By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
Perhaps you are the person who tends to work 5 straight hours, especially if you have a project or report to finish, with no breaks during those 5 hours.
You’ve skipped lunch and you feel proud that you have accomplished more than your workmates or classmates the entire morning.
But at the second half of the day, in the afternoon, it’s a different story. You find it hard to focus, easily distracted, and irritable. You would need a lot of coffee, chocolate and other snacks to energize yourself, just to get it through the afternoon, because you feel you’re drained.
Authors Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz of the book, “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” says you are mismanaging your energy if that’s the way you work.
No wonder you feel exhausted because you’ve spent all your energy in those work sprints. Sustained work is a marathon, not a sprint, the solution is to take many breaks instead of having long sustained sprints, so as to feel energized all throughout the day.
Dr. Jim Loehr, co‐founder of the Human Performance Institute, discovered these energizing breaks when he started working with elite athletes in tennis.
The performance gap between high-ranked athletes with lower ranked ones was due to the short rituals of recovery high-ranked players would have during breaks in between games and points.
When he asked his tennis players to wear a heartbeat monitor, the high-ranked ones, would be able to lower their heartbeat to 20 beats per minute in between points but the low-ranking, low-performing athletes who had no ritual for recovery maintained an elevated heart rate all throughout the game.
The low-ranked players eventually made errors that cost them the game. Loehr found that high‐performing athletes can consistently perform at a high level because they’ve developed the habit of going through rapid cycles of intense focus and relaxation.
The key is to build a set of rapid recovery rituals into your day to restore your energy sources. You can execute the rituals in two scenarios: (1) After 90 minutes of continuous focus on a task. Or (2) any time you start to feel slightly irritable.
During your break, the authors recommend four energy sources you need to restore: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. You don’t have to do all four in one break, but through the series of breaks, all throughout your work day. Each break can be around 10 to 15 minutes.
For recovering your physical energy, you can take a walk outside your office, walk up a flight of stairs, or do push-ups. The exercise would oxygenate your cells and rejuvenate your brain. Then drink a cold glass of water. Drinking water has a profound impact on your physical energy because your brain and heart are made of almost 75% water. Dehydration causes your brain to slow down and lose its sharpness.
To recover your emotional energy, you can set an appointment with someone you enjoy spending time with like your wife, best friend or a classmate. Planning events with others creates a sense of anticipation and excitement that can carry into your work session. Or just simply have an interesting chat with an officemate about latest events or give praise to others. Giving praise to others would boost their emotional energy as well as yours.
For restoring mental energy, you can listen to music or take a walk while letting go of what you are working on, and let your mind wander. By letting your mind wander, you let ideas related to your work incubate in your sub‐conscious. When you return to work 10‐15 minutes later, you’ll have a burst of creative energy.
To restore your spiritual energy, try reading a spiritual book and reflect on the material you are reading while trying to converse with God. This is called mental prayer or meditation and will work wonders not just on your mind but to your entire being, i.e., body and soul. For me this is the best source of energy among the four because you just don’t tap to your own energy but from the energy that God provides you.
“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz