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9 Energy Hacks to Stay Motivated When You’re Exhausted

9 Energy Hacks to Stay Motivated When You’re Exhausted

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.

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 March 30, 2020

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

So, what to do in free time?

Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

1. Reading Files

Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

2. Clear out Inbox

Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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3. Phone Calls

Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

4. Make Money

This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

5. File

No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

6. Network

Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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7. Clear out Feeds

If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

8. Goal Time

Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

9. Update Finances

Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

10. Brainstorm Ideas

Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

11. Clear off Desk

Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

12. Exercise

Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

13. Take a Walk

This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

14. Follow up

Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

15. Meditate

You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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16. Research

This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

17. Outline

Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

18. Get Prepped

Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

19. Be Early

Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

20. Log

If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

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Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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