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9 Energy Hacks to Stay Motivated When You’re Exhausted

9 Energy Hacks to Stay Motivated When You’re Exhausted
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Americans work a lot. The vast majority of us go above and beyond the typical 9-5, Monday-Friday routine, working between 45-55 hours per week. So when energy starts to lag and the day gets that much longer, most of us turn to chemicals and quick fixes to get the boost we need. It’s hard to stay motivated.

But in the long term, the second (or third) cup of coffee, the after-lunch 5-hour energy shot, or the bag of peanut M&Ms you down at 3 A.M. are doing more harm than good. You’re cheating yourself with sugar and caffeine.

Fortunately, there are other energy hacks you can implement that will work as well, if not better than, the elevator-Snickers at way past go to bed time. Here are nine such hacks to stay motivated and how to implement them into your schedule starting this week.

Screen Detox Before Bed

We are hard wired to sync up with the light cycles around us. So when our brains are fully stimulated for hours up until the minute we lay down to sleep, it’s that much harder to get a good night’s sleep and in turn stay focused the next day. Even if you fall asleep immediately, the quality of sleep is low.

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To avoid this and ensure you get the full night of quality sleep you need to jump out of bed refreshed, avoiding screens for 1-2 hours before bed every night. Better yet, when you wake up also avoid looking at your phone for 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll feel more relaxed and more energized, reducing those mid-day crashes.

What a Good Breakfast Looks Like

For years you’ve heard that you need breakfast to start the day properly, but most of us do it incorrectly. We either cram something down real quick so that we feel like we’ve covered our bases or we wait too long.

Your body doesn’t need 1,000 calories first thing in the morning. A banana and a large glass of water will get you moving much faster than a sugar-laden donut. Small snacks until lunch will keep you moving at a steady pace until your next meal.

Visualize Your Day with Clear End Goals

Visualization is a powerful technique used by many of the world’s most successful people. The human mind processes images thousands of times faster than any other form of stimuli, to the point that if you visualize yourself completing a task, your body will respond as if you did.

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Michael Phelps has famously visualized tens of thousands of races he never swam. So effective was his habit that when his goggles filled with water during an Olympic final, he not only finished the race, he won in record time.

Listen to (the right) Music While Working

Music can motivate and push us through spells of low energy, but you could be listening to the wrong kind of music. Music with human voices can keep you from 100% focusing on what you are doing – it’s how we’re wired.

Classical music, instrumentals and even techno or EDM are better suited for work. For a service that takes this to the next level, check out Focus@Will, an app and web service that plays continuous productivity focused music in these styles.

A Twenty Minute Focus Hack

One of the most famous hacks in productivity circles is the Pomodoro technique. Put simply, this requires that you focus intently for 20 minutes on a given task and then take a five minute break. There are software tools that will help you do this, tapping into the natural timeframe your mind is willing to sit still and focus on one action.

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Not only does the Pomodoro technique engage you in much greater stretches of focus, it also forces you to break up your tasks and goals into bite sized chunks – which itself has been shown to have many positive benefits.

Build a To Do List You Can Trust

A good To Do List is the cornerstone of productivity. One of the most famous “To Do List gurus” is David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. The basic idea behind this philosophy is that when something comes up, you write it down and place it in your “inbox”. At set intervals during the day, you review your inbox and categorize tasks accordingly – either doing them, delegating them, or scheduling them for later.

When you do this consistently, you reach a point at which you can fully trust your to do list – putting the stress of remembering what’s next out of your brain entirely.

Go For a (Short) Jog

Physical exercise does a LOT of things for the mind – too many to list here. It releases endorphins, reduces cortisol levels, stimulates muscles and nerves, and keeps your brain active. In short, even if it makes you physically tired, good exercise will jump start the brain. A good mid-day jog will keep you going through the toughest schedule.

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Patch Together a Standing Desk

Sitting is bad for productivity. Your body actually changes both chemically and physically when you sit down, and the result for many people is a less focused, lower energy level, even if they follow every other tip in this article.

Hence the recent popularity in standing desks. But standing desks can be very expensive. So if you want to give it a go without investing in a custom built desk, build one yourself. You can either follow the instructions here or grab a spare filing cabinet on top of which you can place your monitor and keyboard.

Give Your Mind a Jumpstart Mid-Day

At a certain point, your mind is going to get distracted. Whether it’s a repetitive task or a midday crash, you’re going to find it hard to get back into the swing of things at a certain point.

Changing venues, going for a walk, talking to a co-worker, or running up and down the stairs can break you out of whatever loop you’re currently stuck in and jump start your mind enough to get back into the swing of things.

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Not every tip above will work as quickly or as effectively as a quick shot of caffeine for everyone. But if you start making small changes to your lifestyle to match this list, you’ll almost certainly see results that will allow you to get more done with your day.

Featured photo credit: Check List/Gerardo Hernández Arias via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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