There you are –– head drifting toward your chest, mind drifting toward a tropical vaycay –– as the afternoon meeting drones on and on. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s midweek or midday, sometimes your get up and go just…gets up and goes. You like your job. You feel good about your career. So why are you so exhausted?
The truth is when it comes to an energy crisis the Seventies can’t hold a candle to the 21st century. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the problem. Zoom fatigue, remote work that stretches into the predawn hours, constant interruptions –– it’s like everyone is fighting attention deficit disorder. Working nonstop until you’re burnt out isn’t the solution. The only way to achieve consistent results is to take care of your mind and your body. There are steps you can take to improve your performance. Here’s how to maintain energy at work.
Start Your Day Right
First, you need at least seven hours of sleep a night. Period. For some reason, successful people love to brag about getting by on four or five hours. Funny that they never brag about increasing their risk for heart disease, depression, obesity and even a reduced sex drive! Our bodies need that extended slumber to enter the REM state. If we skip this, the most creative, problem-solving part of our brain shuts down. Maybe you can power through the morning. By noon, even simple tasks will seem complex.
Besides sleep, food is fuel. Even intermittent fasters might consider an a.m. protein shake. No matter when you break fast, your first meal should include protein and complex carbs. Foods with a high glycemic index like white breads, pastas, and most cereals spike your blood sugar. That afternoon crash is often connected to eating a big lunch laden with simple carbohydrates. Instead of eating a big meal because the clock tells you to, listen to your body. Practice mindful eating. Have some almonds, apples and peanut butter or other light healthy snacks to avoid those dreaded blood sugar spikes.
Car Naps and Breaks
Some folks are natural nappers. I’m not but I respect the science that suggests a 15-to=30 minute snooze can recharge your batteries and improve your mental fitness. So, if you’re wondering how to maintain energy at work, naps are an effective solution. However, they won’t make up for nighttime sleep deficits. Nor should they exceed half-an-hour. A friend of mine came up with a novel approach. He’d slip out to his car during his lunch hour and snooze. He was always refreshed in the afternoon.
Whether or not you nap, don’t attempt to work on a project for more than 90 minutes. This is the outer limit of human endurance when it comes to focus. Take regular breaks. Walk around the office park, do some stair climbing. Meditate. Make sure to exercise regularly during your time off. It’s a boost to mental and physical health.
The Coffee Cure and Other Hacks
Few things have been consistently championed like caffeine. Most studies suggest it can improve athletic performance, boost energy and even stave off diabetes and dementia. There are a ton of supplements on the market that promise a power boost. Most have little scientific data to support their claims. Some are dangerous. Stick to your morning cup of jane. Don’t overdo it. Just one 200 mg boost of caffeine in the a.m. followed by another in the afternoon will keep you going.
Reducing stress can often mean increasing energy. Although some feel it motivates them, for many of us it can be damaging. Besides meditation and yoga, keeping a task list can help. Tackle the most demanding things early on. If you are dealing with a large project, create a step-list so that you can check off items often. Sometimes a series of short sprints are better than a marathon. Other things that can improve your motivation include adding plants to your workplace and listening to the music you love.
Finally, none of these steps will help long term if the work itself is sapping your energy. In that case, you may need to explore other options including a job change.
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