269 billion emails are sent and received each day across the globe! On some days, if you're anything like me, it feels like a significant proportion of those emails are headed directly to your inbox. As if this wasn't enough, we now grapple with the management of our social media, these platforms monopolising on average 1-2 hours of each working day. We face incessant interruption in the workplace (every 3 minutes) and working on "projects" that sit outside of our "role" has become the new norm. Combine this with your life outside of work and you have little, if any, down time. Our energy levels appear to be at an all-time low and our focus is fleeting. Despite getting a full-nights sleep we wake-up exhausted....why?
The pace and amount of information we contend with on a daily basis are the culprits for the exhaustion we are feeling as a society. When your energy levels are down and you find yourself constantly task-switching or off with the fairies ~ your work, your relationships and your health collectively suffer.
The latest trends in the health and well-being space all seem to incorporate self-care, better sleep and improved recovery and that's no coincidence. The good news is there are a few minor adjustments you can make to increase your focus and raise your energy throughout the day.
One of the areas in our brain responsible for focusing is the prefrontal cortex (PFC) ~ also known as the 'executive centre' of our brain. Just like your car, the prefrontal cortex runs out of fuel (approximately every 2 hours) whilst at the same time using a large proportion of the energy/food we consume (similar to the engine of a petrol guzzling sports car). Aside from focusing, the PFC is also responsible for decision making, problem solving, planning, multi-tasking, emotion regulation, discipline, and working memory. When the PFC is exhausted, all of these capacities are negatively affected as well.
The habits suggested below all support your PFC so that it functions optimally whilst ensuring your energy levels and focus remain high.
Habits To Stay Focused & Lift Your Energy
Add 'buffers' into your day ~ schedule time in your calendar for yourself throughout your day to think, reflect and connect with others. This time will become invaluable and will even reduce multi-tasking which has been shown to decrease our brains efficiency by as much as 40%.
Hydrate ~ as little as 1% dehydration effects the performance of your brain. Drinking 2-3L of water a day has countless benefits including enhancements in physical performance, energy and brain function.
Fuel ~ regular snacking on brain friendly foods will ensure your energy levels are stable. Seeds and nuts, protein, fruit and folate rich greens all stimulate the release of dopamine which contributes to alertness, creativity and concentration.
Exercise ~ this appears in almost every post I write, I'm a huge advocate for physical training (my P.E background kicking in!). Getting your heart rate up sends blood to your brain which does two things: it provides fresh, oxygenated blood to your brain AND it stimulates neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells). Win-win!
Rest ~ Every 90 minutes take a break from whatever it is that you're doing. Walk around, stretch, replenish, get some fresh air and breathe. Beyond a 'break' rest includes day-dreaming, certain types of meditation (IE yoga nidra) and sleep. Your body and brain both need to recover and making time for these activities is paramount to your performance. Sleep pods? Yes please - napping increases mental operations, performance and reaction times and 10-15 minutes is all you need.
The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use. Jeff Weiner
It will be much easier to instil these habits into your day if you focus on the outcome, your why behind them. Yes you want to increase your ability to focus and raise your energy levels, but why do you want to do that? Continue asking yourself and you'll eventually get to the underlying values that will ultimately drive your behaviour.
Kirsten works with individuals and organisations to raise wellbeing and performance through initiatives in positive psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience. Contact her today to lift your energy and performance!