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Do you ever get on an airplane? Then you might want to pause to consider the single most important thing an airline pilot must know: the minimum speed at which he can fly the plane before the engines stall.
The equally important thing for you to know—to not only survive your onslaught of responsibilities but thrive in life—is how to cultivate your energy reserves with strategies and practices that act like renewable fuels. YOU are, after all, the engine of your life and you need your engine to run efficiently and effectively day in and day out.
If you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, then maybe the reserves you normally draw on have gone dry and you’ve hit some kind of invisible ceiling—or maybe it feels more like you’ve fallen to the bottom of a pit you can’t crawl out of.
You’re not alone, though.
When I left my corporate job nearly a decade ago, I was reeling from the devastating impact of a stressful, energy-depleting lifestyle that left me physically out of shape, struggling with health issues that required prescription medication, feeling estranged from my closest personal relationships.
Even my earnings had started to plateau because I had been unknowingly drawing on non-renewable forms of fuel.
After leaving that corporate job, I was cautious about putting my own heart and soul into building my business from the ground up. Why? Because I knew I could easily be driven further down the same exhausting path, working the stereotypical owner-entrepreneur’s 24/7 schedule.
I vowed to find a smarter way of working and living, and I set out to experiment with any and all methods, from East to West.
The strategies I experimented with in my own life resulted in me not only significantly increasing my natural energy reserves but also prioritizing what was most important to support my vision.
- I changed my work hours to support the life I wanted to live (rather than fitting “life” into the corners around the edges of work).
- I increased my mental focus and productivity so I got more done in a shorter period of time.
- I even dropped 2 dress sizes and felt more confident in my body and overall.
The changes I made also reduced my anxiety level so I no longer woke up sweating at 4 AM, with my mind racing about the day ahead, and ultimately put me back in the driver’s seat with regard to running by business and growing my income.
Since 2004, I’ve shared these same strategies with hundreds of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and private individuals, and here in today’s blog post I share my best tips with you—ones that you can implement immediately, today, to boost your energy and not only feel better but work more effectively and enjoyably so you can generate better results in your business sooner and get home earlier to enjoy the rest of your life.
Boost Your Engine’s Efficiency
Start the day with a warm, protein-rich breakfast. Colder temperature foods require more energy to digest because your body has to heat them up first before they can be processed. Protein-rich foods like quinoa, black beans, eggs and lean meats help to stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t burn out mid-morning.
As I write about in chapter two of my book Refuel, Recharge, and Re-energize, starting your day in this way “not only sparks your digestive fire, but also boosts your metabolism, brain function and immunity—all critical for supercharging you—the engine behind your business, your passion, your purpose.” Try eating leftover Indian dal (lentils) or black beans and rice to kick-start your day like many of my clients do.
Get your heart rate up 20 minutes or more each day. While it takes only about 1 minute for all the blood in your body to circulate one time around, the standard recommendation is to elevate your heart rate an average of 20 minutes to fully “flush” your system. To feel more energized and productive, follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation for moderate physical activity: 150 minutes a week or roughly one 20+ minute period of elevated heart rate each day.
Why? Just like the pipes in your bathroom need to be flushed, all the old toxins and cortisol and other hormones your body releases through naturally processing need to be flushed out of your system. When they stay in you, they cause fatigue and sluggishness. Not exactly the best recipe for feeling energized and productive
No time to exercise? Try these integration strategies:
Meet with your business partner or colleague while walking briskly, jogging lightly, or biking. One of my clients conducts regular meetings with her direct reports while walking on the bike path near her office. (Moving your body is a great way to fuel creative inspiration too!)
Use your own body power to run an errand rather than relying on a car, public transit, taxi, or even a courier service. Take that package in hand and see how quickly you can walk to the nearby mailbox store and back. Put on a backpack and shop for those office supplies on foot or by bike.
Get active with your loved ones. Throw the ball for your dog, then chase it down with him to see who gets there first. Try to keep up with your daughter as she plays tag up and around the jungle gym equipment at her favorite park. It’s amazing how quickly 20 minutes will pass by and how easily you’ll be able to do this.
The more regularly you get your heart rate up, flush out those toxins, and ask more of your body’s performance, the more your engine will support you in operating at its optimum level in your daily work routine.
Get to sleep an hour earlier. If your excuse for staying up late is that you have too much work to do, then know this: numerous sleep studies have confirmed that when you sacrifice sleep, you are more likely to make mistakes, have trouble focusing, get sick more often, gain weight, and be in a grumpier mood. Can you afford to continue wasting time on illness, error, and inefficiency? Experiment with going to get an hour earlier for two weeks and observe the incremental benefits that accumulate over time.
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Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
We have all been hypnotized by the false illusion that multi-tasking and pushing ourselves harder for more hours leads to higher levels of productivity. This way of working draws on a non-renewable form of fuel that eventually runs out, causing our internal engine to burn out. And just like in any system of production, each one of us has a unique level of exertion at which we hit the point of diminishing returns and become tapped out.
Do one thing at a time. Quickly switching between and among disparate tasks—like sending text messages while trying to stay on track with your colleague’s presentation while simultaneously eating bites of lunch—is mentally exhausting, often causes misunderstandings, increases indigestion, and ultimately results in you wasting more time due to the inherent inefficiencies. Whether you call this mindfulness or single-tasking or just plain old focus, it’s time to set aside other distractions and give your full attention to one thing at a time.
