I had to get up half an hour earlier one recent morning to get my oldest kid into town for a test he needed to take for welding school enrollment. I headed over to Panera after dropping him off to work and wait for him to finish the test. Half an hour doesn’t sound like much, but it made a difference.
My energy wasn’t bad at first. I got my important work done and then started working on the medium importance tasks. By 12:30, my energy had totally tanked. I ate a relatively decent breakfast — it had protein in the form of an egg and some sausage — but I’d had a chai tea latte and some green tea after and even the sugar in the teas were not enough. My mind started wandering, my body felt sluggish — and of course, being ready for lunch probably didn’t help.
But it reminded me of how I keep my energy from lagging so much at home. And I know most of you are like me, with a ton to do and looking for the energy to do it.
So I wanted to share an idea for helping you to keep your energy levels up.
Where exactly do you lose energy?
I know that if I just randomly went about my day, by early to mid-afternoon, my energy would be gone. I’d feel like taking a nap and would get nothing productive done. I’d rely on sugar to power through if I absolutely needed to. I also know that there are certain tasks that I find much more tedious and boring than others.
Pay attention as you go about your day. Notice exactly when you feel your energy diminishing. What time is it? What are you doing? What have you eaten or had to drink in the last hour or two? Take notes on these things, and write down anything else that you notice that you think might be relevant.
Do this for about a week so you can look for patterns. You may notice a particular time of day or specific activities that result in this energy loss. You may realize that the foods you’re eating are making you feel sluggish or that you’re not drinking enough water to stay hydrated.
Once you become aware of these kinds of patterns, you can take steps to break them. You can swap out foods or drinks that make you feel sluggish and replace them with ones that boost your energy. You can use an app to remind you to drink water. And you can change your activities— which we’ll get to in a moment.
When do you have the most energy?
At the same time (or separately if you feel you can’t easily divide your attention between the two), take note of when you feel the most energy or vitality. It might be right after you wake up for a couple of hours, or in the evening after dinner. Maybe it’s even in the middle of the night if you’re a real night owl.
Again, look for activities that seem to boost your energy — walks, yoga, meditation, being active while cleaning the house, etc. Take note of foods you eat that seem to make you feel energized. Drink water and note how you feel after (skip the caffeine on a regular basis, though, because it will just make things worse!).
As with looking at lost energy, try to do this for about a week so you can look for patterns. Only in this case, we’re not looking to break the pattern — we’re going to use the pattern to our benefit.
Shift things around
Now that you’ve figured out where you feel energized and where you lose energy, we’re going to shift some things around to get the most out of each level of energy.
You’re going to take the activities that make you feel more energetic and slot them into the time when you usually start losing energy, and vice versa.
Let’s say that you’re most energetic in the morning from 9AM to 11AM. You’ve also noticed that checking emails in the afternoon makes you want to go to sleep — your eyes literally try to drift closed as you do it. But you do it that way because you heard checking email in the morning can make you less productive.
Studies and research are great, but we’re all unique. So try checking your emails during that two hour window when you’re most energetic. Set a timer if you’re afraid of going down a rabbit hole and losing productivity, but take advantage of your energy to check those emails.
And if social media usually makes you feel more energetic? Do that in the afternoon during that period when you’re feeling sluggish and slow. If it usually boosts your energy, it just might give you the push you need to keep being productive through the rest of your day — just make sure you set that timer to avoid the rabbit hole, if you need to.
Insert energy-boosting mini-breaks
We often jump from one task to the next without a break. We think this makes us more productive and allows us to build on momentum and keep going. But the truth is, sometimes jumping from one task to the next to the next without a break actually decreases our productivity and makes us tired faster.
Look back at the notes you took when you were figuring out when you have the most energy. You should have a list of a few activities that boost your energy such as a walk or some yoga. Start inserting some of these activities between tasks.
It doesn’t have to be a long break. If taking a walk is one of your activities, you can take a couple of laps around the outside of your house — it’ll take you 5 minutes. If yoga is on your list, you don’t have to run out to a class or do a whole 30–60 minute flow — just do a few of your favorite poses.
If you don’t have a list of activities, try some of these:
· A short meditation (there are plenty specifically for boosting energy!)
· A quick walk
· A few yoga poses
· Getting a glass of water and drinking it
· Doing a few jumping jacks or pushups
· Jumping rope
· A quick bike ride around the block
· Walking out to check the mail or grab the newspaper
· Play a quick game of tag with the kids
· Grabbing a piece of fruit
If you are working on several tasks in a row that are very quick, you don’t have to insert a mini-break between each task (unless you want to). But do give yourself a mini-break at least every 30–60 minutes. And every 3–4 hours, make sure you take a longer break.
Get some more sleep
Many of us are guilty of forfeiting sleep in order to get more done. Whether it’s work, taking care of the kids, or taking care of the house, there are only so many hours in the day and getting it all done just isn’t always possible.
You might think that staying up late, or getting up early, will increase your productivity. It makes a logical kind of sense — the more hours you’re awake, the more you can get done. But if you’re tired, you’re more likely to make mistakes, which means you’ll just have to go back and correct them, so any gains you may have made are lost.
I’m not saying you need to sleep 10–12 hours a night. But if you routinely get only 6–7 hours of sleep, try bumping it up to 8–9. The extra sleep will boost your energy and make you more productive. The more energy you have, the more you’ll get done. You may have less waking hours, but you’ll get more done and you’ll be less likely to make mistakes that require you to go back and do the tasks again.
Don’t force it
While I have found this to be a useful way to boost my energy when I need to, it may not work for everyone. You should adapt this idea if you need to, or look for other ways you can boost your energy.
I also want to make note of the fact that low energy levels can be an indicator of more serious health issues. If you find that nothing seems to be improving your energy levels, or you suspect an underlying problem, you should see your doctor.
What tips do you have for boosting energy?