Energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day. Think of energy like a glass that depletes and needs to be replenished. When that glass empties, your energy dips physically and mentally, and your productivity suffers. However, having that glass overflowing for long periods (think being upbeat and constantly chasing deadlines) will also cause a decline in productivity because you will eventually lose perspective and burn out.
Here’s how you can manage your energy in a more balanced way to optimise your productivity.
Which Is better: a nap or a walk?
Many different things can drain your energy, including any combination of the following:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition
- Physical inactivity
- Lack of motivation
Sleep, nutrition, and physical exercise all play a significant role in maintaining healthy energy levels. When considering your energy levels, ask yourself: Are you looking after yourself enough by ensuring enough sleep, nutrition and movement?
For example, inactivity seems like the obvious choice when trying to recoup energy levels, like binge-watching Netflix after a long day at work. But although it feels counterintuitive, gentle yoga or a brisk walk have been proven to be fatigue fighters and are better for boosting energy than a nap.
A study published in Psychological Bulletin analysed 70 studies on exercise and fatigue involving more than 6,800 people. More than 90% of the studies showed the same: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise programme reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise.
Exercise also helps you utilise your energy better during the day to sleep better at night. And getting enough quality sleep is the best way to recharge your batteries.
But what if it’s mental fatigue that you’re facing?
Tennis player Andy Murray was asked in an interview, “Why are the longer tennis matches so tough?” He responded that it’s not the physical tiredness that has the most significant impact — they train for that and can prepare for it — instead, making thousands and thousands of decisions constantly cause mental fatigue. Think back to that overflowing glass; after a certain point, the quality of your decision-making drops.
You may not be a professional athlete, but even subconscious decisions drain energy and can cause mental fatigue. What’s more, the regular decision-making throughout the workday, like the correct way to word something in a document or email, how to best communicate and connect with teammates during a Zoom meeting, or how to achieve the outcome you want from a specific task.
Work smarter, not harder
To further demonstrate how constant high energy demands decrease productivity (and effectiveness) rather than increase it, John Pencavel, a social scientist and economist from Stanford University, conducted a comprehensive study of long working hours in 2014. He compared data from thousands of workers, comparing hours worked with output and success. His findings were definitive: Workers who clocked up 70 hours a week achieved no more than those who had worked 55 hours.
Studies on companies and countries that have embraced shorter working weeks (i.e. the four-day workweek), show productivity is yet to go down. People achieve the same amount or more than they did when they worked longer working hours.
The importance of breaks
A study examining more than 1,000 rulings made by eight parole judges in 2009 shows an interesting trend. While decisions are generally based on facts and law, something else is at play. It was found that the judges were more lenient during the start or after scheduled breaks in court proceedings but were harsher before a lunch break or at the end of the day.
The researchers found that the likelihood of a favourable ruling peaked at the beginning of the day, steadily declining over time from a probability of about 65% to nearly zero before spiking back up to about 65% after a break for a meal or snack.
This shows how significant breaks are to your decision-making ability and how prolonged periods of expected productivity tank your energy and affect your mood.
How to optimise your energy levels throughout the day
- Establish a regular sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment: Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Use a comfortable mattress and pillows, and consider investing in a white noise machine or earplugs if noise is a problem.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep, so try to avoid consuming these substances for several hours before bedtime.
- Relax before bed: Establish a bedtime routine that includes activities that help you relax, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or listening to soothing music. Avoid screens (such as phones, tablets, and TVs) for at least an hour before bed, as the blue light they emit can disrupt your sleep.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and help you fall asleep more easily. Just be sure to avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, as it may rev up your energy and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Get plenty of natural light during the day: Exposure to natural light during the day can help regulate your body's sleep-wake cycle and improve the quality of your sleep. Try to get outside for at least a few minutes each day, and consider using light therapy if you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
- Consider trying relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation can help you relax and prepare for sleep.
Consulting a healthcare provider or sleep specialist may be helpful if you have tried these strategies and are still having trouble sleeping. They can help you identify any underlying issues contributing to your sleep problems and suggest additional treatment options. With a little effort and lifestyle adjustments, you can improve your sleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
This article was brought to you by Naluri’s Mental Health Coaches. Naluri empowers you to develop healthy lifestyle habits, achieve meaningful health outcomes, and be healthier and happier through personalised coaching, structured programmes, self-guided lessons, and health tools and devices. Download the Naluri App today or contact email@example.com for more information on utilising digital health coaching and therapy to become a happier, healthier you.