In the past three decades, the number of college graduates in OECD member countries have increased dramatically. As a result, business landscapes have become more competitive and people are generally working longer and more difficult hours. Individuals suffering with chronic pain face the greatest challenge due to the varying levels of energy and pain they feel throughout the day. They must learn to maximize their work output while caring for their bodies and having time to recharge.
If you are suffering from pain, how do you maintain energy throughout the day in order to get work done? How do you properly manage your energy and work longer hours without disengaging and burning out?
Below are 10 ways to manage your energy levels to maximize productivity throughout the day.
Not all work is created equal, especially when it comes to creative work. To make matters worse, it is nearly impossible to have a full day of uninterrupted work in the office. Which is why we need to schedule in protected time slots to recharge and do what Cal Newport calls "Deep Work"—a buzz word for “meaningful work”. For example, writing if you’re a writer, and designing if you’re a designer. The opposite of deep work is “shallow work”—emails, meetings, calls, and other busy work that create little to no value. In The Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss shares how he saved 50% of his work week by scheduling in uninterrupted “blocks” of time in the office. During these “blocks”, he would complete nearly his entire days’ worth of work in just a few hours.
Notice how your energy—and of those around you—allows you to be more productive and creative. When you are faced with a challenging situation, are you thinking like a victim or an opportunist? As Michael J. Losier suggests in his book Law of Attraction, “like attracts like”. That is, whatever you think about most often will probably happen to you. Go in expecting a fight and you will probably get one. Go in open to amazing things happening, and you will get the results you want.
It's easy to get caught up in checking off small tasks (i.e. responding to emails and picking up office supplies). However, when you do this, you will find your day just disappears. You will likely end up stressed and frustrated that you haven’t started that major work project. Richard Whately says, “lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.” Instead, start your day dedicated to big projects, the one that is most important and, likely, most energizing. Then, depending on how accomplished you feel with your progress, you can tackle the small everyday tasks.
When you're "in the zone" or “energized”, it’s incredible how much work you can complete in a short time period. However, it's important to not overuse this energy in the wrong area. For example, a person who is a workhorse can complete tasks relatively quickly. But it’s easy for this person to work all day and completely miss the big picture due to lack of planning. The same can be said about a detail-oriented person who may excel at researching and analyzing. He must also spend energy executing on the important tasks at hand and obtaining crucial feedback along the way.
Successful energy management doesn’t only mean planning for the next 24 hours. It also includes a plan covering several weeks or even months. For example, if you’re an accountant, the busiest time of the year is usually around November and December. If you anticipate a major life event happening around that time, create a plan that alleviates stress during this period. You can build relationships with others by helping them with related projects months before year-end. When the time comes, you will have multiple unwritten contracts to help you complete your work later. You can even let them know you have something important coming up that requires their help. People will happily assist you as long as you plan ahead.
Your internal energy impacts your productivity and the productivity of others. Being self-conscious about how to use your energy will make you more productive throughout the work week. Study when your energy tends to peak and dip throughout the day. By knowing this, you can adjust your activity and work schedule accordingly. Use low-energy periods to focus on “shallow work” such as cleaning up your inbox and filing documents. And use high-energy periods to focus on “deep work” like creative projects.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to increase your energy is to change your physical and mental energy. Move your body, go to the gym, or pick up a new physical activity like yoga or tennis. Yoga is especially great for pain patients since it reduces back and knee pain, improves flexibility and strengthens your body. Change your internal dialogue into a more positive one. By focusing your energy into more exciting and positive things, you can drastically improve your energy levels.
Olympic athletes build muscle recovery into their training regime to allow themselves to perform at their peak levels every day. Over time, athletes can “break-through” these peak levels and create new record highs for personal performance. If you want to perform like Olympic athletes in the office, create rituals of recovery to manage your energy. List out activities that give you energy like playing the guitar, running in the sun, or talking with your friends. Fit these activities into your schedule to balance out daily required activities that drain you.
Your mental playlist is one of the greatest indicators of work performance and quality. Research shows negative thinking (saying things like “I’m terrible at delivering presentations") zaps your energy and leads to poor results. In contrast, positive thoughts like “I know I can perform well if prepared”, will lead to greater energy levels. Hence, leading to increased productivity.
All energy is different and contagious at the same time. Therefore, you need to recognize what energy is required at the moment. For example, if your co-worker works well in quiet settings with minimal meetings, working quietly next to him can be very effective. On the other hand, when you bring the opposite type of energy, you can cause an explosion. Imagine you are feeling calm and reflective today, and someone loud and talkative barges into the room suddenly. In this case, working together wouldn’t work. Consider the situation and who you’re working with, and channel the appropriate energy to produce great results.
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