I was fortunate enough to be able to travel back to Ireland for a holiday over Christmas. Rather than going directly there we took in a couple of countries along the way to break things up. What a perfect opportunity to get through the backlog of books I’ve been building up over the year, I thought. All those hours of travel…what else would I be doing? Well, it turned out that I was out cold or bleary eyed for most of the travel time and hardly got through any of my books at all! That little experience reminded me of something that I often discuss with my clients when they tell me they want to increase their productivity beyond what they’re currently doing. You see, it’s not time that’s the issue because we all have the same amount of that. More important than time is energy and focus!
You could have the best time management system in the world but not have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Or you might find yourself struggling to push through that 3 o’clock slump in the middle of the afternoon. It doesn’t matter how organised you are if you don’t have the energy to produce the goods. So what happens to our physiology that causes us to get tired and sleepy? The nerve cells in the brain (neurons) have supporting cells called astrocyctes and one of the important functions an astrocyte has is to store energy in the form of glycogen, which provides energy for the cell. During waking activity, and especially during concentrated effort, our glycogen stores become depleted and the levels of another substance increase.
The secret to getting ahead is getting started ~ Mark Twain
This substance is called adenosine and it’s the accumulation of adenosine that leads to the drowsiness we’ve all experienced at one time or another. The longer we stay awake more and more adenosine is produced which leads to difficulty concentrating and the other effects of sleep deprivation. When we do sleep, the adenosine is broken down and the levels of glycogen are replenished. For most people, it takes approximately 7 – 8 hours of sleep to break down and remove adenosine and that’s why it’s recommended that we get that amount of sleep each night. The body is amazing at ‘getting by’ but at what cost? Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need as much sleep as other people, there is copious amounts of research to demonstrate the link between productivity, the effectiveness of decision making, and sleep.
The other thing you need to know about having more energy during the day is nutrition. How are you fueling the machine? It’s common sense that if you put poor quality fuel into your car it’s not going to perform to the level it’s capable of. Poor quality fuel might cause your exhaust to spit out smoke, grease the insides of the engine and reduce the overall lifespan of your engine. Although the effects aren’t as immediately noticeable, the same is true for your own body. It takes a lot of energy for the body to process and get rid of the waste produced from the things we put into it that we probably shouldn’t. Collectively, our digestive system uses the most nerve energy throughout the day. It’s on all the time! Certainly running a marathon would be the exception but we don’t run marathons every day! Over the course of our days and weeks, the more energy we exert getting rid of the things we shouldn’t put into our bodies in the first place, the less energy we have for other more important endeavours…like focus!
Don’t count the days. Make the days count ~ Muhammad Ali
Cal Newport, in his bestselling book Deep Work, points out that in this modern age of technology that we’re “training” ourselves to be distracted which decreases our ability to deliver high quality work that requires focus for an extended period of time. Technology is consuming our lives and it’s rare nowadays to be standing in a queue for something without at least ninety percent of people (probably you included) not on their mobile phones. With all the pings, the bings, and the dings that reach for our attention every few minutes when we don’t get pinged we’re checking to ensure we haven’t missed something. We become constantly distracted by the endless pinging of our phones or distracted by the expectation of our phones pinging!
So what are some of the little things you can do to increase your energy and focus throughout the day and into the evening? One thing you can do immediately is to attend to your diet. A very simple and immediate change is to reduce those sugary and processed foods. Another easy fix is to restore your brains energy cells – get more sleep! – there you go…you’re on your way to having more energy straight away!
If you’d like to know more about how to increase your productivity and effectiveness, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
Subscribe & Stay Informed
Best way to keep in touch with our latest news and updates.