Three Genius Brain Hacks to Fight Exhaustion

Ford, Edison and Einstein had some interesting habits that kept their minds sharp and creative. What researchers found is that these same habits also kept them alert and motivated! They didn’t struggled with exhaustion because they learned to do these three things.


Years ago I read You Don’t Have to Go Home From Work Exhausted by Ann McGee-Cooper. Her book helped me pull out of a slump. It helped me regain energy and enthusiasm for my ministry. There are so many excellent ideas to balance your right and left brain so that you are more able to think, less exhausted and can sleep better at night. Here’s the first idea that really works for me.


Einstein played with ideas. He had many interests outside of physics and was able to toy with these when he was getting nowhere with a project that he was working on. Edison actually had toys on his desk so that when he was at the 500’s try to find the right filament for the incandescent light bulb he could take another break and get back to it. Little gadgets and other things that he would tinker at led to more patents than any other inventor but the distractions also brought him back with fresh eyes to his work.

I took McGee-Cooper Suggestions and made a list of freshing activities in different categories

  • 1 minute vacation –read a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip
  • 2 minute vacation – look at face book (set a timer!)
  • 5 minute vacation –pick up my guitar and play a song
  • 30 minutes call a friend
  • 1 hour –read a few chapters of a good book
  • Morning, afternoon, or evening –see a movie in a theatre
  • Full day –personal retreat –go for a hike


These short vacations relieve the tough analytic part of our brain and nourish our creative side. The result is renewed focus and energy.



Find Your Sleep Rhythm

Each of these geniuses recognized the times when they were most productive and made good use of this time. Edison probably had the strangest schedule choosing to sleep from 2-5 in the afternoon and 2-5 in the morning. He felt this schedule helped him to function at peak efficiency each day!


Popular author and blogger, Michael Hyatt is a strong supporter of the lunch time siesta. Check his blog about 5 reasons why you should nap every day! He points out that Physicist Albert Einstein napped each day—on top of getting ten hours of sleep each night. Hyatt is convinced that if you nap at the right time for the right amount of time you will have greater energy and be more productive.


Trust Your Intuition –Lean into your Gifts

Ann McGee-Cooper says this about the life changing coaching that she received from Robert Greenleaf.

Finding the courage to live into the gifts we have been given is very much a part of the journey of servant leadership. I felt so unprepared to the do the work Greenleaf asked me to do in those early years. And he just smiled and said “create dangerously…trust yourself and you’ll know. There is a quality of “surrender” into genius. You don’t muscle it forward. It is that humility to trust it to be there and to trust your spirit to guide you. When you are working from genius you may lose track of time. That is a universal indicator that your genius has stepped forward and you can ride the wave –there is something that carries you. What stops you is from the ego. What lifts you is when you’re connecting to the needs.


As we work with youth or young adults exhaustion and burn out are occupational habits. Learning how to balance our brain activity and maximize our energy reserves makes sense.


Which of these ideas can you make work for you today?
What other brain hacks or habits work for you? Please leave a comment.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. David Powellsays:

    Good advice here! Sometimes I am so stressed that i say to myself….i just need a good laugh to alleviate all the inner tension….that and a good night’s sleep.

    • Wow. Laughter really is the best medicine. What a great idea! I could use a good laugh… maybe need to read some Calvin and Hobbes!!

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