Resilience is among the mandatory traits for career growth.
Regardless of whether you’re striving to be an exemplary entrepreneur or grow the career ladder across management and director tiers, sustaining loads of work, weekend deliveries, flying from a tradeshow to an event with high velocity is a prerequisite to building high-performing teams.
But maintaining these levels of pressure and both physical and mental load is not an easy feat. Just as the best athletes invest a ton in their physical conditioning, you have to ensure that your body, mind, and spirit work as efficiently as possible, and push them through the limits to unlock larger volumes of energy over time.
To help combat fatigue and hibernation for peers in my network, I’ve compiled the techniques I’ve implemented personally in my life—tried and tested—that helped me increase my energy levels over time (which is pretty important with my 90-hour work weeks).
And while you’re undoubtedly familiar with many of the techniques that help you gain energy sooner, faster, here’s a tactical list you can even print out as a reminder on your desk.
1. Measure Active Sleep
Relying on the medieval measurements on sleep will prevent you from reaching consistent sleeping habits, understanding what works and what doesn’t, how much deep sleep vs. REM you’re engaging in during your sleep.
Smartwatches, wristbands, Oura rings, Whoop – there are plenty of technical opportunities to calibrate your sleep better. Once you spend a couple of weeks gathering data, it gets dramatically easier to understand the actual time spent sleeping, together with overall recovery metrics.
I’m currently sporting a Garmin watch plus an Oura ring to measure my sleep across two different channels. These gadgets have helped me understand dinner habits better and establish a more consistent “go to bed” schedule that matters.
2. Introduce More Brain Foods
Brain foods are unique in providing an additional boost to your brain function through different mechanisms. About 60% of your brain is composed of fats so fatty acids can help you move the needle faster and better.
(This is one of the selling points of Keto diet followers, too.)
Caffeine, certain vegetables, nuts provide different ways to replenish energy or release hormones that improve your brain function. And here are some of the best brain foods you can include in your diet (and leverage more often than not):
- Fatty fish
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
Check out the scientific explanation on Healthline detailing each group individually.
More importantly, to ensure you recover well and manage enough energy on a daily basis, your brain functions should be uninterrupted—and facilitated by the right ingredients.
3. Schedule Recurring Workouts
Exercise is a well-known instrument to boost your energy but if you haven’t been working out over the past few years, it may be hard to get started.
As with every new discipline, getting started is a challenge. Your body needs to adapt to a new routine, and your metabolism has to calibrate after the first few weeks. It may be more draining than not at first but exercising is critical to maintaining larger energy volumes.
Regular exercising transfers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, improves your heart and lung functions, releases endorphins, improves your sleep quality, and pushes your physical and mental limits over time.
Scheduling recurring workouts to maintain velocity and slowly improve over time will increase your energy capacity.
4. Check Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a powerful booster for your brain which is why coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world.
While serving a couple of coffee cups a day is great, managing the right amount is not trivial. First off, most forms of tea also include some caffeine, and the stimulant is additionally present in both various energy drinks and other favorite treats like chocolate.
As a result, overdoing caffeine can cause unexpected peaks of ups and downs, combined with having a hard time going to sleep even after a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate in the evening.
Try to manage your caffeine intake regularly and consistently, decrease if possible, and definitely avoid large spikes a few hours before going to sleep. While the immediate energy boost may help, impairing your sleep regularity will take a bigger toll over the coming days.
5. Drink Water Properly
Water represents about 60% of an average adult’s body composition. Consuming enough water is integral to preventing dehydration.
Replenishing water multiple times a day impacts your mood and brain function positively, prevents certain medical risks such as kidney stones, regulates body temperature, maintains oxygen flow across airways.
A common mistake is relying on certain drinks as a substitute for water. Coffee, tea, and soft drinks are diuretics – i.e. they stimulate your body to produce more urine, which is often associated with dehydration (although different studies exist on the total effect). Alcohol, however, is a stronger diuretic and will drastically affect your water composition unless you supplement with actual water in the process.
