Exercise is important to me. It makes me feel more energized throughout the day. It is part of my morning routine, and I usually do a workout five days per week. My training always includes some cardio, generally jogging. My motivation is not a competition, but I decided to participate in a 10k to challenge myself to improve. I noticed that at the beginning of the race, everyone was full of energy. However, as the race progressed, runners began to slow down or walk from fatigue. Some had to stop completely to catch their breath. While some were accomplishing the goal of crossing the finish line, others struggled to take the next step.
Thinking about the race gave some insight about two of the pillars of productivity – time and energy. Everyone knows how important it to be a good time manager, but it is equally important to manage our energy. If you think about it in the context of a typical workday, everyone has the same 8 hours, but not everyone has the same level of energy. Time is finite. Once time is spent, it is gone forever. However, energy is a renewable resource. If you know what to do, you can make improvements to increase your productivity.
The Energy Impact
Energy, when used efficiently together with Time and Attention, will help you move forward with your goals and help you get more done. This is something that we have discussed in our article about the TEA Framework.
1. Energy plus Attention
When you have the Energy and Attention but you have no Time, you feel overwhelmed.
2. Time plus Energy
When you have the Time and Energy but you have no Attention, you are distracted.
3. Time Plus Attention
Finally when you have the Time and Attention but you have no Energy, then you are Exhausted.
Know your chronotype
Not all hours are created equal. Some people feel at their best during the morning hours. Others feel like their day starts in the afternoon or evening. This is part of your genetic code called a chronotype.
In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, author Daniel H. Pink explains that we all have a daily rhythm that includes a peak, a trough, and a rebound. The peak is when you have the most energy and your best focus. You cannot change how you wired on the inside, but you can learn how to increase energy and focus.
That is why in this blog post, we’re going to talk about 5 very simple strategies that you can implement in your life right now to boost energy.
5 Simple Ways To Boost Your Energy
1. Use The Sun
Just as Superman gets his power from the (yellow) sun, we mere mortals can also harness the sun’s powers to be more productive. Based on several scientific studies, our bodies feel tired and go into sleep mode when it does not get enough natural light. This is the same reason why, during winter months (shorter days, longer nights) we feel tired. It’s not just the cold that’s making us less productive but also the lack of sunlight.
The Energy Boost of Natural Light
There was a study done by Prof Mirjam Muench, an associate research professor for the Sleep/Wake Center in New Zealand, that showed the different effects of natural light and artificial light. Your office can be well-lit and you might think that’s enough—but it’s not. Regular fluorescent light, although bright, tends to make you feel sleepy towards the end of the day. Those who were using natural light or blue (wavelength) light (which is similar to natural light) were more active towards the end of the day compared to the former. Another great thing about using natural light or blue light is that it increases alertness which helps with cognitive functions.
Feel More Energized By Adding Natural Light to Your Workspace
More and more companies use natural light as an office perk because more employees believe that they can work better in this type of environment. If you work from home and have more flexibility with your workspace, pick a spot near a window. Working in an office where you have less flexibility doesn’t mean that you cannot get the sun advantage. Although artificial, the HappyLight can boost your energy as well as your mood. You can also go outside during the day and take a short walk. Cloudy? No problem. You still get light exposure even when it’s cloudy outside.
2. Stretch To Boost Your Energy
As early as my preschool years, I remember our teacher would ask us to stretch out our little bodies during class. I never truly understood why until I was training as a trainer for a call center. Our trainer gave us a tip on how to ‘wake up’ a sleepy or tired class–ask them to stand up and stretch! The effects of a 60-second stretch are immediate. When we’re feeling lethargic after working for 4 or 5 hours, our muscles tighten. We want to loosen those muscles to fight this lethargic feeling.
I was a trainer for 5 years and I would notice my trainees would start losing focus after our lunch break (even if they had enough sleep the night before). This the usual time that I would ask everyone to stand up, stretch, and walk around the training room. Immediately after, I would see that they get energized and would participate more.
Set Reminders to Stretch
You don’t always have someone with you who can remind you to stretch, but you can always remind yourself to stretch first before reaching for that cup of coffee. Here’s a good video of some stretching exercises you can do without ever leaving your desk:
Aside from stretching during your work hours, you can also add this to your morning ritual to increase your energy levels early on. Every time you stretch, you realign your body that helps improve blood circulation to your muscles and your brain.
