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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 [email protected], 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 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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