Some very simple and useful tips by Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything, from Harvard Business Review:
Human beings aren’t meant to operate like computers — at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. We’re designed to be rhythmic, and to intermittently renew. Here are the six strategies we’ve found work best:
1. Make sufficient sleep your highest priority: Far too many of us buy into the myth that one hour less of sleep allows us one more of productivity. In fact, even very small amounts of sleep deprivation significantly undermine capacity for focus, analytic thinking and creativity. The research is clear: more than 95 per cent of us require 7-8 hours of sleep in order to be fully rested, and for our brains to optimally embed new learning. Great performers, ranging from musicians to athletes, often get even more than 8 hours. [Related post]
2. Take a renewal break at least every ninety minutes: It’s now how long you work that determines the value you produce, but rather the energy you bring to whatever hours you work.The first key is to intermittently quiet your physiology. You can dramatically lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your muscle tension in as little as 30-60 seconds with regular practice. With your eyes closed, try breathing in through your nose to a count of three, and out through your mouth slowly to a count of six. In this way, you’re extending your recovery. As your body quiets down, your thinking mind will also get quieter and you’ll feel more relaxed.
3. Keep a running list of everything that you want or need to do: The more fully and frequently you download what’s on your mind, the less energy you’ll squander in fruitless thinking about undone tasks, and the more energy you’ll have to be fully present in whatever you’re doing.
4. Run up your heart rate or take a nap in the early afternoon: If taking a run or going to a gym is too time consuming, how about taking a brisk 15-30 minute walk outside? Or if you’re in an office building, how about walking up and down the stairs? Alternatively, take a 20-30 minute nap between 1-4 p.m, when most of us feel a wave of fatigue. Researcher Sara Mednick has found that a short nap is not just powerfully restorative, but also prompts significantly higher performance on cognitive tasks in the subsequent several hours, compared to non-nappers.
5. Practice appreciation — and savoring: One of the least recognized ways we squander energy is in negative emotions. We’re far quicker to notice what’s wrong in our lives than what’s right. Look for opportunities to appreciate someone in your life, and share what you’re feeling — directly, or in a note. You’ll be giving the other person a shot of positive energy, but sharing positive energy will also make you feel better.
6. Develop a transition ritual between work and home: When we leave the office, many of us carry work with us. The result is that even when we get home, we’re still not truly present. Consider establishing a very specific way to disengage from work so you can leave it behind. The most powerful ritual we’ve seen clients build is to stop somewhere along the route home, such as a public park, and take a few minutes to let the day go, and to focus on the evening ahead. Turn home back into a place where you’re truly getting renewal.
My additional tips:
- Breathe. Oxygen is the source of all energy.
- Stay hydrated. Keep sipping water.
- Avoid heavy lunch to prevent the afternoon energy slump.
- Calling up family and friends during the commute from office to home is an effective transition ritual.
- My #1 stress-buster: swimming