The ability to sustain a high level of energy throughout the workday is a crucial attribute of high achievers. There are many people who are talented and smart who are not as effective as they could be…because they haven’t worked on this important part of their professional skill set. Maybe you’ve worked with people like this, very bright folks who get irritable, less creative or mentally slower during certain parts of the day. They are still capable people, of course, but their body and mind are undermining their performance. We’ve all experienced the feeling of low energy at work, and we know we are not at our best…and sometimes we’re just going through the motions. This is just not an option for high-performance people, so it makes sense to learn how to sustain a level of energy that will allow you to be at your best most of the time.
Take a minute and think through your energy ups and downs throughout your workday or workweek. We all have energy patterns that tend to repeat based on our habits and routines. Your energy level, whether it is high or low at a certain time, is the result of your routine. It can definitely be changed and altered if your energy is dipping during the wrong times. Think through your energy ebbs and flows throughout the week. You will identify some “soft spots” in your routine. This makes it easier to make high impact adjustments.
What follows is a list of recommendations that can help you preserve and sustain your energy throughout the day. All twelve of these recommendations are real-world proven and can absolutely affect how you go through your work day. There are probably a few of these ideas that you are using already, my hope is that you can identify a recommendation or two here that you can leverage to increase your energy level while you work. Ready? Let’s get started!
Recommendation #1 – Start Your Day Early
I know that this is the last thing that many of you want to do, and not everyone is a “morning person”. As an energy preserver, getting an early start is crucial. It allows a person to calmly ramp into their day before they have to start reacting to things. Starting the day early means you can start each day on your terms… working on your priorities instead of other people’s. If you’re not a morning person, it is especially important to allow yourself at least 30 minutes before the official start to your day to give yourself a chance to “lean in” to each new day.
Recommendation #2 – Manage Your Meetings to Preserve Energy
One of the easiest way to preserve energy through the day is the have unscheduled space in between meetings and other responsibilities. Just a little time between scheduled responsibilities can make a big difference in your ability to “change channels” and be ready for whatever is next. Towards that end, I strongly recommend that scheduled meetings and conference calls end at 10 minutes before the hour or half-hour. For example, an previously hour-long meeting starting at 2:00 would be scheduled to end at 2:50. That way, even if another meeting starts at 3:00 you can clear your mind and be ready for a new topic and new attendees.
Recommendation #3 – Have Two Distinct Web Browsers for Work & Personal Sites
One of the biggest distractions and energy-eaters for today’s workers is the internet. Your personal sites for social networking, etc. are constantly on your screen asking for your attention. Having two browsers is a simple way to keep your mind on work when you are working, and off work when you are not. Keep your personal bookmarks on one browser and your work site bookmarked on the other. Viola’… you just saved five hours a week and kept your mind fresh for whatever you are working on.
Recommendation #4 – Consider a Stand-Up Desk
There are a lot of experts who will tout the positive effects on circulation and back pain, but this recommendation is all about sustaining energy. Standing up at your desk for some part of the day…even if it is just an hour or two…can make a huge difference in your energy level through the day. Some people set a timer for their standing time, others stand for a while after lunch, and some stand all day. Stand-up desks have dropped in price over the last couple of years and sellers like NextDesk, VariDesk, Rebel Desk, Up-Lift and Stand Desk all offer desks in prices ranging from $500-$2500. Most of these are adjustable so they can work as both traditional seated desks and standing desks.
Recommendation #5 – Start Your Day With Something Other Than Email
This simple recommendation can make a big difference in how the workday gets going for you. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you look at your inbox, especially if you work in a time zone where your co-workers are starting their days before you. Try doing something else…anything else…other than looking at email first thing in the morning. Making a plan for your day, reading a book or blog with your coffee, taking a short walk, doing some stretching, eating breakfast, etc. You will be looking at your email all day long, there is no reason to rush to it first thing.
Recommendation #6 – Limit Multi-Tasking
It feels like we are saving time when we multi-task, but a lot of research is starting to show that we are just doing things a little worse…two or three things at a time. Experts recommend a sequenced approach to doing tasks, that we focus on what we are doing while we are doing it. Part of being focused is just not being distracted. Sometimes that might mean participating on a conference call away from your computer, reviewing a report with your phone turned off or leveraging recommendation #3 above.
Recommendation #7 – Watch the “CC” Line on Email Messages
The “CC” line can be an energy eater and a time waster. If you are included in too many messages where you are not central to the theme or purpose, start deleting them aggressively and consider asking to be dropped from the thread if other people are driving the issue. When you are composing email, be very discerning about who you add to the message. Every person included increase the odds of more email being generated, and each thread participant dilutes the clarity of who is responsible for responding to the message or dealing with the issue at hand.
Recommendation #8 – Block Your Schedule to Allow for Developmental Time
The idea is to actually schedule blank time in your weekly schedule for the development of projects, research, personal brainstorming, prioritizing and organizations. You would treat this time just like you would any other appointment in your schedule. The ideal amount of time would be around an hour a day, if you can get away with that. If not, any amount of scheduled “blank” time will help you sustain your energy throughout the day and week.
Recommendation #9 – Eat Healthy Snacks & Drink Water Through the Day
Do I sound like your Mother? It is true that eating healthy snacks like nuts and raw vegetables during the day will help sustain your energy and keep your metabolism up. Drinking water has all kinds of positive effect as we all know. Keep those healthy snacks and your extra-large water bottle close at hand and you will definitely feel an increase in your late-morning and late-afternoon energy level.
Recommendation #10 – Answer Some Email Messages With a Call
Going “old school” with your responses can help sustain your energy and save a lot of time in the process. When you get an email that requires a thoughtful response, pick up the phone and talk it through with the sender. Conversations are energizers, and you are likely to resolve an issue much faster than through a series of email messages.
Recommendation #11 – Take a 15-20 Minute Siesta
You are going to like this one! Productivity experts have long espoused the value and impact of a short “power nap” each day. We know that many cultures have these organized rest periods built into their workdays. If you are not lucky enough to live in one of these cultures, you will need to be creative and deliberate to work this habit into your day. Of course, there will be many of us who will need to wait until after work to get our siesta in.
Recommendation #12 – Start with Your Top Five Every Day
This recommendation is the oldest and probably the best idea for productivity and energy preservation. You start your day with the five most important things you need to do that day. Why five? It seems to be the magic number. If you can’t get to the five most important things, you will certainly not get to number eight or number eleven. Hopping from thing to thing because you don’t have a priority list is a big-time energy eater. The Top Five list will keep you focused on your key priorities and protect you from other things jumping in front of your most important priorities.
Those are the 12 Pro Tips for preserving energy. After you have thought through the list, pick out one or two of the recommendations that you think might have an impact in your life. I would encourage you to try any recommendation for a few days before you add another one. Then you can make a decision about the next step you might take to upgrade your energy level. Energy preservation is a crucial part of being a high-performance person, make it a priority.