

Through tough times with covid and lack of control over the state of the world, many people are feeling cognitive burnout. Finance professionals are often dealing with these issues head-on, which can lead to even higher levels of stress and burnout.

How can we work smarter, not harder with our cognitive energy and avoid unnecessary burnout? Below are some of our key insights from this event.


We kicked off the event with a poll:

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being you have your maximum level of energy) what is your number today?

Cognitive Energy


Why should we pay more attention to our cognitive energy levels?

  • Cognitive energy is the foundation for high performance.
  • Do more in less time with less effort and avoid unnecessary burnout.
  • Live life with less sickness and burnout, and less unproductive stress.
  • Improves emotional regulation and interpersonal communications.


How Optimal Energy works

  • The brain and the body are connected, and strength and vitality are required in all areas to achieve optimal energy each day (100 “energy credits” per day).
  • Includes the neural, the mental, and the physical.
  • When you spend more than you have in any of these areas, that is when burnout occurs.
  • We must move away from the concept of time management, and instead focus on the concept of energy management and energy spend.

Cognitive Energy

Managing stress

  • There is such a thing as productive and unproductive stress.
  • The brain requires a certain amount of stress to perform at its best (optimal peak performance).

Cognitive Energy

Inspiration from Athletes: Periodisation Principles

  • We have been taught that overwhelm is good when neuroscience does not support that.
  • Adopt periodisation principles from athletes; who train medium, heavy, and light, and in a consistent upward motion.
  • Helps to avoid injury and burnout, and is a framework for how to best plan your days, weeks, and months.

Periodisation planning tips

  • Book annual leave 12 months in advance. Not knowing when your next holiday is like training for a marathon without knowing the date.
  • Plan your weeks based on heavy, medium and light tasks, looking at tasks from both a work and non-work perspective.
  • Neuroscience says that we have 4 hours a day on average for heavy cognitive work, so pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day to determine when your 4 hours is.
  • Don’t spend energy credits getting angry at yourself or stressed for what was never neuroscientifically possible to begin with.
  • Get away from the idea of urgency and more towards energy management.


Poll: Mindfulness is just the tip of the iceberg

Other than mindfulness / meditation, do you actively train your mental fitness every day?

Cognitive Energy

WHO on Mental Health:

“A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”


Mental fitness – what is it?

  • Physical fitness for the brain.
  • Your brain is a muscle. The more you think a certain way, the more pathways and neural connections are formed (the bigger the muscles get).
  • Mental fitness is self-directed neuroplasticity, where we are invited to build more positive and helpful neural circuits.
  • Should be done proactively instead of reactively.


Good mental fitness – what does it look like?

  • Psychological capital: hope, resilience, self efficacy (confidence) and optimism.
  • To see life as filled with opportunities versus obstacles – Vanessa recommends reading: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.
  • Understanding that when you are tired, you are in survival mode.


Some Mental fitness tools

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is the quickest and easiest way to reset the brain.
  • Practice gratitude
  • Think about the opportunity: “I get to” vs “I have to”
  • Try doing random acts of kindness
  • Think of your Ta-da list instead of your To-do list
  • Celebrate yourself: #crushinglife



Final thoughts

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao.Tzu

We hope that you enjoyed this insightful event with Vanessa Bennett and we would like to thank her and all participants for spending their valuable energy credits to attend and interact with us. If you are interested to learn more, check out our event highlights video.

If you would like to learn more about any of these topics, we encourage you to get in touch with Vanessa via email.

Connect with Vanessa






Explore resources

On hybrid working

On energy credits / cognitive energy

On stress

On psychological safety


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