If you’ve been crawling towards the finish line at the tail end of each work day, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, you’re probably part of the current status quo. More than 76% of workers are tired most days of the week, according to a study by the Virgin Pulse Institute. And that research didn’t even take into consideration the new abnormal of COVID-19 where many of us are working from home while juggling the demands of family and virtual school.
Since the pandemic swooped in, life got a whole lot more exhausting, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Try out these supercharged strategies I use with my business coaching clients to get them more energy, optimize their performance, and increase productivity—no coffee required.
Designate a specific start time to your workday
Eighty percent of smartphone users check their phone as their first morning activity according to a 2013 IDC Research study. By checking email or social media first thing, you relinquish control of your mood, energy, and forthcoming schedule before you’ve wiped the sleep out of your eyes.
Instead of blurring the lines between your personal time and work time by picking up your phone once you wake up, set a specific start time for your work day. Boundaries preserve energy. By setting clear start times, you give yourself time to rejuvenate versus diving into reaction mode.
Celebrate milestones throughout the day
This might not seem like an obvious energy booster when pitted against a double espresso, but science says otherwise. Research shows that dopamine, the neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure, has been proven to increase levels of motivation, mood, focus, and—you guessed it—energy. So instead of just plowing through your menial list of tasks, set little rewards associated with completing them. By giving yourself something to look forward to, you’ll be more efficient in your work, breaking through mental fatigue. Consider a five-minute walk outside, a healthy smoothie you look forward to, or a call to a good friend as simple but inspiring milestone celebrations.
Change your view
The same way we sometimes mistake dehydration for hunger, we often mistake eye strain for being tired. For a lot of us, in-person meetings broke up the monotony of staring at a screen all day; but now, all our face-to-face activities have turned virtual. Your eyes need breaks throughout the day, but if you can’t sneak away from the screen there are some easy tweaks. Blue-light-blocker glasses help cut down or block blue light that comes from screens, reducing eye strain and helping you to fall asleep with more ease at night. Many computers now have settings that allow you to turn on a “night shift” setting to lower the blue light coming from your screen, which can help as well.
Exercise or relax for a brief window
Schedule twenty minutes into your day to recharge. Try a 20-minute HIIT workout, stretching, meditation, or periods of prepping clean meals and snacks you can easily grab throughout the day. The deep breathing in many of those options breaks us out of our typical shallow breathing habit and naturally increases alertness and boosts mood. Proper deep breathing balances the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood, flooding the brain and body with more oxygen.
Build in white space
The natural tendency of a hard worker is to fill every moment of the day with work, but that can drastically reduce productivity, energy levels, and brain function. When you’re booked solid, there’s no room for creativity, de-stressing, or recharging. Build in small breaks throughout the day that are actually blocked into your calendar and honored like an important meeting, and use that time to relax, step away from screen, and just allow your mind to rest or think. You’ll be amazed by how good it feels and the brilliant ideas that pop into your mind during this time.
Make 52 your new magic number
The Pomodoro Technique—working for 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, and then going back at it—works wonders for many people. But there’s a new time technique on the block. According to studies, many of the most successful and productive people actually benefit from working and taking breaks in longer batches of time: a 52 on, the 17 off pattern. Try setting a timer to work for 52 minutes and then taking a 17-minute break. It might the most optimal, energy-enhancing boost you needed.
Elizabeth Hartke is a business scaling strategist that mentors entrepreneurs in scaling their income, impact, and freedom with time.