Are you tired? Maybe that’s a silly question. A lot of us get so used to ‘running on empty’ that we barely register we’re exhausted any more. Instead of feeling awake at the start of the day and tired at the end, we’re existing in varying shades of knackered: from flat out exhausted (yet somehow keeping going) to just that state of background fatigue that’s become normal.
But having energy to do the things you want to, and still feel good, isn’t just a luxury. It’s essential if you’re going to have the impact you’re capable of with your life.
Feeling like you’re not only functioning, but ready and even excited to get started on the activities ahead of you is something that everyone of us has the potential to tap into.
What’s more, being tired can actually be dangerous
According to Barna Group, a research group in the States, only 39% of us are satisfied with the amount of sleep we’re getting, which means that 61% of us are probably feeling pretty tired. It really matters because according to another piece of research, this time from Harvard Medical School, if you’re only sleeping four to five hours a night it’s the equivalent of operating with a blood alcohol level of 0.1%.
So most of us are trying to manage our lives, our businesses, our work, and our teams with impaired executive functioning. You are not alone. It’s not your fault. But it is your responsibility to do something about it.
Let’s start by getting honest. How often do you feel tired? Is it every day? Is it once or twice a week? Are you feeling run down on a month-by-month basis? Is it very rare for you?
Write it down, get clear, be honest with yourself.
So why are we so tired?
Well, the problem often starts with the way we’re shown how success works. For example, I started my working life as a medical doctor. This is a realm where 24-hour shifts are not unknown. I used to work on the oncology ward for 12 days on, two days off. And those weekends that I worked, one was a 12-hour day and one was a 14-hour day. So it was hardcore, and as you can imagine, pretty exhausting.
It may well be that you also got trained inside an organization which was run on similar lines – where pushing yourself and working all hours was something the senior people, the ones you looked up to, always did.
And yet the evidence is clear: it’s not healthy, or even effective, to be operating at a state of depletion. Let alone the fact that it’s not much bloody fun to be on your knees with tiredness all the time, right?
Just as we were ‘raised’ in a culture where tiredness was often celebrated, it’s up to us to change that for the women looking up to us if we want to model a different way of doing things.
So, what can you do if you realise you really are feeling pretty knackered all the time? How can you boost your energy without sacrificing the many important things you do each day, or doubling the amount of sleep you get each night?
The good news is, there are some really effective strategies we can use to boost the energy we have available to us, even without changing the amount of rest we get. If that sounds too good to be true, then read on – the 3 tips I’m about to share could have a real impact on your life.
Are you tired? 3 changes to boost your energy without getting more sleep
1. Replenish yourself
If you’re in a state of chronic tiredness, and you’re experiencing that loss in executive function; indecisiveness maybe, or an inability to make clear decisions, then you’re probably not in the best place to think about about the changes you’ll need to make to deal with your tiredness.
The good news is, you don’t need 14 hour’s sleep or a day at the spa to get back some of your energy. (Though if either of those are options for you right now, I give you permission to grab them with both hands…)
Some fresh air, movement, and making sure you’re hydrated and fed will give you the base you need to think about other changes you can make. Drink a big glass of water; make yourself a snack and head out for a quick walk round the block. It’s amazing the boost these simple things can give you.
Come back, and it’s time to take a look at real changes to make a difference to your days.
2. Batch your tasks
One of the biggest ways we leak energy is when we switch between tasks.
You’re in deep focus mode preparing a project, and then your email pings. An urgent message has come in, and you’re back in your inbox, only while you’re there you remember a few other things you ought to do. Whoops, there’s that email from a friend you meant to reply to last week, only you didn’t have time. Should you do it now? Before you know it, 5 minutes has become an hour and by the time you return to the big piece of writing you’ve totally lost your train of thought.
It’s those moments of switching from one kind of energy to another that can really deplete us over the course of the day. Ever felt slightly groggy after being on social media for a while, as you tried to remember where you were before you went in for a quick look at what was going on? Those sluggish, ‘where was I?’ moments build up to sap your focus from the things you want to be doing, not to mention the way we often beat ourselves up about procrastinating.
Often, it’s not the amount of things on your to-do list that is the problem. It’s the number of different energies on your to-do list on any given day.
You know you’re shifting from energy to energy when the laundry looks really attractive instead of doing some work. Or when you just need to go for your third cup of coffee for the morning and it’s only 9:30am…
That’s often an internal kind of identifier that you’re shifting energy from one energy type to another energy type. Whereas, say you’ve got 15 tasks on your list for today, you might actually find that they can all get batched into just three different energies. And if you re-organize your day to do them together rather than just starting at the top and going down, you’ll find you’re much less tired when you get to the end of your day.
In Be Fruitful, our 6-week online training that helps busy women free up 5 hours a week (at least!) to do what they want, we delve into this in much more detail. (Click here if you’d like to get the full lowdown on the training). I call it Batching for Energy Matching and it’s a foundational principle, because it makes such a difference so quickly.
As a starting point, try taking 10 minutes at the start of your day to block out time for the different things you’ll need to do, and when you’re best placed to do them. Do you like to ease into your day with some admin tasks while you sip your coffee and get into the swing of things? Or do you prefer to get the big, scary tasks done so that you’re relaxed for the rest of the day?
Paying attention to the ebb and flow of your natural energy and grouping your tasks accordingly is the best way I’ve found to change up my energy, reduce my tiredness and ultimately maximise the impact of my work. I’d love to know how it works for you.
3. Find your rhythm
I don’t know about you, but every month I go through four pretty distinct seasons of energy. A winter where I want to withdraw from the world, a spring, a summer, and an autumn.
We all have cycles. And even if you’ve been through the menopause, a lot of postmenopausal women tell me that they still notice that they are cyclical. That their energy levels cycle.
My third suggestion is for you to start to think about yourself as a being who goes through cycles and rhythms which can be predicted and relied upon. And to realize that, if you start to harness those natural advantages, those natural strengths and those natural optimum times that you have, that you might be able to create real shifts in your energy levels.
One of the most powerful ways to bring rhythm to our life is through the use of ritual. And this makes sense when we look at the scientific research behind it because human beings really are creatures of habit. Ritual, rhythm orientates us in our life and helps us tap into the energy that allows us to be most effective with the least stress and depletion.
You will have times of the day where you are at your peak for different tasks – start to notice it about yourself. And then start to lay a ritual into the day to help you be ready for those things.
So for instance, I have a ritual to start the day. I get up, I go down into my kitchen, I make my tea and I do some morning writing. Three pages every single day, and then I have a little way of getting in contact with my purpose, what I’m up to.
Then I have little rituals to help me transition through parts of the day. So when I leave my house and commute across the garden to my studio, I walk the long way around. I go out through my front door the long way around through my garden, and just that extra minute or so that’s part of the ritual of coming into my studio here and doing my work for the day leaving family, mummy over in the house and having this separate space.
As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Well, I would say, if you fail to plan like a woman, you’re planning to fail as a man.
So always overlay any planning process you have with the recognition that you’re a cyclical creature who is not as necessarily as modal as your average man.
Managing our energy is such a huge part of being the leaders we are able to be, and so I’m always curious about how this goes for you. Leave a comment below, and let me know if finding a rhythm and batching your tasks to match your energy makes a difference in your day-to-day tiredness. I really would love to find out.
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