After a long day of work, I was in the elevator with fellow consultants. We had all put in long hours, at the end of a long working week. But the moment I stepped into the elevator, I joked around with my coworkers and said “suddenly, I have a tremendous amount of energy”.
It was true, and I bet it’s true for you too. It’s not that we are physically exhausted and can’t do anything else. It’s something in our heads that is telling us we’re tired.
I’m not saying that rest, sleep or taking days off isn’t important, or that it is all mental. You can’t expect to have limitless energy or not sleep for a few days and still be fresh. If you had a good night’s rest, and haven’t overworked yourself, here are a few of the small tricks I use to gain more energy in my life:
1. Brisk walk outside
Not only do you get some exercise, but you take in air that hasn’t gone through filters.
2. Do a few body weight exercises
I like push-ups and sit-ups – easy to do, can be done anywhere, and helps get some blood circulating in your body.
3. Tackle and complete a ‘quick win’
Sometimes, all I need is a quick win. Like responding to that email I was supposed to respond to that’s at the bottom of my inbox. Or getting words into a report.
4. Schedule something to look forward to at the end of the day
One, this will give you a deadline to work towards. You can’t work all day if you have that gym class right at 5 PM you have already paid for. Two, you have more energy because you know how much better it will feel if you get more things done before your commitment.
Closing my eyes, trying to clear my head, and breathing deeply has always done wonders for me, and it will do wonders for you too. I like two sessions: one longer one in the morning (about 20 minutes) and another one shortly after lunch (about 5 – 10 minutes).
6. Clear your head at the end of the day
One practice I’ve been trying to do is to get things out of my head, and into the systems I have. I currently use Nirvana and at the end of the work day, I update my activities, and then quickly jot down the open loops and actions I got that day.
For me, who is a bit older these days, stretching is amazing. Just as important, if not more important, than doing exercises, stretching is my way of maintaining mobility and making sure I’m not injuring myself because of the limitations of my body.
8. Tell yourself you are going to be fully rested before going to bed
When I was working crazy hours, I would stay up late working, and want to wake up early to do other things (exercise, journal, meditate). My sleep would suffer as a result. But one cool trick I learned was to tell yourself that even though you are only going to get X hours of sleep (presumably, X < 7 hours), you are going to be fully-rested when you wake in the morning.
On days when you can’t get the full 7-8 hours of sleep, a nap can help. Make sure you’re not overlapping though, otherwise you’ll have a hard time sleeping at night.
10. Promise yourself a reward later
I frequently use the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of focused work, and a 5-minute break. During the 5 minutes, I reward myself with a healthy snack, a few minutes in a book I’m reading, or a review of personal emails.
There’s something revitalizing about the power of cleaning yourself. I know if I am feeling particularly tired, a shower with great smelling shampoo and body wash, and a fresh pair of clothes will rekindle my spirits.
12. Have a healthy snack
Sometimes, my lack of energy is due to bad nutrition. I like a healthy snack of trail mix: a mix of dried fruits and nuts can often give me that extra boost of energy to get through the gruelling days.
Only one of the micro habits above is rest (nap). What I found whenever I don’t have the energy to do things is that it wasn’t because I am physically tired (I mean how tiring is it to sit around in front of your computer all day), but it was all in your head.
Nir Eyal, in Indistractable, writes that willpower is only limited for individuals that believe their willpower is a finite resource. I feel the same way about energy – it’s only limited if you believe it is finite. Believe in yourself. Believe you have an abundance of energy. And watch your energy soar.