Many of us don’t have a time management issue, but rather an energy issue. We come home after an eight-hour workday exhausted, we experience an energy slump midafternoon that threatens our productivity, or worse, we start the day tired! I would argue that this is a symptom of the “always on” lifestyle many of us keep. One of the ways to maximize you energy is to observe and manipulate the ebb and flow of your energy. Here are 10 that affect your energy level. Manage them to drive your personal productivity through the roof:
- Caffeine: If you routinely ingest caffeine, say, a cup of coffee every morning, you might be addicted to caffeine. Your body is used to getting this drug—one cup a day is your normal—and when you don’t get it, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as a headache, fatigue, or moodiness. Additionally, you are riding a high-low rollercoaster, experiencing a crash later in the day. So if this is the way you use caffeine, there are no benefits to it–only drawbacks. But caffeine can have performance benefits, both in sports as well as cognitive performance. The trick is to avoid daily use and use it strategically instead—when better-than-normal performance is absolutely crucial.
- Diet: Certain food allergies or sensitivities may cause fatigue, but that depends on your unique physiology. One aspect of diet that is universal is that digestion of food takes energy. You clearly notice this a few minutes after Thanksgiving dinner, an outing at Olive Garden, or perhaps, right after lunch! It seems like somewhat of a contradiction that skipping a meal, eating less, or delaying a meal can give you more energy. Experiment with timing your meals differently—place them at a time when you can relax afterwards and avoid a feast when you need to focus.
- Sleep: Many of us get either not enough sleep or not enough quality sleep. If you wake several times a night or you are sleeping in a noisy or lit environment, the quality of your sleep might be lacking. Though seven hours is the rule of thumb, if you are having a particularly hectic week, there are times your body may require more rest than usual.
- Sunlight: A lack of sunlight may lead to a Vitamin D deficiency, especially in the winter when it’s always dark, but sometimes also in the summer when we slather on the sunblock. Plus, we associate darkness with sleep, so when the days get shorter, you may find yourself getting tired earlier.
- Environment: Personally, when I walk into a cluttered or messy room, I am more likely to feel overwhelmed and tired. When I walk into a neat, minimalistic, open space, I feel energized and motivated. There is some evidence that the state of our surroundings affect women more than men, so this piece may be more relevant to the ladies. Schedule three minutes each day to clear the clutter at home and at your office.
- Music: Music can increase your creativity, boost your optimism, and better your mood. All wonderful for getting things done
- Regular Schedule: Keeping an order to your daily schedule helps you save your limited energy for more important tasks. It keeps you more organized, so you waste fewer cognitive resources. Going with the flow is much more efficient that using your mental discipline to will yourself to start tasks. (Have you ever spent 30 minutes trying to talk yourself into doing something? Cleaning, exercising, starting that report?) After a while, interrupting your rhythm will bring greater distress—make sure your “normal” is a flow of activity rather than a flow of inactivity.
- Optimism: Pessimistic thoughts have a way of draining your energy. When you need a boost, read something motivational, give yourself a pep talk, refocus on who you want to be, call on your past successes, think about your goals, and review all the positive steps you are taking to achieving them.
- Mobility: If you are reading this, you most likely spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer, and very likely with slumped-over posture. This is a problem for several reasons. Over time, this causes your joints become less mobile and your muscles to weaken, so the same movements take more and more energy to perform. Plus inactivity breeds more inactivity. Change your position during the work day. Stretch out and walk around.
- Exercise: Also strive to get some formal exercise in for 1 hour at least four times a week. You will be rewarded with better thinking, higher optimism, and more concentration. Almost all successful people do it. If regular activity is not part of your lifestyle currently, start with a ten minute walk and go from there; it doesn’t matter what you do, just go do something.
The goal is not to always have a moderate amount of energy; rest when you need to recharge, and your body and mind will reward you some oomph when it matters.