With the rise of industrialization, a false belief spread like wildfire. In the pursuit of efficiency, we started viewing humans like machines. We assumed we could consistently operate at maximum capacity so long as we managed our time appropriately. This is short-sighted. Yet, somehow, this belief persists today. It’s time to confront reality. Productivity isn’t about clockwork. It’s about energy management.
You’ve probably heard the question, “Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?” On the topic of energy levels, a thermometer will simply notice an energy drain. A thermostat will learn to manufacture energy and regulate appropriately.
Your time is fixed, but your energy flexes. You have agency over your get-up-and-go. When you recognize this fact, you can speed through more work in less time. To make the life you want, this is essential.
You’re not a machine. To maximize human productivity, follow these 3 secrets to managing your energy.
Secret 1: Don’t sacrifice sleep for work.
Rest is the primary driver of mental and physical energy. Although it’s tempting to skip sleep during busy work seasons, this can negatively impact the quality and speed of your work. The more tired you are, the less productive you are.
Mood changes, concentration issues, and decision-making difficulty come from poor sleep. In a sleep study conducted on medical professionals, sleep deprivation increased mistakes by 20 percent. It also lengthened tasks by 14 percent.
A good night’s sleep drastically changes your outlook. You might go to bed feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Get enough sleep and bam! You feel fantastic.
My friend Shawn Stevenson caught me up on what’s happening in the brain during sleep deprivation. When you don’t get enough rest, the activity in your prefrontal cortex is suppressed. This part is responsible for executive functions like decision-making and social control.
In contrast, the fight-or-flight part of the brain (called the amygdala), operates with heightened activity. This means your sleepy mind makes primitive decisions you’ll likely regret later.
Optimize your sleep so you can make better decisions and ultimately live a better life.
Secret 2: Fuel your body with whole foods.
To strategically fuel your body, you’ll want to focus on healthy meals and snacks that keep your blood sugar level. That’s not to say you can’t indulge in high-glycemic carbs. But you need to be strategic about when you consume those energy draining foods.
For example, I prioritize whole foods for lunch on workdays. This dietary choice reduces mental fog for afternoon projects. If I crave a high carb meal like spaghetti or pizza, I save that for dinnertime.
You might be guilty of saying, “I’m going to skip lunch and power through work today.” This is counterintuitive. It’s like trying to drive without stopping at a gas station. Your mental energy will lag, and tasks will be more difficult.
If you’ve formed a habit of skipping meals, reframe your thinking, and put wholesome foods within reach. Chronic meal skippers can fill a drawer with healthy staples like popcorn, nuts, and beef jerky. This quick-fix will keep your energy levels steady on busy days.
Secret 3: Conserve mental energy by making fewer decisions.
You make 35,000 decisions each day. Some leaders hoard decision-making because it makes them feel powerful. This is a mistake. Learn to delegate decisions to your team. And don’t second-guess everything your peers decide.
Save energy by choosing to not have a preference on everything. The farther you move up the food chain, the more responsible you become for big, thorny, complex decisions. The best use of your mental energy is on major issues. The rest can be decided down the ladder. Highly successful people protect their brain power by reducing decisions.
When it feels like there aren’t enough minutes in the day, don’t reach for a book on time management. Instead, monitor your energy levels. Get a good night’s sleep, eat nutritious meals, and pass off decisions.