Different studies suggest different amounts of water – but a minimum of 2 liters (or half a gallon) is a common recommendation (discussing purely water intake).
Since I’m also not in the habit of drinking water alone on a regular basis, I start with 2 or 3 cups with my morning latte, include water with my BCAA or magnesium supplements, or infuse water with orange or lemon for added taste.
6. Save Some Boosting Playlists
According to different studies, “low-level to moderate levels of exercise, numerous studies have shown that music can increase energy levels, improve mood, and delay feelings of fatigue”.
In addition to exercising control and maximizing power output, music can be used for recharging throughout the day, maintaining better control over focus, or short bursts of energy with a power playlist that keeps you up at all times.
Different genres and personal preferences fit individuals differently. It’s best to try out several styles and dig into your playlists to reverse-engineer what works when.
I have multiple playlists for different purposes. In the mornings, while reading or learning, I rely on classical or ambient music. During long working sessions, I either introduce hardcore alternative metal for mundane tasks I can carry over without too much focus (while awake and alert) or trance/house sets for full focus mode (without distracting lyrics). I have some groovy and industrial lists for different purposes too – and they help a ton.
7. Allow for Rest Time
Sometimes, all you need is rest.
Smart gadgets can effectively instruct you on the duration of recommended rest time – sometimes up to 48 hours in a row.
Whenever you feel drained – especially for several days in a row – plan both short-term and long-term for different rest breaks. This could include going to bed earlier for a few days, taking power naps, meditating in-between, trying to postpone some meetings, just starting later in the day to slowly sustain and go back to power mode.
Prolonged management of energy is not sustainable – even with all the energy drinks or brain foods in the world.
8. Uncover Stress Relief Tips
I’ve covered over 30 techniques for stress management in a previous guide – but introducing them once again because stress is one of the main factors decreasing energy and putting recovery on a halt.
Stress triggers a hormone called cortisol – developed through your adrenaline glands. Technically, cortisol is good – it keeps inflammation down (short-term), increases blood sugar for high alert, controls your sleeping patterns (cortisol levels jump through the roof once you open your eyes in the morning to, well, wake you up.)
The problem is that adrenaline surges spike your emotions, and this is taxing for your energy balance. Prolonged periods of stress drain you real quick since your body is constantly vigilant. Adrenaline also impacts your body temperature and heart rate – both playing a role in your sleep quality and sleep cycles.
Here’s a great cortisol review from RISE going in-depth – but bottom line is, cortisol is one of the biggest offenders in your energy levels. Doing whatever you can to lifehack this, create gaps to recharge, engage in mindfulness for better body control – it helps a ton.
9. Introduce Smart Gadgets
While geek gadgets were already mentioned in the context of sleep – they are equally important during daytime and your general control over your life.
Here are two samples from my Gamin watch and Oura ring. Tracking a number of metrics, I keep control over my energy levels, recovery times, sleep patterns. I can gauge whether I need an extra power nap over the weekend or skip a workout the next day if I need more recovery and can’t catch up on sleep.
Oura in particular has done certain strives in detecting fever and high temperature and participating in covid detection studies with moderate success. The NBA partnered up with the smart ring company in 2020, purchasing 2,000 rings for A-star players in the association, adopting progress across the board.
While most of the tips are going to be obvious – gadgets push the limits a tad further, suggesting why you haven’t recovered fully the next day, recommending extra sleep, or reminding you of a couple of beers before bedtime or a heavy snack later in the evening.
10. Optimize Your Planning
To reduce cortisol levels and combat decision fatigue, optimize your planning ahead of time.
Set the high-level foundations of your week at the end of the previous week – preferably on Sundays, and you’ll be better prepared for what is coming next. In the mornings (or again, the evening before that), look into your calendar and mentally adjust for the coming day.
I often arrive at the office in the afternoon if I have meetings past midnight – just maximizing the most out of my morning with planning, strategy, learning, or delegating. You can try to unblock some recovery time on Wednesdays (recharging extra mid-week), move half of your meetings over a single day, or plan for slower Fridays to fully recharge on weekends.
11. Delegate More
Stress management across better planning can be facilitated through delegation.
Understanding how to delegate is not always trivial – but starting with Eisenhower’s matrix as a first step can help.
More importantly, make sure you get rid of activities that don’t contribute to the bottom line – if you can allocate your own time in a better way (more productively, more effectively, and generating higher ROI).
Different forms of virtual assisting services and freelancers exist for a reason. Home cleaning services, online delivery, Uber all come to fruition thanks to busy schedules and the efforts of utilizing proficiency time better, delivering more.
12. Fight Decision Fatigue
One of the culprits of effective leadership is the ability to prioritize and focus on the bigger picture. It’s commonly referred to as the adagio of “working ON the business, not IN the business”.
The concept is known as Decision Fatigue – the overload of your decision-making skills after going through a ton of regular (and micro) decisions on a daily basis. Keeping it simple is integral – which is why executives like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg were known to stick to the same clothing to keep their minds intact.
Ordering food for the week, blocking time off for strategic decisions, delegating as much as possible, and staying away from minor details can keep your mind and body fresh for prolonged periods of time.
13. Avoid Glycemic Spikes
Your blood sugar spikes up and down throughout the day. The main driver of blood sugar is carbohydrates since the digestive system breaks them down into sugar that penetrates the blood channels.
Carbs are available in almost every meal, although there are “good” and “bad” carbs, or “complex” and “simple” ones. Black rice or boiled sweet potatoes, for example, take a while to digest and don’t cause spikes. Foods with a high glycemic index—white pasta, candy bars, sweetened drinks—cause spikes, bursts of energy that don’t last long, and drain you further.
Massive spikes can cause fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, among others, and inevitably drain your energy. Monitoring your sugar levels can regain energy both daily and throughout the week.
14. Increase Active Movement
General activity throughout the day can replenish your energy in so many ways.
Lack of movement once your business day starts causes stiff joints and muscle decomposition, along with slower metabolical processes within your body. Especially for office jobs, this is commonly accompanied by back or neck pain, headaches, fatigue, and more.
Your body was originally designed to move – back from the caveman days of hunting and building fortresses against lions or wolves. The leading function of your brain is controlling your movements, too. From a purely biological standpoint, limited movement dips your energy.
A process called NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) describes the level of effort for individuals throughout the day – i.e. movement and energy expenditure unrelated to active workouts. Basic activities like walking up or down the stairs, lawing the moan, and doing some groceries contribute to NEAT and your metabolical processes.
If you can force yourself to invest more NEAT time throughout the day, you’ll start to feel better in a week. Most smart gadgets nudge you to take a short walk or stretch after an hour or two sittings still.
15. Optimize Sleeping Habits
While monitoring sleep was the start of the article, optimizing sleep can facilitate better energy management as well.
There are tons of tactical tips you can leverage, including:
- Stick to the same sleep/wake up hours for consistency
- Try 15-30min shorter or longer naps for a couple weeks and see what an optimal regime looks like
- Test different room temperatures through the night
- Same for humidity (diffusers or driers can help)
- Avoid blue light before bedtime – utilize some “no screen” time an hour or two earlier
- Test out different curtains or ways to reduce (or increase) light in the morning
- Try out different pillows and sheets. It makes a difference!
- Try some white noise or sleep music, meditative music, sleep playlists
16. Try Power Naps
Recharging quickly in the afternoon has been the norm in the old days.
Nowadays, work schedules make it fairly hard to take a quick nap and rejuvenate for the rest of the day. That said, it may be possible to take your lunch break a bit later in the day or end up earlier, or take a 30min break in-between whenever possible.
