Most people think time is your most precious resource. _It’s not. It’s your _energy.
If you’re tired, sick, or unable to move without pain, having time _won’t necessarily help. Instead, you’ll wish you had more _energy to actually _do_things.
Instead of studying dozens of time management strategies, you might want to take a peek at your daily routines to find out why you’re feeling tired all the time.
Most people feel sluggish and slow no matter how much they sleep or how many cups of coffee they sip.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can reclaim your energy and gain back dozens of hours each week by using small habits to your advantage.
“Your energy and the ability to energize others is more valuable than your time.”
— Bill Hybels
The Japanese 80% Rule
Overeating is one of the primary reasons we feel sluggish and lazy. This is particularly common after lunch when we experience an afternoon slump.
I experienced this first-hand while working at the headquarters of a company with nearly 2,000 employees.
On most days, the lunch menu blew my mind. The meals were loaded with carbs and (unhealthy) fats. Plus, they were way too large.
Half a roasted chicken, a large plate of Viennese Schnitzel with fries, or pancakes filled with cream cheese or Nutella were some of the most popular dishes offered repeatedly.
No wonder the office fell asleep after lunchtime. Most employees were spending more time by the coffee machine than at their desks in the afternoons.
Meals that lack nutrients and are hard to digest slow you down.
When you overeat or enjoy the wrong foods, your body is too busy digesting the meal, and you feel like taking a nap instead of working on your to-do list.
The truth is, food is meant to give you energy, not make you feel tired.
If you want to avoid the afternoon food coma, follow two rules for your lunch breaks:
- Prioritize nutritious, whole foods that _give_you energy instead of making you feel bloated and tired.
- Stop eating when you’re 80% full.
Studies show it takes our brain 15–20 minutes to realize we’re full, so if you eat until you hit 100%, you’ll actually overeat.
Eat slowly and stop early to avoid the ugly feeling of overeating.
This so-called 80% rule is known as hara hachi bu in Japan and is particularly popular in Blue Zones, where inhabitants have an above-average life expectancy.
Stop ignoring the basics
More than half of our bodies consist of water, yet, most people are chronically dehydrated. This leads to low energy levels and poor decision-making.
Feeling thirsty is a sign you’re already dehydrated. The way to go is to drink small amounts of water all the time, so you never even feel thirsty.
If you forget to drink enough, set a (silent) hourly alarm on your phone or put sticky notes around your home and office as reminders.
Large bottles make it easier to track your progress and visually remind you of your goal.
Being hydrated will help you think more clearly, make better decisions, stop snacking mindlessly, and feel more energized throughout the day.
Start by drinking a big glass of water right after waking up, and add fruits or herbs to your drinks to spice things up throughout the day. Unsweetened teas are an option too.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
— Jim Rohn
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Most people spend the majority of their days sitting.
If you have an office job, you probably sit for more than 8 hours at your job. Then, you go home and sit a little more on your couch.
But your body isn’t made for sitting. It’s made for movement.
When we sit for long periods, blood flow slows down, tension builds up, and we become less effective at communicating and solving problems.
When you’re used to sitting for long periods, forcing yourself to move will initially feel uncomfortable. It’ll be unfamiliar and take some time to get used to, but that’s fine because it’ll come with massive benefits in the long run.
If possible, get a standing desk and use it for at least 1–2 hours daily. This won’t just have physical benefits, but you’ll also be more alert and focused.
Make most phone calls during walks.
Take walking meetings whenever possible.
Get used to walking short distances instead of driving.
Find a way to add more movement into your daily life, so you actually enjoy it. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks you’re excited about. Create playlists you love. Call your loved ones on your way to or from the office.
Exercising is great, but it doesn’t compensate for 12+ hours of sitting. You need to find joy in staying in motion for the rest of the day too.
Trigger your senses
If you’re constantly surrounded by the same people, in the same environment, doing the exact same thing every single day, you’ll naturally become slow.
Even if your work is repetitive, you can stimulate your senses through different triggers to be more alert and energized.
You can use music or different sounds as a trigger for different activities.
Hide negative triggers like your phone and remove all distractions on your computer for focused work sessions. There are great tools to help you minimize distractions, so you can be more focused.
Essential oils or incense sticks can stimulate your sense of smell and be great triggers for different activities.
Oils like peppermint, lemon, or eucalyptus can improve focus and concentration, while lavender, rose, or jasmine can create a calming environment.
I’m a nerd, so I keep three aroma diffusers across my apartment and use different oils to enhance different moods.
I also own different roll-ons that I use on the go or when I need a moment for myself during busy days.
Photo by Yogandha Oils on Unsplash
One more trigger is food.
I’m tempted to grab a snack when I’m bored or stressed, so I make sure to keep healthy snacks and fun drinks at home to add variety to busy work days.
Nuts, yogurt, fresh berries, and protein bars are my must-haves.
And since drinking plain water is too boring, I also stock on fancy teas, kombucha, and other low-calorie drinks to keep myself alert and hydrated. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with aloe vera drinks.
Find your own way
Last but not least, find your ideal work sprints to increase your energy levels. We’re all different and have different needs when getting work done.
One of the most popular productivity tips is the Pomodoro Technique, which encourages you to work in 25-minute sprints while taking pauses of 5 minutes. You do this four times and take a more extended break of 15–30 minutes before starting over again.
It’s an excellent method, but it may not work for you.
You might find you can focus for more than 25 minutes and need longer breaks between the sessions.
How exactly your sprints look doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find routines and patterns that support your natural cycles and focus. Play with different methods until you find one that feels right and helps you play to your strengths.
Some people are more alert in the early morning, while others think and perform at their best late at night.
When we talk about personal productivity, there’s no right or wrong.
Sadly, many self-help gurus will tell you _their_advice is the only one that works.
That’s not true.
Men’s bodies work differently than women’s.
Different circumstances and life situations require other routines.
A 35-year-old single mum with a toddler will face different productivity challenges than a 23-year-old college student.
Sometimes, we go through seasons that require us to change our habits.
There’s not just one path to feeling and performing at your best.
Instead, you need to find out what works best for you_ right now_ and embrace the idea that your needs may change next year, month, or even next week. And that’s fine. You’re a human being — you’re meant to change.
Contributed by Sinem Günel