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5 Tips for Managing Your Energy Throughout the Day

April 14, 2015

Have you ever felt that you could accomplish more if there were more than 24 hours in a day?

If so, you may want to rethink that notion, because it may be more important to manage your energy rather than just your time.

At least that’s what Tony Schwartz, an executive business trainer and author of The Power of Full Engagement, recommends.

The inescapable truth is that humans need breaks — moments to refuel, recharge and refocus — or else we end up burned out and no good to anyone. Rather than treating life like a marathon, Schwartz advises we treat it as a series of sprints and recoveries.

Schwartz, along with co-author and fellow executive business trainer, Jim Loehr, gleaned several insights from working with athletes to help them reach peak performance. What they learned was that the best athletes weren’t necessarily the ones who pushed themselves the hardest for the longest time. The best were the ones who had developed effective energy management strategies that incorporated efficient periods of rest.

Though most of us could only dream of being a professional athlete or Olympian, there’s a valuable lesson here that we all should incorporate into our everyday lives: to keep performing at your best, you need to recharge. No one is a machine, and it’s pretty much impossible to keep working for eight hours straight without a break. When we try to test our limits, we end up tired and irritable, have trouble concentrating or make careless mistakes. So, it’s important to make room for recovery. Here are five ways to do it:

Make a List of the Benefits of Relaxation

I know that even after reluctantly taking a break, I will come back refreshed, more cheerful and more creative, which puts me in an even better position to do my best work. Making a list of the benefits will help motivate and remind you to actually take the breaks you’ve set up. At a loss for what to do? Make a list of any and all activities that bring you joy or relaxation. For me, that’s reading, yoga, a glass of wine (with chocolate) and watching my favorite TV shows.

Schedule Your Rest and Recovery

Whether or not you think you need a break, schedule fun or relaxation activities in advance and stick to them. You can find small opportunities to rest, even during the busiest of days. Maybe spare five minutes to walk to the break room to refill your coffee or pause for two minutes between one project and the next to refocus. And at the very least, take a trip to the restroom.

Use any break you can find to escape and reset. Take some deep, yoga-worthy abdominal breaths. Do some stretches. Relax your shoulders, your jaw muscles and your mind. Or just sip some water and visualize something soothing. Allowing yourself a little time to pause in the midst of your work can do wonders for your productivity and your sanity.

Double the Break You Think You Need

Everyone knows how this goes, “Sure, I’ll take a break — I’ll give myself 20 minutes off!” That’s not good enough. Whatever break you think you need, double it. You are most likely underestimating the toll that all of your hard work is taking on your body and mind. Without real restoration and rejuvenation throughout the day, people knowingly hold themselves back because they are worried about pacing their energy to make it through the day.

This is incredibly damaging to your potential, because it distributes your efforts at 25 percent across your whole work day instead of reaching 90 percent output at the moments that correspond with your body's natural productive rhythms of alertness. The result is that you aren't able to do your best work, and you aren't getting the rest you need to rejuvenate either. I know I've fallen into the trap of conventional thinking that to be productive I just need to work harder. I spend more and more hours at the desk, but when I look back I'm not sure where the time went.

Enlist family and friends

If you schedule a weekend getaway with family or friends, you’ll have no excuse but to unplug. Family and friends can be great accountability buddies for taking the breaks you need.

Set a Goal and Reward Yourself

Break down your biggest goals into achievable, measurable chunks and reward yourself often. For every day that you make a massive to-do list, add a reward item at the end that brings you joy. Maybe it’s reading a book, a magazine, or going out to dinner with a friend. For many of us, we only take breaks or celebrate when we hit the BIG goals — but those can take months to achieve. Instead, break them down into smaller parts and reward yourself for all of the smaller milestones you hit along the way.

Taking a break is not a luxury. It’s a necessity, especially if you want to continue doing your job—and living your life—to the best of your ability. Take breaks to renew your mental, physical and emotional energy and periodically set aside time where you can relax and de-stress, whether it be reading your favorite book, going to the spa, exercising or spending quality time with family and friends.

There are only 24 hours in a day, so spend them wisely and as efficiently as possible.