Managing your energy more effectively throughout the day to boost productivity
In today’s fast-paced world, multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once. But according to American-Canadian cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, doing more than one thing at a time is taxing on the brain and drains precious mental energy. “Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes [parts of our brain] to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task,” he says. “The rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time.” This leads to a rapid decline in decision-making skills, creativity, and productivity.
“It’s funny to me to think about how quickly we freak out when our cell phone battery starts to weaken, but how seldom we even notice when our own brain power starts fading away,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer at MindNation.
“So in the same way we keep an eye on our finances to make sure we don’t go bankrupt, it’s important we pay attention to how we spend and invest our energy so we don’t end up running out. “
How can we best replenish our mental energy and attain consistent peak performance when faced with so many things to do at work and at home? Salma suggests 5 ways we can keep our body and brain primed throughout the day:
- Start your day right
- Hold off on checking email, social media, or any media for that matter, right when you open your eyes. “This way you can fuel your brain with something positive, inspiring, or energizing first,” Salma suggests.
- Don’t rush through your breakfast, coffee, or smoothie. Take time to savor the meal.
- Try listening to a guided meditation or podcast, or reading a few pages of an inspirational book.
- Go for a walk, do some gentle yoga.
- Add a little humor to the morning by sharing a funny story with a friend or family.
“Once you get started and you feel that energy starting to flow, you end up doing more than you expected and you actually enjoy it,” Salma says.
2. It’s not just WHAT you eat, but also HOW you eat
- Make sure to eat slowly, and stop before you think you’re full.
- Also make sure that you’re eating often enough to maintain a consistent energy level. Going too long between meals can actually cause your energy to tank and even reduce your immunity.
3. Find time to move throughout the day
“I suggest you try to get up and move for at least 10 minutes every hour using a 50-minute, 10-minute work cycle during the day,” Salma offers. “If you feel more tired, or more stressed, you may want to shift to 25 minutes on and five minutes off, so that you’re recharging even more often. You can even combine strategies, whatever the day calls for.”
4. Don’t forget to practice self-care
“Incorporate the things you enjoy doing into your routine, such as listening to music, using aromatherapy, doing gratitude exercises, thinking about someone you care about, or watching a funny video,” advises Salma.
5. At night, unwind properly
- Place your digital device out of reach, because it’s way too tempting to check in when it’s by your bed.
- “If you have to sleep with the TV on, make sure to choose shows that are relaxing or even boring, so your brain isn’t trying to pay attention,” Salma suggests. “Also, set a timer for the TV to turn off.”
- Listen to an audiobook or read a few pages of a book. “Most people who read before bed only actually read a few pages because their eyes start to get tired and their brain starts to recognize this consistent thing they do when they are ready to fall asleep,” shares Salma.
- Create a quiet comfortable space to sleep in. Studies show that a cool temperature of about 20 degrees is best for the body to rest, and you should also minimize light and sound.
Take a few moments right now to write down a couple of ways you can recharge your energy throughout the day. Make sure your plans are realistic, and keep them short and simple. Then, think about someone you could ask to join you from time to time to help you stick with your commitment.
Make sure to repeat these new habits consistently enough for adaptations to start to add up. “A good rule of thumb is the power of two days — never miss two consecutive days of completing a new positive habit,” Salma shares. “You can miss a day — because let’s be honest, life gets in the way and all our plans need to be realistic — but fight the urge to miss a second day so you don’t fall back into your old habits.” So push yourself (though not too much) and use the ‘2-day rule’ as a way to build your habit.
Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not easy to break out of old habits and build new ones so be patient, start small, and be kind to yourself.
— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation