Updated: May 7, 2020
The current attention economy is taking a toll on our personal energy. So much so that we tend to feel absolutely shattered, almost to the point of immobility, at the end of each day, week and often month.
Do you ever feel as though there are not enough hours in the day? Do you feel as though the time you do have seems over-stimulated yet under-utilised? Do you wish that you had more energy for the things you want to start doing or to merely stay on top of your responsibilities?
"Fortunately for us, our energy is a renewable resource and there are simple, practical changes that we can make to manage our energy that in turn provide us with more time."
The usual suspects of diet, exercise and sleep are in part to blame, but so too are the activities that are routinely dressed as 'wolves in sheep's clothing'. Think multi-tasking, meetings longer than 90 minutes, incessant decision making and problem solving and scrolling through our emails or social media. These behaviours in particular are leeches on our energy and need to be managed accordingly.
The area in our brain responsible for these activities is known as the executive centre of the brain (the prefrontal cortex or PFC for short) and this area is also responsible for our attention and our emotion regulation. The PFC correspondingly plays a key role when it comes to our personal energy, but it too has a finite amount of fuel. When we're not utilising our energy efficiently our focus, clarity, decision making and tolerance are all impacted.
Starting your day off on the right foot sets the tone for your energy for the rest of the day.
All that talk about rituals has merit and let's face it, 'rituals' is just the hipster term for positive habits. Beyond exercise and a healthy breakfast with brain fuelling foods (chia, berries, green smoothie, porridge) ~ each morning take the time to allocate a few minutes for both mindfulness and reflection.
Mindfulness and quiet reflection will put you in a state of clarity and calmness and enable you to subsequently plan out the non-negotiables of your day. Placing yourself in a positive physiological state also increases your self-efficacy, which is the belief you have in your ability to get shit done (see Albert Bandura's work here on self-efficacy).
The mid-morning slump will attempt to hijack your day.
Take regular breaks and opportunities to connect with others in order to boost your brain power, your physical and mental health AND your performance. Schedule in 15 minute blocks for these activities and refrain from placing back-to-back meetings/calls into your calendar. Make walking meetings your new normal and keep that bottle of water with you at all times (just 1% of dehydration leads to nebulous thinking!).
Avoid skipping lunch!
Stick with those brain fuelling foods and if you can introduce a walk around the block with a colleague into your day after you've fuelled up, you're winning! Fresh air, exercise and socialising are all energy boosters and they consequently release neurotransmitters that positively impact our mood and our mindset.
Regular movement throughout your day is a must and if you habit stack (IE. compliment one habit with another such as walking + outdoors + socialising) your chances of adopting your new found habits skyrockets. What you must avoid is the brain draining fillers of simple carbohydrates, pastries and unhealthy fats.
If you don't have the luxury of time over lunch but need a boost, a simple forward fold will send a hit of oxygen to your brain and give you the lift you need to get through that next meeting ( hinge forward from the hips and aim to touch your toes ~see video).
Aside from regular breaks and fuel, make the time to daydream. When you daydream, you're placing your brain into default mode which both conserves and creates energy. Focusing all day comes at a personal energy cost, so it's important that you give yourself periods of not focusing.
Daydreaming also increases your creativity, personal and strategic insight and is often when your best ideas emerge. At the end of your workday, take the opportunity to digest and reflect on the days events so that you free your mind from any of the unfinished business and start prepping for tomorrow.
In the late afternoon or early evening, you want to have the energy for your personal and family commitments. Get into the habit of spending this time outside with the littles kicking the ball around or heading to the beach with the dog. It's all too tempting to collapse into the couch and hibernate for the evening with a good Netflix binge, but movement and the outdoors is the answer. Unplug for the rest of the day and offer those around you your presence. Not only will you feel revitalised, but your relationships will begin to thrive as well.
So what are the new habits that you can start stacking immediately to help you boost your energy & ultimately become your best self?
For more information on the zappers and boosters of energy, see this months article in Harvard Health here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/losing-steam-avoid-these-energy-zappers
Kirsten works with individuals & organisations to help lift energy, raise performance and develop their potential. Contact her today to tap into your potential!