In previous productivity steps we planned our work (Step 1), put systems in place to keep our people informed and in sync (Step 2), and rolled up our sleeves to get work done (Step 3). This post dives deeper into the fourth of the five steps, Sustaining for Maximal Productivity.
The next “self-care” step is to sharpen your saw. Like a dulled saw cutting through a thick tree log, we produce diminished results when we use a depleted self to “cut through” our daily grind and challenging projects. Even when we are working, we’re just going to get the same amount done, or at the same level of quality. To succeed over the long haul, we should take care of ourselves through proper diet, exercise, getting adequate sleep, and more.
We discussed in an earlier post (“Maintain High Energy Levels”) the need to eat nutritious food and snacks as a way of fueling our bodies throughout the workday.
Another way to stay energized is to hydrate often and in sufficient quantities. Water is essential for life. It’s involved in many cellular functions, including energy production. Not drinking enough water may lead to dehydration, which can slow bodily functions, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. You can avoid dehydration by drinking water even when you’re not thirsty. Try to drink water regularly throughout the day.
Drinking water offers another health benefit by taking up space in the stomach. This leads to a feeling of fullness and reduced hunger. A person may also think that they are hungry when in fact they are thirsty. Drinking a glass of water before reaching for something to eat can help curb unnecessary snacking.
Another great way to increase energy and productivity is through exercise (particularly the aerobic variety). According to The American Psychological Association, we are 15% more productive on days that we exercise before work. The study also found that physically active employees were less likely to develop job burnout and depression.
Now, you may be thinking that exercise will drain energy rather than boost it. After all, by the time you finish a workout, you’re tired, perspired, out of breath, and in need of a shower. But those who are fit and get regular physical activity know better. Fatigue is the result of not being active, such as when we spend all day sitting at a desk.
A 2008 study published by University of Georgia researchers in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that inactive people who normally complained of fatigue could increase their energy levels by 20% and simultaneously decrease fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.
Sure, exercise can drain your energy, especially after a long, intense session. But regular, consistent exercise that keeps you fit and healthy will ultimately perk you up, not leave you feeling drained and tired. This is because the more you exercise aerobically, the more mitochondria the body makes to produce more energy to meet your needs.
When should one exercise? The answer is daily, ideally before work or when your body typically starts lagging. Of course, exercise at other times, such as during lunch break, right after work, or at night, is still preferred to not exercising at all.
You can get more out of your workout time by eating some fruit just before you start. Fruit provides us with “instant energy.” Our bodies can quickly break fruit down and move the nutrients into our bloodstreams. The result is more energy during workouts and more energy afterwards.
The next strategy to keeping us fresh and productive is to get adequate sleep. When we don’t sleep enough (a term called “sleep deprivation”), our productivity as well as the quality of work suffer tremendously. Our bodies need sleep, just as they need air and food to function at its best. When we sleep, our bodies heal and restore their chemical balance. Our brains forge new thought connections, and we refresh for the work ahead. Without enough sleep, our brains and body systems don’t function normally.
Sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep and/or a reduced quality of sleep (most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep nightly). Consistent failure to get adequate quality sleep can lead to health consequences affecting your entire body and impact how much you accomplish each day. (A study from Harvard University found that American companies lose almost $65B annually because of employee sleep deprivation. We really do need to slow down so we can speed up.)
Not only do our bodies need daily rest in the form of sleep, but we also need to recharge by taking regular vacations. These breaks will help clear your mind and prime your body for sustained success.
Another way to stay fresh is to take time to go deeper within ourselves, through meditation and prayer. Studies show that meditation is associated with increased cortical thickness in areas of the brain responsible for cognitive and emotional processing. That change is associated with improved working memory and skilled executive decision-making. Both meditation and prayer can help you relax, declutter your thoughts, and sharpen your concentration, all of which allow you to stay on task longer.
Particularly on pressure-filled days, meditation and prayer help to reduce stress, which can muddy the mind and keep us from performing at our best. Meditation in particular helps to deepen our concentration while lessening the mental effort needed to stay focused.
One other tip to keep yourself and others around you productive is by keeping the temperature comfortable. A recent survey found that productivity drops significantly when the office is either too cold or too warm. Experts suggest the work temperature sweet spot is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. Register for his free productivity webinar at naphtalihoff.com/webinar.