What is the best way to keep my personal energy levels high each day? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
First of all, realize that you'll always have energy highs and lows, no matter what. Then take them into account and schedule your workday in accordance with them.
There aren't really any "secrets". People who "seem to have limitless energy each day and seem to do so much" simply take advantage of their peak energy times and know when to take breaks. Although granted, they're likely optimizing their energy through good diet and sleep.
This is a two-part question and will therefore require a two-part answer:
1) How does one maximize their energy levels?
2) How does one maximize their efficiency in accordance to their energy level ups and downs?
Let's start with the first one: How does one maximize their energy levels?
Think less about high and temporary energy spikes and more along maintaining A-OK energy levels throughout the day. What's good about that coffee or energy drink if you crash after few hours and are useless by the end of the day?
Here are some tips:
1. Ditch coffee. Stop relying on caffeine to spike up your energy levels artificially. Caffeine is a sleep disruptor, even taken around noon, and especially if taken in the afternoon. Instead, I recommend you build up your everyday energy levels naturally through good diet, sleep, exercise, and staying hydrated.
2. Exercise. But don't just do light cardio for 30 minutes. If you're a man, lift heavy weights, do compound exercises and/or calisthenics. If you're a woman, do some intense exercise, e.g. CrossFit. I promise that if you do this and have the right nutrition in place, you'll be oozing energy.
3. Avoid sugars like fire. Think of sugar as if it was tinder, it'll burn up very quickly. You cannot have a long-lasting campfire if you just keep throwing a lot of tinder into it. You need logs. Logs are unprocessed, real foods, ideally with low Glycemic Index scores.
4. Switch to lower Glycemic Index (GI) foods. This means foods that don't raise your blood glucose that much and supply your body with energy for longer periods of time, just like logs.
5. Improve the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark. Wear earplugs if you need to. Don't look at any screen for at least 1 hour before you go to sleep. If you really need to look at a screen, dim it down as much as possible. Don't expose your skin to a lot of light before going to sleep, either. Sleep at regular hours.
These are just some of the basics to get your physical and mental energy levels where they should be. This leads us to the second part of the question: what do you do with those levels and how to you navigate through your inevitable energy highs and lows to get a lot of stuff done?
I'veLet me give you an overview of some of the steps you should be taking if you really want to take advantage of your peak energy times while not letting the slumps jeopardize your productivity:
1. Learn about your energy highs and lows
Although everyone's energy fluctuations seem to follow a similar pattern to some degree (e.g. we all experience afternoon slumps), it's still largely personal. In order to start getting a lot of stuff done, you first need to know about your energy fluctuation patterns. I tracked my energy levels for a few days, rating them on a scale of 1-10 every single hour. I got a very interesting chart as a result. I was surprised to see the patterns were so recurring! This has literally reshaped how I think about scheduling my workdays. I encourage you to do it too, as you will need it for the next steps. You can download the spreadsheet I've used
2. Assign your tasks in accordance to your energy levels
Now that you know exactly when are your energy highs and lows, you can start planning accordingly.
I recommend breaking down all your tasks into 3 categories:
- High energy tasks - when your energy is at the very peak (between 8 and 10). This is your most precious time. Be picky about what tasks you assign here, make it a rule to only choose the most important and complex tasks to tackle during those periods. Then go and really focus on them, without any interruptions. You'll get a lot of done in those few hour peak times alone.
- Medium energy tasks - when your energy is between 6 and 7. Use this time for tasks that require moderate energy, e.g. communication-related tasks, meetings, non-essential decisions, etc.
- Low energy tasks - when your energy is between 0 and 4. Anything repetitive, mundane, or leisurely should fall into this category. Use it for passive activities too, such as reading, watching, and listening. Or anything that could otherwise distract you during your high and medium energy times.
3. Work in 60-120 minute cycles, and take breaks
Because of our ultradian rhythm, we can work on a task for usually around 90 minutes before we start losing focus and alertness. It's been scientifically backed that those who take breaks do much better in terms of productivity and energy levels. Do yourself a favor and take breaks to rejuvenate yourself.
4. Track your productivity
Once you start taking action and assigning tasks to your schedule based on your energy levels, it's ideal if you start tracking how productive you are throughout the day. This data, when compared to your previously mentioned energy highs and lows chart, will provide an immense insight of how you really perform. You'll be able to make precise adjustments to your workflow and schedule once you have all this information. I like to use both Toggl for manual time logs and RescueTime as an automatic tool running in the background and monitoring how I spend my time on the computer. Once you do some tracking, you can start viewing all the time reports. If you are to pick one, I'd say go with RescueTime.
I hope this has been helpful. For more information on how to streamline your work schedule in accordance to your energy levels, check out this piece I've written:I tell you exactly how to go about implementing this.
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