Last weeks topic about productivity is deeply tied to managing your energy and not your time. The point of being more productive is for tasks to take less time – but how can we accomplish this if we don’t have the energy to focus?
Today I’m discussing some ways for you to manage your energy so that you can get the most out of the time that you have to work.
Our energy is more than just how awake we feel or our motivation level. By definition energy means our capacity to do work. This capacity has more than one facet. For example, it may not matter how much coffee you’ve had on a given day or how wired you feel – if you just aren’t feeling it, it’s hard to get anything done.
For this reason we will break down our energy into a 4 parts – physical, mental, emotional and intrinsic. Think of these facets as legs on a table – if one is missing it’s going to fall over, or at the very least be precariously balanced which uses far more of your other energies to get the job done.
This week we are going to focus on the things you can do to help manage your physical and mental energy. Next week we’ll discuss your emotional and intrinsic energies.
I’m going to go ahead and assume you already know all of these points about how to maintain your energy BUT perhaps are not actually doing some, or all of them. As a homeschooling work at home mom running her own business I understand how impossible these items sound. However paradoxical it seems, the better you take care of yourself, the better you are able to take care of others (and your business).
- The Mayo clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. I’m going to say first that everyone is different, and second something is better than nothing. In my personal experience I have noticed that if I’m feeling lazy and unmotivated but then I get a 30 min or so workout in, I get an energy and mood boost that lasts for at least 3 hours afterwards. Exercise has also been shown to improve your ability to focus and make better decisions due to the increase it causes to the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex.
- Eat healthy foods
- no matter in what manner you eat this always means getting in vegetables, some protein and eating as minimally processed as possible. I’m going to throw in try to keep you sugar intake on the lower side because the slump on the other side of the high is going to kill your productivity. Experiment with your diet to find what foods make you feel energetic and focused and what makes you grumpy and sleepy. It might take you a little while to figure out, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- This is the part where you try to tell me it’s either impossible (if you have a small or special needs child – I get it. I have both. Anything you can do to improve your sleep that you have control over will help) OR you do just great on 4 hours of sleep! If this is you, I challenge you to actually get more sleep and see how much it helps. Examine your routine and see where you can cut out some unnecessary internet surfing or tv watching and replace with some extras Zzzzs. For more help in this topic I recommend reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington.
- Limit alcohol
- As much as I love a nice glass of wine in the evening, it can do a number on your energy. It can have a big effect on the quality of your sleep and therefore your focus. If you need a drink (or two or three) just to cam down enough to sleep every night, then it’s time to examine your daytime habits to see where you can improve. Cutting back on late caffeine and practicing some mindfulness habits, that I will discuss later, will do you more favors than merlot ever will.
- Eat Regularly
- I’m not here to give you a mandate on meal timing or what’s best for you and your body. What I do know is that your body wants to eat when it’s USED to eating. If you normally eat at noon every day and then you skip lunch, you’re probably not going to be very focused that afternoon. The same goes if your meals are erratic and inconsistent. Listen to your body and do what you can to schedule regular meals and snacks so that you can get into a rhythm. If your body doesn’t know what’s coming next or when, it’s going to be hard to keep a consistent energy going throughout the day.
Take a break
Our bodies have what’s called an Ultradian Rhythm. This is the 90-120 min cycle of your focus. Once you’ve hit your focus max you need to take a break in order to maintain peak focus. Working through your breaks instead of taking them will reduce your focus and cause you to be unproductive and to waste time and energy.
90 to 120 minutes is a big window, so how do you know when you’ve hit the wall? If you get restless, start yawning, can’t focus or get hungry, it’s time for a break.
This break needs to be a good quality break. Just flipping from that report you’re writing to scrolling Facebook, isn’t going to cut it. Get up, get away from your desk and get some exercise. If you can, get outside and go for a walk. If you can’t, try to do some sort of physical movement – do a couple of flights of stairs, take a yoga break, stretch, do some breathing exercises or meditation. Just do something else for 15 minutes or so and then get back to work. You’ll get far more accomplished by working with your body than trying to fight through it’s need for a break.
Just say no to multi-tasking
I talked about this last week, but it bears repeating because the opposite has been so ingrained in our culture over the last few decades. Multi tasking is wasteful. You lose up to 25% of your overall time in what’s called “switching time”. This is the time that your brain needs to refocus on the new task. If you’re writing an email while waiting on hold, that’s probably useful, but if you’re flipping between texting a friend and writing an email, you’re wasting time and brainpower.
In order to keep yourself from attempting to multi task, turn off your notifications during your 90-120 minute focus window. After you take your break, respond to whatever has come up during your focus window, and then get back to what you need to get done. You might even consider just checking your inbox just 2 times a day. Any actions like this that you can do in bulk will help streamline your mental energy and increase productivity.
Plan your day
Make an effort to plan out your day in the morning (or the night before). Use the urgent vs important matrix to help you choose which tasks you’re going to focus on first. Get those things done ASAP. And by that I mean before you’ve had meetings or checked your inbox. That first couple hours of your day are your most productive window – don’t sacrifice it to things that aren’t important to you.
Next week I will discuss how our emotional and intrinsic energy effects our work and how it can be managed. If you’d like more help with this topic or want to find out if coaching is right for you – send me a message and we can schedule your free discovery session.