We live in a down-sized, budget-cutting, high-pressure world, where people have busy lives and a huge range of activities and responsibilities demanding their time. So it’s not much of a surprise if you sometimes feel a little bit “meh”… a bit listless and worn-down.
As a leader, this can really affect your performance and your ability to motivate and inspire your colleagues. So I thought I’d give you a few tips to rejuvenate you and keep you performing at least near your peak. I’m not a doctor, but these are some things I’ve learnt from common sense and personal experience.
1. Get some decent sleep
It isn’t just about the number of hours, but the quality of rest. You need to be ready to sleep well, so try these three things:
- Stay properly hydrated (no coffee for at least a couple of hours before bed)
- Have dinner at a reasonable time (you can’t eat a big meal at 9.30 and expect to sleep restfully a couple of hours later)
- Take some light exercise before bed, such as walking the dog. Anything that expends some energy at a fairly low level of intensity is ideal, to ensure you’re not still buzzing by bedtime
2. Start the day well
Don’t skip breakfast. I know you hear this a lot, but it’s good advice. Avoid anything too heavy or fattening, mind – a healthy start sets you up for the day and provides an energy boost.
3. Don’t sit at the screen all day
I say this as someone who writes for a large part of the day and is sitting at the PC right now. But in a few minutes I’ll go and put the kettle on for a cup of (decaff) tea and have an apple. Try to break up your day with a mixture of activities.
Interacting with colleagues helps too. Even a conversation on the phone can ‘reset’ the mind and enable you to re-focus and maintain concentration levels.
4. Healthy snacks
Small, regular energy boosts are a great help. Fruit is an excellent choice, as are nuts and seeds. Try to avoid the high-calorie boosters that tend to cause an energy slump soon afterwards, like chocolate and crisps.
5. Keep hydrated
If you have a spring-water chiller, you can do a double hit… breaking your routine to go for a short walk, while keeping yourself hydrated at the same time. Two litres of water a day is the minimum target.
A good way of testing your hydration level is urine colour. Not what you expect to read in a leadership blog, perhaps, but it’s relevant here! The chart below is taken from a BUPA advice article, and is a very simple but useful guide to hydration levels.
6. Manage your time effectively
Feeling as though you are achieving things and are being both productive and useful refuels energy levels, encouraging you to achieve even more. Feeling frustrated, on the other hand, dissipates energy and motivation, so try to organise your day so that you get some early ‘wins’, ticking some things off your real or mental to-do-list, and reinforcing your commitment to get more done.
Read this post for some more time management techniques.
7. Reward yourself for achievement
If you get something significant done or do something really well, reward yourself with something you like, like a (healthy-ish) treat, a cup of tea, a walk in the fresh air, or a visit to the cafeteria. Maintaining a positive mood makes us more energetic and productive.
8. Reclaim your lunch break
Many studies have shown that people who work through lunch become less and less productive, often doing poorer work as the day progresses. You won’t get more done by skipping lunch, and your work will suffer. Soon, you will suffer too, as stress is hugely damaging to energy levels, performance and well-being.
Take a break, get some fresh air, rejuvenate and refresh your spirits. Feed your body and your mind, as they’re all you’ve got.
Studies have shown that the act of consciously learning is life-affirming and generates energy. When we learn, we are refreshed and feel more powerful and capable. My secret weapon is TED Talks. I watch talks on www.TED.com most days to take my mind away from the problems I’m struggling with or the challenges I’m facing.
Often, I find that this results in renewed vigour and a more productive mindset. You may have different favourite activities, such as reading, chatting to friends and colleagues, or doing the crossword or Sudoku. Whatever works and does you good is fine.
10. Be self-aware
The ability to remain self-aware and note the changes in your thinking patterns or body is key to maintaining energy levels. Some use ‘mindfulness’ techniques, some use yoga or meditation, while others just chill or take a break. The important things is to find out what works for you, and use it to keep your energy levels high enough to do your best work. So think about it, observe yourself in action, learn, and act accordingly.