Linda Sherman’s top tips on how to be more productive at work and home        

We’re so busy these days – under pressure to produce at work and at home – so it’s easy to get caught up in conflicting demands and neglect the basics such as taking care of ourselves, eating healthy and sleeping adequately.

However, your energy level affects not only your outlook and attitude but also your productivity. A happier and more energetic you will get more done! Here are some simple tips that have been proven to help keep your battery charged at work:

1. Start while at home

Plan to have a good day from the beginning; set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you think you must, so you can rise gradually and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you can, sleep with your blinds open so that when the sun flows in, your brain slows its melatonin production and starts generating adrenaline. You’ll be half-awake by the time your alarm goes off. Try working out in the morning to get the blood flowing.

2. Take a few minutes to get organized first thing

Before you launch your email, take ten minutes to collect yourself, your schedule and your papers. One trick to staying focused is to do all of this while standing. HINT: It’s also a good idea to take the last ten minutes of every day to organize your to-do list for the next day!

3. Be mindful of the “fuel” you use

For energy, focus on protein at breakfast and lunch and even for snacks. You know this, but I’ll say it anyway: Avoid heavy carbs and sugar—those things we reach for when we stress eat. It’s better to eat small meals and snacks every few hours. This approach can reduce your perception of fatigue because your brain needs a steady supply of nutrients. Foods with a low glycemic index — whose sugars are absorbed slowly — help avoid the lag in energy that typically occurs after eating sugary foods or refined starches. Foods with a low glycemic index include whole grains, high-fiber vegetables, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive oil. Proteins and fats have glycemic indexes that are close to zero.

4. Practice positivity and good mental hygiene

Negativity is a destructive indulgence; it drains your energy, and it is contagious. If you notice you are spending more than 5% of your time talking about how bad things are or complaining about other people, take yourself down a more constructive path such as figuring out how to make things better. Negativity and stress are contagious. There are some people who make our lives harder, and some who make it easier and better.  Spend as much time as possible with the latter.

5. Change the scenery

Florescent lights, computer screens, and “canned” air take a toll on your energy. Spend 15-20 minutes walking outside every day. Particularly following lunch, a walk boosts your levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all of which will give you more energy when you return to work.

6. Refresh your eyes

Your eyes get tired, too. Stand up and take water breaks throughout the day to stay refreshed. Do eye calisthenics. With your eyes closed, roll your eyes right to left ten times; then up and down ten times. TIP: If you spend long periods on the computer, practice the 20/20/20 rule. Look at something 20 feet away from your monitor for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

7. Move it; move it!

Elevating your heartbeat and pumping more oxygen through your body goes right to your brain. Try to find a place with privacy where you can jog in place, do some jumping jacks or stretch. Alternatively, run up and down the back staircase.  Movement and stretching in general will help you focus. Reposition your chair or stand up while you work. Try a chair twist every time you send an email: Sit up straight, lengthen your spine, twist to the left and hold on to the back of your chair (or as close as you can get) for 10 seconds before switching sides.

8. Breathe deliberately

We rarely breathe consciously. More oxygen in your system helps you relax, refocus and refresh. Especially when you are under pressure, call a “time out.” Stop what you’re doing, roll your shoulders back, sit or stand up straight, open your chest and take six deep, slow breaths. Focus totally on your breathing and empty your mind. Likewise, if you feel groggy, inhale slowly to the count of 10. Hold your breath to a count of five, then breathe out slowly to a count of 10. Do this five times.

9. Shhhhh. Dare I even say it? (Nap)

Power naps really do work!  And they don’t have to take much longer than a bathroom break or brewing a new pot of coffee. They may save you time as they sharpen your focus. A mere 10-20-minute rest at mid-afternoon will boost your energy for the rest of the day. It’s worth trying if you have a private spot available to you— and if your manager is supportive. You may want to set the alarm on your phone to be sure you wake up!

10. Be grateful

One of the most powerful ways to re-energize yourself on an awful day is to remind yourself of something in your life that is wonderful or that gives you pleasure. Friends, family, a hobby, a beautiful day, nature, puppies, that new piece of furniture you bought—they can all qualify. Research shows that conscious gratitude has all kinds of health benefits, including stress reduction.

11. Reward yourself

A reward doesn’t have to be something material or that costs money. Five minutes of pure fun or joy can be astonishingly rejuvenating.  One piece of dark chocolate, thoroughly savored, at 3pm on a grueling day; a full-on belly laugh half-way through a long, tough meeting; those kitten and puppy videos everyone pokes fun at or looking out a window and watching the clouds go by on a sunny day, right after a particularly harrowing phone call – these can be life-savers.

12. Take a funny bone break

Laughter releases endorphins that can be as good for you as a workout. What’s more, laughter is a natural energizer. Cruise YouTube for funny videos; have a funny book on hand to read during lunch or a break. Even Pinterest and Facebook can be sources for comedy. Share the wealth with your colleagues too by keeping a light touch and light heart in your interactions.  You may want to clue your boss into the fact that you aren’t slacking off or shirking your work but participating in a productivity enhancement activity!

13. Pay it forward and do something nice

The act of giving creates a natural “high.” Even thinking about things you can do for people will perk you up. Try going out of your way to consciously do one generous or nice thing every day for a week and see how it feels.

14. Call a friend or relative for 10 minutes

Whether you want to catch up quickly or vent about your frustrations, the support and connection will recharge your batteries. That’s not to say that you can chat away on a personal call for any more than that or make a series of calls—don’t take advantage of this suggestion.

15.  Think mint

Whether it’s a stick of gum, a piece of candy, a lotion or an essential oil or some tea, the scent it provides an instant boost. If you aren’t a mint fan, try a strong citrus scent. Rub a lotion or oil on your hands/wrists and temples.

16. As with plants, you’ll bloom best when watered regularly

The only nutrient that has been shown to enhance performance for all activities except the most demanding endurance sports is not some pricey sports or energy drink. It’s water. If your body is short of fluids, two of the first signs are a dry mouth and a feeling of fatigue. Drink water throughout the day—have some every hour. And, no; soda, juices and coffee don’t count.

17. Have an end-of-day routine

At the end of the day, use the time on your commute home to let go of the day’s thoughts and worries—listen to music or think about something you will enjoy when you get home. At night before bedtime, to sleep better and sooner, avoid bright screens—computers, smartphones, and TV—for several hours before bedtime. Have a warm bath and keep water nearby so you stay hydrated.

Not only will these tips help you at work, they have the added benefit of leaving you happier and less drained when you get home.

Linda Sherman has more than 25 years experience in the field of corporate training, specialising in programme development and project management. She has worked in management for public seminar companies and the American Management Association. She has ... (Read More)

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