Get Your Energy Back

How many of us come home after a long day at work and crash at 7 p.m.?

We may have every intention to exercise, work on that side project or read, but the truth is, we’re beat and it’s easier to sit on the couch (with glass of wine in hand) and zone out.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with zoning out, but we can veg out without being exhausted. And if less exhaustion leads to greater productivity and higher quality work, let’s do it.

Here are my five favorite ways to get my energy back and be more productive throughout the day.

Get Off Your Email (You Can Do It!)

I’m so guilty of living in my phone. Ask my colleagues, family and friends who are used to getting a response from me within seconds.

For everyone in my circle reading this, I’ve made a pledge to dial back on this significantly!

Why?

Because my phone – texting, emailing, face-booking – is exhausting and a big energy suck. Here’s one way email specifically can tire us out.

How often do you see an email in your inbox, read it, save it, and go back to it later?

Here’s the process: See email. Read email. Decide to reply later. Save as new. Re-read email later. Reply. 

This is email procrastination, and it’s a waste of time and energy because of the additional back and forth steps. If the email is lengthy and requires more attention, don’t read it at all. Don’t even think about it.

Cut your email process to: See email, read email, reply.

How do we do this, especially if we sit at a desk all day with our email open? To add to that, checking other messages on Facebook and Gmail is a welcomed distraction when you’re working on big projects.

To make this easier, do the following:

  1. Create your schedule for the next day’s work the night before (i.e. list the top three things you want to accomplish).
  2. Set your intention to work with thoughtfulness early in the day. Setting the intention to be clear-minded, more focused and generally less exhausted can drive you to reduce your use of technology. You’ll be focusing on your big tasks versus back and forth email checking.
  3. Check email twice a day, such as 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. This can be especially hard when we need that distraction. With each “read” email you feel a (false) sense of accomplishment. But, try it. And if your boss has an issue with this, give him a heads up and explain you’re working to be more productive. He can always call you if it’s urgent.

Estimate Your Hours per Project

I’ve been estimating my hours per project since I was in high school, and my best friends used to think I was so intense. Here’s what my nightly after-school schedule looked like:

Latin Homework – 2 hours

Calculus Homework – 1 hour

Spanish Test – 1.5 hours

Yes, this is pretty intense for most high school students, but I’ve continued this habit well into adulthood and it helps me bundle my time to longer periods of work. It also helps keep me on track with each project.

For example, if I’ve given myself only two hours to complete a task, I have to make sure I’m staying focused and being productive to get that project done.

Cut the Drama

Drama and negative talk don’t just prohibit productivity, but they reduce well-being in general. What’s running through your head right now? Take inventory.

Is your boss driving you nuts because he’s micromanaging you?

Did your best friend skip your birthday AND forget to call you?

Are you tired of the commute and wish you could just quit your job and travel for a few months?

I’m not saying these aren’t important issues, but don’t spend time dwelling on them. How can you turn these negatives into positives? Let’s reframe.

My boss is likely under a lot of pressure. If he continues to micromanage, I’ll talk to him about it

My best friend is probably swamped or dealing with something major. I’ll text her later.

Yes, I’m tired of the commute. But I’m working towards my bigger goals, and this is only temporary.

Turning a negative into a positive can energize us. It makes us more solution oriented, and enables us to think differently. (Tweet It!)

Take Control of Your Schedule

When do you feel most energized and most ready to get things done?

If this is in the morning, use this time for your hardest work, such as that presentation you’ve been putting off.

You can then schedule your meetings around this time by pushing them off until the afternoon. Get the your meetings done all at once when your deepest, most challenging work is already complete.

Make Time for Fun

I still struggle with this at times, but I find ideas only come to me when I’m feeling good and relaxed. It’s only then that I can brainstorm new ideas because I have the energy to do so.

For those of us who are type-A and very goal-oriented, we feel guilty when we take a break.
First, guilt gets us nowhere, and is an energy suck. We’re not creating or adding value by feeling guilty; quite the opposite, we’re preventing ourselves from doing our best work.
Second, if the guilt is hard to manage, kill two birds with one stone by leveraging your fun activity with another hobby or work-related event.
For example, my good friend and client executive to Apple at IBM Laura Meyer says she mixes her volunteer work with fun activities in San Francisco, such as hiking and visiting museums. As a result, she’s getting out but also feels a sense of purpose volunteering.

Being productive and reducing exhaustion is all about saving energy. We can work better and smarter only when we’re rested. But to be rested we have to be conscious of where our energy goes.

Now think about what drains your energy the most. Is it technology? Is it drama? Leave a comment or question below.