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PRODUCTIVITY

World's Simplest Ways to Stay Energized

Sometimes motivation comes from the most basic things--like a good cup of coffee or walk outside. Or some wine.
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Some people are as solid as granite. I'd say they're as stable as the Earth beneath our feet, but I'm sure some smart-ass out there would bring up earthquakes. Anyway, you know what I mean.

Not only are those individuals rare, but all too often, their seemingly concrete constitution is just a façade. At some level, they've got the same sort of ups and downs the rest of us have.

Me, I do my best work when I'm inspired. Sometimes the work itself is all the inspiration I need. Other times, those neural pathways responsible for creative thinking need some external stimulus to really light them up.

Now that I've spilled the beans and you know that even those who inspire others sometimes need their own kick in the pants, here are the tricks that work for me. Maybe they'll inspire you to come up with a few of your own.

Routine. First thing in the morning, I let my dogs up on the bed while I check my iPhone to make sure the world didn't go to hell overnight. Then I make cappuccinos. What can I say; some routines are really fun--and energizing.

Breaks. The inertia of the mundane, the status quo of day-to-day life, has an insidious way of sapping all the spirit out of you if you let it go on too long. That's why I like to mix things up, take lots of breaks, and indulge my ADDness.

Working outside. After a month of rain followed by a week of freezing temperatures, I couldn't wait for the weather to turn warm so I can work outside. That's right; this is coming to you straight from a sunny patio in Silicon Valley. Ain't California great?

Sunshine. It's sort of bizarre the way the dermatologists have turned everyone against the most important celestial body in the solar system. Granted, you can have too much of a good thing, but when it comes to brightening your mood or resetting your body's time clock, nothing works better.

Caffeine. I just have one triple-shot cappuccino in the morning, but I drink tea all day long to keep the buzz going. What an amazing stimulant.

Wine. Don't even ask me how or why, but a glass or two of wine has the same affect on my mood at night that caffeine has during the day. One time I spent a week trying to come up with an idea for a client that just wouldn't come. So I gave up, opened a bottle of Zinfandel, and on the second glass, voila, it just came to me. I'd stop there, however, or you're likely to wake up with a bunch of alcohol-induced nonsense--and a hangover.

Scenery. I live and work in the mountains but, I have to admit, it's easy to become sort of numb to the scenery. Still, there are times when the panoramic grandeur of the coastal redwood trees--hundreds of feet tall and hundreds of years old as far as the eye can see--really grabs me.

A walk around the neighborhood. Something about the little differences of each and every house, kids riding around on their bikes, and everyday people just walking their dogs or doing some front yard gardening, has always made me feel safe and stable. That helps to bring my emotions to the surface--great for writing.

Losing. It's always pissed me off to lose to a competitor. At some point I settle down, do a post-mortem, and learn from it. But before that, I get good and angry and that really motivates me to kick butt. I know the "I'll show them" routine is childish, but what can I say? I guess it's a built-in mechanism that keeps me from ever giving up.

Now that I think about it, this probably has more to do with brain chemistry than anything else. Maybe some psychology, too. But it definitely isn't rocket science, that's for sure. Anyway, what do you do for inspiration? I'm sure we'd all love to know.

Last updated: Jan 22, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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