82% of business leaders are working below their optimal energy levels.
How energized do you feel?
Here's a list of 43 practices that can give you a boost, based on extensive research, my own experience, and the experiences of other indie hackers. We’ll start with quick fixes and then move into longer-term strategies. I hope it helps!
How to wake yourself up when you're crashing
Here's how you can get that quick pick-me-up:
- First off, try to be gentle with yourself. There's no sense in beating yourself up for being tired, as that would likely cause more stress, leading to more fatigue.
- Switch tasks. Give your brain something new to think about. You can even keep some of the more stimulating on reserve for when you're flagging.
- Stand up. Changing positions can help, especially if you're slouching. Standing up, in particular, signals to your body that you don't want to sleep.
- Power pose. Speaking of standing up, what position does your body take when you're alert? Probably a straight back, for one. Move like you would if you were motivated. It's a similar idea to power posing, which holds that a confident pose can make you feel more confident. The jury is still out on whether these actually work, but I like to think they do.
- Do some quick exercises to get the blood pumping. Pushups, situps, pullups, jumping jacks, sun salutations, you name it. They only take a minute but they go a long way.
- Go for a quick walk. Studies have shown that a brisk 10-minute walk can increase energy for up to two hours.
- Get a little crazy. This one might feel embarrassing, but get up, standup, throw your hands, jump around. While you're at it, let out a big "WOOHOO!" Super awkward. And super effective — especially if you allow yourself to really get into it.
- Turn up the jams. And don't forget to dance around. Interestingly, a 2015 study found that relaxing music reduced fatigue and helped maintain muscle endurance with repetitive tasks.
- Laugh. A number of studies have shown that laughter boosts energy. If you're with someone, sling some banter. If not, watch a (quick) funny video. Pro tip: If you fake-laugh long enough (like really get your belly and breath into it) you’ll end up laughing for real, and probably feeling temporarily loco, but afterwards, you’ll be shocked by how much energy you have.
- Rest your eyes for 20 seconds. Staring at a computer all day is hard on the eyes and that can make you feel tired. Give them a break.
- Take some deep breaths. This will raise the oxygen levels in your body. It'll also lower your blood pressure, improve circulation, and ultimately improve your mental energy levels. Put your hand on your belly, right below your ribs. Inhale deeply through your nose into your belly so that your belly pushes your hand out and your chest stays still. Then exhale through pursed lips and repeat.
- Take a power nap. According to sleep expert, Sara C. Mednick, PhD, a 20 minute nap can reset your system and provide a burst of alertness and improved motor performance.
- Get chilly. Strip down, turn on the fan, open a window. Cold air helps (especially if it's fresh).
- Cold showers. It takes guts, but it'll wake you up — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you need some convincing, check out the work of Wim Hoff. Lately, I've been taking a hot bath followed by a cold shower a couple of times a week. It's a truly awesome way to get moving.
- Watch videos of cute animals. One study found that productivity soared after people watched some cute animals doing what they do best.
- Pet your dog or cat. Studies show that just 10 minutes of this can reduces stress and tension, which should improve your energy levels.
- Sniff an essential oil. A quick smell of rosemary, peppermint, citrus, or jasmine can give you a nice little boost. Sniff it out of the bottle or rub it on your hands and temples.
- Chew gum. I'm not big on gum, but it is said to increase mood and cognitive function.
- Caffeine. We all know that coffee and motivation often go hand-in-hand, but be careful. Drinking a lot of caffeine will make you more tired in the long run (more on this later). And while caffeine gives you a boost, it also decreases memory performance, making you more prone to mistakes. If caffeine is the only thing that'll do the trick, though, consider options other than coffee. Matcha, for example, has an amino acid that helps the body process the caffeine, resulting in a calmer, more sustained energy boost. Then there's green tea. And people are nuts about mushroom drinks like MUD/WTR.
- Get some sun. Research shows that sunlight boosts serotonin, which can give you more energy. It can also keep you calm, positive, and focused. So get out there and soak it in.
