Do you feel enthusiastic and inspired in the mornings – only to find yourself exhausted in the afternoons? Perhaps you only ever seem to perk up when you’ve got a coffee in hand, or you manage to concentrate for 30 minutes but then find yourself procrastinating.
If your energy levels fluctuate a lot, you might need to focus on achieving more balance. These ten tips should help:
#1: Drink Plenty of Water
Yes, you’ve heard this one a hundred times before. But are you actually managing it?
If you’re slightly dehydrated, you’ll struggle to concentrate. Try keeping a bottle of water on your desk so that you can easily sip while working. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try buying sparkling or flavored varieties.
#2: Don’t Drink Too Much Caffeine
Coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas will give you a short-term energy boost, followed by a slump. If you’re relying on caffeine to stay alert and awake, you’re probably not sleeping enough.
But … don’t reduce your caffeine intake too suddenly, or you’re likely to get headaches. Try cutting down slowly – if you normally drink six cups of coffee a day, cut back to five.
#3: Eat at Regular Intervals
Your brain needs fuel: if you’re hungry, it’s hard for you to focus. It’s also difficult to concentrate after a heavy lunch – so rather than stuffing yourself, eat smaller amounts at regular intervals.
Many nutritionists recommend eating every three hours; that means having a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to keep you going between meals.
#4: Don’t Eat Sugary Snacks
Eating regularly doesn’t mean filling up on cookies or donuts. Sugary snacks play havoc with your energy levels: they give you a quick boost followed by a crash.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try eating fresh fruit instead. On days when only chocolate will do, go for dark varieties (at least 70% cocoa) and eat just a small amount.
#5: Have a Power Nap
Although this one isn’t an option for many of us, a quick nap during the afternoon can really boost your energy. If you work from home (or have a very understanding boss!) then try taking a twenty minute nap to help you over the afternoon slump.
Make sure you don’t sleep too long, though; you’ll just wake up feeling groggy. You might want to set an alarm.
#6: Don’t Skimp on Sleep at Night
Even if you take a power nap during the day, don’t cut back on sleep at night. Most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep to function well – but some people need more.
It’s tempting to sleep less in order to have more time to cram everything in, but if you’re well rested, you’ll have more energy to tackle everything, and you’ll get tasks finished faster.
#7: Take Regular Breaks
No-one can stay focused on a task for hours at a time. You need to take breaks from whatever you’re doing in order to keep your energy levels up.
It’s a good idea to get away from your desk: grab a glass of water or go for brisk walk (even if it’s just round the corridors). At lunch time, make sure you take a real break from work, rather than eating sandwiches at your desk.
#8: Don’t Procrastinate
Taking a planned break is different from procrastinating. If you’re surfing the net when you know you should be working, you’re simply letting resistance to a task build up.
Sometimes, procrastination can look like work: for instance, you might work on emails so you can put off that difficult phone call or tricky report. This will leave you feeling demotivated. Instead, tackle the harder things first – you’ll get a real energy boost.
#9: Exercise at Moderate Intensity
Exercise is good for you in so many ways. One of the benefits of being active is that you’re likely to have more energy: moving around gets your blood pumping. You may also find that you sleep more soundly.
When you exercise, aim to work at a moderate intensity. That means you should be able to hold a conversation, but you shouldn’t be able to sing the lyrics to a song.
#10: Don’t Exercise Too Hard
If you’re just getting started with exercise, don’t overdo it. There’s no point in spending two hours in the gym after work – only to end up so exhausted that you slump on the sofa with a bag of chips instead of cooking a healthy dinner.
For most of us, thirty to forty-five minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week, is about right. You don’t necessarily have to do this in one daily session, either; you could aim for a twenty minute brisk walk in your lunch hour and a twenty minute cycle ride in the evening.
How do you keep your energy levels up during the day? Share your tips and ideas in the comments…
Photo credit: Stephen Vincent