I teach my clients to design a schedule template from scratch that allows them to consolidate common activities into fixed blocks of time. For example, any decisions and activities involving business finances might get slotted on Monday after the weekly planning meeting, while product development and improvement strategies and tactics are the focus for Wednesday mornings. When new demands or tasks arise in the course of daily business, those items get added to the next “slot” for those tasks. Email and online activities get consolidated into two or three short blocks of time at different points in the day to avoid distraction during the rest of the day.
Line up your schedule commitments with your natural peaks of energy. We each have unique peaks of energy in our day, when our Physical, Creative, and Mental energies are highest. I teach my clients to identify their own peaks, then re-organize their calendars to support these natural highs and lows. For example, one client has her best creative energy in the morning between 5 AM and 7 AM, so she blocks out that time to write and brainstorm new project ideas. Later in the day when her physical energy wanes, around 2:30 PM, she leaves the office and hits the gym to get in her cardio and weight training and re-charge her energy reserves. After she showers, she jumps back online for another 90-120 minutes to wrap-up her day and plan for tomorrow’s activities.
Say no to what does not support your vision. Whether driven by a heart-felt desire to help others or the desire for more recognition, you are more than likely involved in at least one (if not many) activities that drain your energy rather than spark your inner fire. Take a moment to mentally note or write down what you’ve committed to in your life out of a sense of obligation (whether it’s a colleague’s kid’s birthday party or another position on the board of a community organization) and figure out the best way to politely decline future involvement. Saying “no” to what does not support your vision will free-up your mental, emotional, and physical energy to focus on the good stuff!
Don’t stop here! Keep going, or if you prefer you can sign-up to receive these tips in audio format, conveniently delivered to your email in box.
Improve Your Inputs to Improve Your Outputs
It is generally agreed that better quality ingredients create better quality products. And better package design appeals to your target market’s aesthetic and ergonomic needs and makes them want to buy more. These details and more may be on your mind day in and day out as you do your work or run your business. But, how often do you pause to consider the quality of inputs you are putting into YOU, the engine of your business?
Water. A majority of busy professionals are dehydrated. Not only do you forget to drink water, but you eat a lot of processed, salty foods and caffeinated beverages which further dries you out. Your body and brain need water for every single basic function, so if you want your body and brain to work well for you, give them this essential ingredient!
How much water should you drink?
- According to the Institute of Medicine, men should drink 3.0 liters of fluids per day (roughly 13 cups); women 2.2 liters per day (roughly 9 cups); 80% of the water should come from water, 20% from food.
- According to J.R. Worsley, a well-respected internationally known acupuncturist, drink 1 ounce per 2 pounds of body weight (e.g., a 150 lb adult should drink 75 ounces of water).
Make the water more appealing by bringing a large, beautiful glass to work and filling a glass pitcher with water and slices of cucumber or citrus.
Mindful Breathing. Not sure if this works? Pause now and take 3 to 5 deep, full breaths with slow inhales and long exhales and notice how quickly your heart rate slows, the tension in your muscles get released, and your mental clarity comes on line. The ideal state to focus, be creative, and get work done is when you are more relaxed and present in the moment. Mindful breathing puts you in this state of mind.
Add a reminder to your calendar to pause and breathe several times a day. Or better yet get involved with a fun activity that forces you to breathe like rowing, a spinning class, or an active form of yoga (like vinyasa). Breathe more consciously to fuel every cell in your body with oxygen and activate your highest potential!
Caffeine. No, don’t believe the hype. While a small amount of caffeine used on occasion can improve mental focus and productivity, research has linked the long-term habitual use of caffeine to adrenal exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and more health problems. I cut out my daily coffee habit nearly 10 years ago and have never looked back. Most of my clients have been shocked at how much better they sleep and how much more easily they wake in the morning after cutting out the caffeine. Don’t go cold turkey, though. Gradually reduce your caffeine over a two-week or longer period and (if you like) replace with an energizing herbal tea, like ginger or peppermint.
Alcohol. After a long day full of caffeinated beverages and cortisol-surging intense work activities, you naturally crave the relaxing and balancing effects of alcohol. However, a little known negative side effect is that alcoholic drinks contribute to insomnia, which fuels the daytime cycle of exhaustion and low energy, which again makes you reach for the caffeine.
Increase your water and oxygen intake, slowly decrease that caffeine, and wean yourself off the alcohol too—all to boost your energy and get you the results you want.
SHIFT FROM AWARENESS TO ACTION
Be kind to yourself and remember that you are living and working in one of the most challenging, demanding, and complex times in human history. Keep it simple by identifying the one idea out of this post that most resonated with you and experiment. Then, email me about the unique kind of energy-boosting effect it has for you.
About the Author:
Erin Owen, who earned her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 2001, has been creating breakthrough results and transforming the lives of her clients since 2004. She teaches stressed-out, busy professionals like you how to increase your income and generate better results in business and life by boosting your energy, reducing your stress, simplifying everyday routines, and better managing your time.
In addition to being a certified Total Leadership Coach, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher, and Reiki Master, Erin is the author of two publications: Refuel, Recharge, and Re-energize: The Conscious Entrepreneur’s Guide to Taking Back Control of Your Time and Energy (available on Amazon) and Boost Your Productivity In and Out of the Office with Eastern-Inspired Clutter Clearing Secrets (only available on her website).
When she’s not working, you can find her chasing around her two growing boys and chocolate Labrador retriever with her husband in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter for more tips @Erin_Owen_YPB, like her on Facebook, or email her at Info [at] YourPerformanceBreakthrough [dot] com.