BIG ENERGY

You have a finite amount of energy. Here’s how to make it feel limitless.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the best way to keep my personal energy levels high each day? Answer by Maurice Dziubinski, writer and productivity freak at Unchained Apps.

First of all, realize that you’ll always have energy highs and lows, no matter what. Now take them into account and schedule your workday with them in mind.

There aren’t really any “secrets.” People who seem to have limitless energy each day simply take advantage of their peak energy times and know when to take breaks. Granted, they’re likely optimizing their energy through good diet and sleep.

How does one maximize one’s energy levels? Think less about high and temporary energy spikes and more about maintaining A-OK energy levels throughout the day. What’s good about that coffee or energy drink if you crash after few hours and are useless by the end of the day?

Here are some tips:

  1. Ditch coffee. Stop relying on caffeine to spike up your energy levels “artificially.” Caffeine is a sleep disruptor, especially if taken in the afternoon. Instead, I recommend you build up your everyday energy levels naturally through good diet, sleep, exercise, and staying hydrated.
  2. Exercise.But don’t just do light cardio for 30 minutes. If you’re a man, lift heavy weights, do compound exercises and/or calisthenics. If you’re a woman, do some intense exercise, e.g. CrossFit. I promise that if you do this and have the right nutrition in place, you’ll be oozing energy.
  3. Avoid sugars like fire.Sugar will burn up very quickly. You cannot have a long-lasting campfire if you just keep throwing a lot of tinder into it. You need logs. Logs are unprocessed, real foods, ideally with low Glycemic Index.
  4. Switch to lower Glycemic Index (GI) foods.This means foods that don’t raise your blood glucose much and supply your body with energy for longer periods of time, just like logs.
  5. Improve the quality of your sleep.Make sure your bedroom is completely dark. Wear earplugs if you must. Don’t look at any screen for at least one hour before you go to sleep. If you really need to look at a screen, dim it down as much as possible. Don’t expose your skin to a lot of light before going to sleep either. Sleep at regular hours.

How do you navigate through your inevitable energy highs and lows to get a lot of stuff done? Let me give you an overview of some of the steps you should be taking if you really want to take advantage of your peak energy times while not letting the slumps jeopardize your productivity:

  1. Learn about your energy highs and lows

Although everyone’s energy fluctuations follow a similar pattern to some degree (e.g. we all experience afternoon slumps), yours are largely personal. In order to get a lot of stuff done, you first need to know about your energy fluctuations. I’ve tracked my energy levels for a few days, rating them on a scale of 1-10 every single hour. This is the chart that came out as a result.

I was surprised to see the patterns were so recurring! This has literally reshaped how I think about scheduling my workdays. I encourage you to do it too as you will need it for the next steps. (You can download the spreadsheet I’ve used here.)

  1. Assign your tasks in accordance to your energy levels

Now that you know exactly when are your energy highs and lows, you can start planning accordingly. I recommend breaking down all your tasks into three categories

—High energy tasks for when your energy is at the very peak (between a 8 and 10).

This is your most precious time. Be picky about what tasks you assign here, make it a rule to only choose the most important and complex tasks to tackle during those periods. Then go and really focus on them, without any interruptions. You’ll get a lot of done in those few hour peak times alone.

—Medium energy tasks for when your energy is between a 6 and 7.

Use this time for tasks that require moderate energy, e.g. communication-related tasks, meetings, non-essential decisions etc

—Low energy tasksfor when your energy is between a 0 and a 4.

Anything repetitive, mundane, or leisurely should fall into this category. Use it for passive activities too, such as reading, watching, and listening. Or anything that could otherwise distract you during your high and medium energy times.

  1. Work in 60-120 minute cycles, and take breaks

Because of our ultradian rhythm, we can work on a task for usually around 90 minutes before we start losing focus and alertness. Those who take breaks do much better in terms of productivity and energy levels. Do yourself a favor and take breaks to rejuvenate yourself.

  1. Track your productivity

Once you start taking action and assigning tasks to your schedule based on your energy levels, it’s ideal if you start tracking how productive you are throughout the day. This data, when compared to your previous energy highs and lows chart, will provide an insight into how you really perform. You’ll be able to make precise adjustments to your workflow and schedule once you have all this information.

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