How to boost overall energy levels
It's important to look beyond the crash, because there are ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Let's get into them:
- Figure out your ultradian cycles. Ultradian rhythms are recurring cycles that happen each day. Essentially, your body goes through natural cycles of activity and rest every 90-120 minutes. So you can be focused for about 90 minutes, but then you need about 10 minutes of rest to get your brain working optimally before the next cycle. To learn to ride these waves instead of attempting to override them, keep a journal about where you're at throughout the day and look for trends. Plan to take a break at the end of each cycle. And listen to your body in the moment — allow yourself to rest when you're tired so that you're ready for the next phase of the cycle.
- Eat small meals every 3-4 hours. Large meals slow you down so keep it light and frequent.
- Eat healthy. Avoid processed foods, which have been shown to make energy levels rise then crash quickly, leaving you in a fog. Food with a low glycemic index is best, as the sugars will be absorbed slowly — think vegetables, nuts, healthy oils, etc.
- Make sure you're getting enough magnesium. It's needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, and breaking glucose down into energy is one of them. Most adult women will want about 300 milligrams per day and men will want about 350 milligrams. Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and dark chocolate are good places to start. And of course, you can also supplement.
- Hydrate. Studies show that increased levels of hydration improve mood, energy levels, and attention. The institute of medicine recommends drinking at least 74 ounces of water per day for women, and at least 101 ounces for men.
- Decrease your caffeine intake. As with just about any mind-altering substance, your body will build a tolerance to coffee, meaning you'll need more and more of it in order to stay alert. And that’s obviously not good for you. Caffeine also overrides your body’s natural ability to self-regulate, which makes self-regulation more difficult over time.
- Get enough (good) sleep. Go to bed at roughly the same time every night, and get up at the same time in the morning. Slow down before bed by taking a hot bath or reading a book. Disconnect from technology and get 6-8 hours of sleep. About 35% of adult Americans don't get enough sleep, so don't be one of them.
- Get less sleep. Wait, what? It's not just about the duration. If you aren't sleeping well, if you're tossing and turning, or if you're lying awake at night. Go to bed a little later or wake up a little earlier, and see what happens. You might sleep better.
- Destress. Stress and anxiety take A LOT of energy, even if you aren't doing anything. Prioritize relaxing activities every day — if it reduces tension, it'll increase energy.
- Learn to express your emotions. Emotions take energy, so when you hold onto them instead of expressing them, they can bog you down.
- Move your body. Whether it's the endorphins, the improved sleep, or just being plain healthier, regular exercise will improve your overall energy levels. Mid-day is a great time to work out. Mornings are good too. It's different for everyone.
- Start a breathwork practice. Breathwork is full of benefits, which vary according to the style. I'm a fan of Wim Hof's breathing technique, and it only takes 11 minutes. Here's some info on other breathwork practices that can help too. Be warned, breathwork is not for the faint of heart.
- Invest in a standing (or walking) desk. One study showed that standing desks made people 52% more engaged, with a 43% improvement in performance. Another study showed significant improvements in focus, executive function, and memory when using a standing desk. And you don't have to stand all day — just 10 minutes of standing has many benefits.
- Clean up your space. According to studies, a messy desk tanks energy and productivity levels.
- Personalize your space. Research shows that adding personal details to your desk can elevate your energy. Plants are particularly helpful, as are photos of loved ones.
- Socialize. Social isolation can actually cause fatigue, so get out there and be with other humans.
- Help someone else. Whether it's a teammate, a neighbor, or a stranger, helping people can actually give you energy. But helping everyone will drain your energy, so you've got to strike a balance.
- Lighten your load. Being overwhelmed can actually make you feel tired. Be discerning about what you take on. Get rid of any tasks that aren't important.
- If you're a smoker, quit. It reduces the efficiency of your lungs, which reduces the amount of oxygen your body gets. I quit five years ago. You can too. Here's a pretty solid article on the topic.
- Don't forget your morning ablutions. Get out of your PJs, take a shower, get dressed, and just be generally less of a frump. It's not always easy to do when working from home, but it has a positive impact on your energy levels.
- Meditate every day. Studies have found that meditation boosts energy. That makes sense, since meditating activates the parasympathetic nervous system and releases endorphins. Plus, it releases tension, which frees up more energy.
- Read and listen to things that inspire you.
- Do things you care about.
At the end of the day, we've all got to fill up our own cups before we can really share with others (and do good work).
How do you keep yourself awake and full of energy?
I'd love to hear your tactics.
Good luck filling up those cups🏆