Techniques for Stretching
Here are some stretching techniques you can do after waking up to make you feel more alert and energetic for the day:
Reclining Spinal Twist (do both sides)
3. Breathing exercises throughout the day
Breathing is something we do throughout the day without even thinking about it. It is simply our body saying that “hey, we need oxygen in order to function”. When we’re just sitting down, we maintain our regular breathing cycle. When we’re running, our breathing becomes heavier because it’s what our body needs. Since we’re already regularly breathing, why do we still have to do breathing exercises?
Unfortunately, our regular breathing is actually shallow breathing. We mostly feel the rise and fall of our chest but not our abdomen/stomach. We don’t put as much oxygen in our body compared to when we intentionally do so. When we’re feeling particularly stressed, our breathing increases rapidly which causes more stress.
When we take deep breaths, it means that we are putting more oxygen in our blood which then goes to our cells. This then will slow down our heart rate and then lower our blood pressure. The next part is something very similar to stretching– breathing exercises improves blood circulation.
A Simple Energy Boosting Exercise
There are several breathing exercises that you can do in the comforts of your chair. Here’s a simple one that you can do twice a day, or any time you feel like you’re losing energy. Don’t worry, no awkward poses are involved.
- You can either close your eyes or keep your eyes open–it’s up to you
- Put your hand on your belly so that you can feel its rise and fall
- Take a deep breath through your nose, until you feel that your stomach is full of oxygen
- Then slowly release air through your mouth
- You can try this cycle and gradually increase over time: inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for another 4 seconds, and then exhale for another 4 seconds (you can increase to 5 seconds or more)
- You can try the cycle above five times and gradually increase over time
4. Take Cold Showers to Manage Energy Levels
Maybe you’re like me and love hot showers. This may be difficult to hear, but switching to cold showers can have a lot of productivity benefits. We discussed these in detail in The Productivity Show Episode 22 (Podcast). When we take a cold shower, it stimulates our body’s fight-or-flight response which creates a natural boost of energy to increase strength and speed. Since we’re not really running from something, we can use our increased energy levels to get more stuff done.
If you’re already cringing at the thought of taking a cold shower, it’s fine. You don’t have to dive right into it. You can do it in stages if that makes you feel better and more in control. You can start off with warm water and then gradually make it cooler. You can even start with different body parts. Perhaps start with your legs and then your arms and then finally, your head.
A weekly plan to implement cold showers
Day 1: Start off with warm water. After lathering, use cool water and then switch it back to warm water.
Day 2: Start with warm water. After lathering, use cool water until you end your bath.
Day 3: Same as above but instead of cool water, try to switch it to a colder temperature.
Day 4: Start with cool water and end with cold water.
Day 5: Start and end with cold water.
Personally, I take a cold shower every single day. It’s part of my morning ritual that signals my body that it’s time to work. I always feel refreshed every morning, ready to face my most important tasks (MITs).
5. Sit up straight
“Don’t slouch! Sit up straight! You’re back is going to be bent when you grow up.” I don’t even know how many times I have heard my mom berate me for my posture when I was a kid. She was right about wanting me to sit up straight and have the right posture, but I’m sure she didn’t know about how it’s connected with energy levels. When you feel tired, correct your posture.
Posture makes a difference
When we have the correct body posture (like sitting up straight), we’re sending signals to our body to have more energy. Compare it with slouching — the movement or the posture itself depicts a lack of energy and it also causes fatigue. This is because our body movements not only affect our energy levels but also our mood.
Tips for improving posture
Here are some tips to help you improve your sitting posture:
- Your back should be at a right angle to your thighs.
- Your legs should be flat on the ground while you’re sitting down.
- While driving, adjust your seat. If you find yourself leaning forward towards the steering wheel or you feel like you’re reaching for the wheel, you’re too far.
- Don’t forget to take standing breaks when you sit for long periods (bust out your Pomodoro Timer and stand up regularly).
Remember, there is power in our posture and body movement!
All the tips we shared doesn’t require any special equipment and are very easy to follow but you don’t have to do everything all at once. I suggest doing the easiest first which is the breathing exercise. You can do this anytime and anywhere. First, do you best to get enough sleep every night. Next, do something else every day and experiment what works best for you. If you discovered that stretching after waking up helped increase your energy level, then add it to your morning ritual.
Do you know of any other ways to boost your energy levels? Let us know in the comments.