Energy Hacks at Work
As a Certified Bulletproof Coach, I work with a lot of clients who are drained from overworking & feel like their life is out of whack. I’ve noticed 3 major factors that lead to energy depletion in the workplace:
- Lack of breaks
- Energy-zapping co-workers (AKA toxic people)
I discuss energy hacks you can implement to solve these problems on a recent episode of the “Workplace Hero” podcast. Check it out here. If you want a CliffNotes version of the episode, read on…
Lack of Breaks
The brain was not meant to focus for 8 hours at a time. Taking breaks is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a good use of your time. In fact, a study in the journal Cognition shows that even brief breaks from a task can dramatically improve work endurance, focus, and productivity.
It is recommended to work in bursts of 60-90 minutes, followed by a 10-15 minute break.
You might be wondering, “Why is 90 minutes the magic number?” That number comes from researcher Nathan Kleitman who discovered something called the “basic rest-activity cycle.” When we are sleeping, we progress through the 5 stages of sleep every 90 minutes. Our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythm during the day, going from high alertness to low alertness.
Test it out. Try working for 90 minutes straight (intensely!), and then take a break. If you’re skeptical or you doubt your ability to focus for that long, try starting with 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. This is called the Pomodoro Method.
During your focus periods, keep distractions to a minimum by putting on headphones so co-workers know you’re busy, or politely ask if you can catch up with them when you’re done. Use your breaks to go outside, move around, or just step away from the computer for a few minutes. Bonus points if you do 4 minutes of exercise for every hour of work, just like Katy Bowman suggested on the WorkPlace Hero Podcast.
Neuroscientists have found that multitasking literally drains your brain’s energy. Switching between different unfinished tasks confuses the brain and makes you feel tired very quickly.
Devora Zack, author of Singletasking: Get More Done- One Thing at a Time, reported that multitasking can decrease your productivity by up to 40%. Research also shows that you make twice as many errors when multitasking. Lastly, it can shrink the gray matter in your brain, which is much needed for self-control and decision-making.
If the urge to start another task comes up while you’re working on something else, write it down and come back to it later. Turn off all potential distractions (phone, email, etc.) when working on something important. There are even apps for your computer and phone like FocusMe that allow you to block websites you use to procrastinate.
The ability to remain calm and manage your emotions around stressful people is so important if you want to feel good at work. According to a study by leadership development consultancy, Fierce Inc., 4 out of 5 employees work or have worked with a co-worker who could be considered toxic to the office environment. Surprisingly, only 40% of bosses say they would eliminate a toxic team member, versus 88% of employees who would.
To stay mindful and prevent yourself from getting sucked into the drama, practice the ABC method. This stands for Acknowledge, Breathe and Choose.
Acknowledge when you’re allowing someone else to suck you dry or undermine your work. Notice your negative feelings and where you feel them in your body. Noticing your thoughts keeps you in control.
The second step is to breathe. Take a deep breath, meditate, clear your head, or give it some time.
Then, choose how you’re going to respond… Are you going to be solutions-oriented? Are you going to establish some kind of boundary? Or are you going to play the victim?
This simple acronym can come in handy if you find yourself slipping into a negative state around toxic co-workers.
We’ve covered a lot of juicy energy hacks, but you’ll only benefit if you take action. Your homework assignment this week is to build at least one 60-90 minute period of uninterrupted focus followed by a short renewal break. Bonus points if you can sneak in 2-3 short breaks throughout the day. If you’re worried about your co-workers judging you for going outside or taking a small break, just think about how happy your team will be when you are producing greater results using this trick.