Professional Development

Maintain energy during a long shift

Written by Eric Titner

Is your typical workday more like a marathon than a short sprint? If you have a job with long work shifts—longer than the usual 9 to 5 workday—you’re not alone. A wide range of jobs, from nursing to truck driving and firefighting and many more, require workers to put in longer than average workdays. That’s a long time to have to be alert and at the top of your game.

But fear not—there are ways to maintain your energy during a long shift. Make the most of the following strategies for staying sharp and keeping your edge in the face of a long day of work.

Plan out your diet, exercise, and sleep.

You need to prepare for a long shift well before the shift even starts. This includes getting a minimum of eight hours of restful sleep (keep those phones and other devices far out of grabbing range while in bed). Go to bed too late, or worse—lay in bed for hours on your phone, tablet, or laptop before closing your eyes—and you’ll surely be struggling to get through a long work shift the following day. The National Safety Council recently put out a study on fatigue in the workplace that found that 43% of people don’t get enough sleep. Are you one of them?

Maintaining a regular balanced diet is also a powerful way to keep your energy levels high and consistent—this includes what you eat when you’re off duty as well as on the job. Make sure that your diet includes plenty of high-quality protein and vegetables, and try to keep processed foods, refined carbs, and sugar to a minimum. Why is this so important? A diet high in protein helps your body maintain a consistent and reliable level of energy throughout the day. A diet high in sugar and refined carbs (think white bread, pastries, candy, and sugary sodas) will cause your blood sugar and energy levels to peak and plummet as the day drags on—like a rollercoaster. Ask yourself: Would you do your best work on a flat, even surface or on a rollercoaster?

There are times when it’s easier than others to make healthy eating choices. Hunting for a work snack to give yourself some fuel during a long shift can be especially tricky. You may have a vending machine full of candy close by or a work kitchen full of sugary treats, but resist—and prepare! Be sure to pack some healthy snacks (fruits, nuts, and veggies are a better choice) and you’ll be setting yourself up for a solid energy boost that’ll get you through the workday.

Many people have the wrong idea about exercise—they think it’s an energy drainer, and that working out will only make you tired when you’re through. However, the opposite is true! A fit and active lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise on a regular basis will help kick your metabolism into overdrive and boost your energy levels—perfect for getting through those long work shifts. Start small—try taking regular long walks and building upon your exercise routine a little at a time.

Prep your workspace.

A comfortable yet functional workspace designed to keep your energy levels consistently high will help you get through long work shifts. If you work at a desk, try to avoid a too-cushy office chair that makes you want to take a nap every time you sit down, and keep the energy-draining work distractions on your desk to a minimum. If you’re on your feet most of the time, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and make time to take regular seat breaks when feasible.

The key here is balance—you want to create a balanced mix of comfort and functionality where you’re not sitting idly the entire time or on your feet for 12 hours straight. Also, flexibility is important—keep what works and change what doesn’t. Trial and error is an excellent tool to learn and plan, and a well-thought-out work area will help you stay energized during a long shift.

Keep your brain alert and think positively.

A healthy and alert brain will help keep you upbeat and energized throughout a long work shift. Keep your brain actively engaged in whatever work tasks you’re responsible for. Maintaining a checklist of action items that you need to take care of during your work shift can really help you stay focused, and as you check completed items off your list you’ll get a boost of positive vibes knowing that you’re taking care of business!

When you feel yourself slipping, take a break. Strategic work breaks, even if it’s just for a few minutes to take a deep breath, stretch, and clear your head, can make a world of difference when you’re facing a long work shift. Don’t just push forward—this will have a negative effect on your overall energy level and mood.

Never forget the power of positivity when you’re on a long work shift. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions—and positive work results! Actively thinking good thoughts, creating a positive mantra that you can repeat to yourself, and keeping items that elicit positive feelings or memories in your workspace (like photos or souvenirs of trips you’ve taken) are excellent ways to keep yourself upbeat and lively while you work.

It can be a real struggle to get through a long work shift and stay alert and at the top of your game—add in all the other things going on in your life that eat away at your time and energy and you may be facing an uphill battle. However, if you employ the strategies mentioned here you’ll start to see positive changes before long, and soon that uphill climb of a long work shift will seem like little more than an easy-to-manage step!

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.