Power naps take a while to adjust to – but they really make a difference, slowing your body movement and your thinking cycles and restarting the process once you’re back up.
17. Snack Some Complex Carbs
When you think about the main nutrients we need to function, there are carbs, proteins, and fats. Carbs are turned into glucose (sugar) which is the main energy mechanism. Fats are used for energy too – and brain function – but while a gram of carbs is 4 calories, a gram of fat is 9 calories – and your daily supply is limited accordingly.
This is why—both for energy and performance reasons—carbs are needed unless you’re sticking to a keto regime or dealing with diabetes.
During your slow or fatigue times, preparing some complex carbs for snacking can be awesome for energy management.
You can combine this with weight loss programs and avoid cravings too. Here are some complex carbs snack ideas for starters.
18. Stretch at Work
While discussing NEAT in chapter #14, simple stretching exercises at your desk can be helpful, too.
Sitting does affect your blood circulation due to the combination of lack of movement and odd positioning, plus a limited oxygen supply. Incorporating warming up exercises, stretching your chests, warming up different parts of your body can be a refreshing change that shoots a bit of adrenaline up and wakes you up as a result.
Try out some desk stretching exercises yourself. I personally bought myself a few fitness-type stress balls, a DeskCycle pedal exerciser, and a few other gadgets to make the most out of the quick breaks or meetings.
19. Get Extra Lighting
If possible, aim to expose yourself to additional lighting—especially sunrays or outdoor light.
Your sleep patterns and circadian rhythm are generally depending on the light. So is your vitamin D production. The combination of processes affects your cognition, metabolism, focus at work, energy management, mood, and everything in-between.
Limited light—generally—impacts that a lot. Office emitted lights work in different manners, trying to mimic natural sunlight, through a combination of different radiations such as IR and UV waves.
Experiment with a new office lamp or try to get some extra sunlight during the daytime. This is especially important if you live in an area with a long, dark, and gloomy winter season. I actually realized that I’ve been dealing with SAD for a decade (Seasonal affective disorder).
20. Turn Up The AC
The battle for AC at the office is a never-ending story. Regardless of your preferences or the ability to turn the AC up or down, your body receives temperature signals inward and outward, which can affect your energy as well.
Your body temperature decreases when you fall asleep. This is why you probably feel cold if you haven’t gotten enough sleep during the night—the body is fighting the wake-up reaction and wants to kick back into sleep mode.
Exposing yourself to colder weather may trigger physiological signals that it’s time to go back to sleep. If you work in a colder environment and feel fatigued, try to increase the temperature a bit, stretch for a while, and give it another shot. Or prepare a separate layer of clothing to keep yourself warmer.
21. Drink Vegetable Juices
Vegetables include tons of vitamins and various health benefits. When you include the need for frequent hydration, vegetable juices are an incredible way to include some daily low-calories snacks and boost your energy accordingly.
Additionally, there are tons of performance benefits around increasing stamina with a regular juicing regime. Let alone cleansing.
Try out some vegetable juices this week. Investing in a blender is a great idea if you’re turning into a healthier lifestyle and some models like Blendjet are portable and allow you to engage in fresh juice production at work, too.
22. Try Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is often a controversial topic when it comes to usefulness and success rates – but let’s focus on the positives at first.
Essential oils are often combined with meditation or some relaxation exercise. Since we know that cortisol takes a toll on your energy, refreshing while kicking back into a calm state is unquestionably a great idea.
Moreover, different research shows physiological changes in heart rate or blood pressure during aromatherapy sessions, and improved sleep cycles when performed before bedtime. Certain oils are processed through your lungs and carried over to your airways, awakening certain memories, improving your mood, and increasing your energy too.
Here’s a list of essential oils and their benefits for different purposes. Aroma diffusers can also run overnight to deal with dry air issues or different smells from cooking across your apartment.