(Laura’s note: Even though I’m no longer really on maternity leave, I’m still running a few guest posts from my favorite bloggers — enjoy!)
By Linda Formichelli
Time management is a huge industry: e-books, print books, iPhone apps, and software programs all help people cram their too-many to-dos into the time they have. Articles in women’s magazines advise readers on how to shave five minutes off of various tasks, or what to do when they unexpectedly find themselves with a spare 15 minutes (organize your recipes! give yourself a mini-mani!).
One thing all this overlooks is that it doesn’t matter how much time you have if you don’t have the physical energy to get things done. As Laura says, we all have 168 hours per week. That’s a lot — but if you’re exhausted, it will never feel like you have the time to do everything you need and want to do. And even if you do manage to work on your tasks, if you’re tired you’ll work more slowly and with less focus. Energy is key to using your time well.
For years I thought I was the only one who was always tired. “Look at all those people zooming around getting their stuff done,” I’d think. “Why am I the only one who feels this way?” But then I started talking to people, and discovered that almost all of us feel this way. I became a wellness coach a few months ago, and lack of energy has been a common refrain with my clients.
At the risk of making a bad pun, we’re in the middle of an energy crisis. And it’s not hard to imagine why: Many of us expect our bodies to go full throttle and we don’t exactly help them out.
Doctors had no answers as to why I was always so beat, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. After experimenting for a few years, I can finally say I usually have abundant physical energy. (And thank goodness, because I run several businesses and have a 3-year-old who we’re homeschooling!)
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:
We’re all different, so the same energy-increasing tactics won’t work for everyone. That’s why you need to experiment to find out what works best for you. For example, a friend of mine feels best when she’s on an almost 100% raw vegan diet, but my energy zoomed when I cut out wheat. I blast through the day after lifting weights with my trainer, but others swear by interval training, while still others do best with a regular yoga routine. You may even find that different supplements work for you; for example, I take a B-complex, vitamin D, and fish oil, but various experts recommend a whole range of supplements you can experiment with.
Most of us go, go, go until we burn out and hit bottom — and then, with no other choice, we take better care of ourselves until our energy levels return. Wash, rinse, repeat. The trick is to not wait until you’ve hit bottom, but to re-energize as soon as your energy starts to dip — or even before. That way, not only will you avoid the energy roller coaster, but you can take much less drastic steps to get back on track — like a warm bath instead of a week in bed.
As Laura discovered when she was researching 168 Hours, most people actually get plenty of sleep. But what is the quality of that sleep? Many of us are wired from checking e-mail on our phones, watching TV, or reading the news right before snoozing. We race through the day and then collapse into a fitful slumber instead of easing into a restful sleep.
The solution: Create a soothing bedtime routine. Turn off the Internet and the TV. Take a bath, read some fiction, do a guided meditation on your iPod. Make sure that the sleep you get is rejuvenating.
How about you — what tactics have helped boost your energy? We’d love to hear your stories in the Comments below.
Linda Formichelli is a freelance writer for magazines like Women’s Health and WebMD, a certified personal trainer, and a professional wellness coach. She blogs about freelance writing at The Renegade Writer and about health and wellness at HappyFit Coaching.