Professional Development

Improve your energy levels to work your best

Written by Peter Jones

The grind of wake-work-sleep-repeat five times a week is enough to make anyone tired. Fold in family obligations, housework, and, you know, the occasional night out of fun, and it’s no wonder that most of us are exhausted by 2 p.m. every day.

If you want to feel better so you can work better, you don’t have to make huge life changes in order to see results. Start small with the following tips and fold them into your life bit by bit. If you’re diligent about changing your ways, your physical and mental energy are sure to see a boost.

Eat good, whole foods.

Whole grains, protein, and fruit are great ways to keep your brain and body going, even if you’re not feeling at your perkiest. Try oatmeal with a banana or berries and a sprinkling of nuts for breakfast instead of that muffin or bagel. (Keep a canister at work.) Store healthy snacks in your desk or in the common fridge so you have good options when you’re flagging and need an energy or blood sugar boost—try almonds, or carrots and hummus, or plain popcorn. If you’re prepared when hunger strikes, you won’t go searching for the first vending machine you can find. And don’t forget to hydrate! Keep a refillable bottle by your desk to fill with water and mug for green tea, which is less dehydrating and much healthier than coffee.

Get enough sleep.

“Enough sleep” will differ from person to person. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours. Of course, this is just an average, and you know your body best. For you, a restful sleep might mean 8 hours, or it might mean 5. If you’re exhausted every day, chances are you need to increase your sleep time. Try adding 30 minutes every day and taking note of how you feel the next work day. Once you start to feel more rested, you likely have found a sweet spot.

The issue for most working adults is finding the time at the end of the day to wind down and actually fall asleep at a reasonable hour. If you establish a bedtime routine and turn off electronics in the hour leading up to your bedtime, sleep will come easier to you. Adding in exercise a few days a week can only help. Finally, it’s not the best idea to consume caffeine after lunch, so watch your coffee and soda consumption.

Move around.

If you’re drooping mid-day, move your body to wake it up. Are you able to get out for a lunch break? If so, take advantage—even a 20 minute daily walk in fresh air will do wonders for your energy levels and your morale. Can you make it to the gym, do a quick workout video, or go for a jog at least 3 times a week? Even better. If you just don’t have the time, take 15 minutes at home (in front of the T.V. will do!) to stretch your body every night. Anything to get the blood moving will make you feel and perform better at work.

Check your vices.

Smoking and drinking alcohol might feel like crutches that you desperately need to keep functioning, but both can have an adverse affect on both your energy and your health. If you don’t want to cut them out, at least aim to cut back.

Make a workday soundtrack.

This one is fun: If you’re allowed to play music out loud or listen to headphones while you work, take advantage. Every night, take a few minutes to create a playlist of tunes that will keep you motivated throughout the next day. It’s harder to doze off when you’re (silently) singing along to your favorites. When a long day stretches ahead of you, a curated music list is a small pleasure you can anticipate.

About the author

Peter Jones