Energy and motivation go hand in hand. If you feel like you have very little energy, your motivation will suffer; if you feel very little motivation, you’ll also feel sapped of energy. As a result of this partnership, it’s essential that we work on keeping ourselves healthy to support both.
In this article, we aim to teach you some of the best tips, tricks, and strategies to increase your energy and motivation together. We also try to show you a bit about why both are important and how they work together. Read on to learn more!
If you’re out of shape, exercising to feel energized might feel like the exact opposite of what you need. However, daily exercise incorporated into your routine, in conjunction with a healthy diet and sleep cycle, is one of the best ways to increase your energy. It’s even more effective if you can get outside to exercise and take in some fresh air.
Exercise is also a beautiful way to increase your energy because of how versatile it is. There are exercise routines and strategies out there for every body type, energy level, and schedule. As you exercise more, your body will become leaner and more efficient, and this will increase your energy over time, too. A healthy body is an energetic body.
If you’re feeling fatigued and worn out, exercise is probably the thing you least feel like doing! However, we urge you to give it a try anyway. You will see a difference in how you feel. The effectiveness of exercise on boosting your energy is rooted in science and medicine. New York Times covers a study by the University of Georgia that tested just that.
What they found was that a low-intensity exercise done for twenty minutes three times a week dropped feelings of fatigue by sixty-nine percent. However, a high-intensity workout was nearly as effective at forty-nine percent. This means that, as long as you’re making an effort to exercise regularly, you will most assuredly feel more energized and motivated!
We’ve included below thirteen ways that you can get your workouts done, courtesy of CheatCheet. Pick one you like best, or change it up every so often to work on different muscle groups – the choice is yours.
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
- Tai Chi
- Strength Training
- Exercise Machines
Of course, there are many more options available out there, too! If none of the above suit you, do a little research to find something that suits your needs and your lifestyle.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. This goes for your energy, too. If you tend to snack on unhealthy, sugary, oil-laden foods all day, your body will feel accordingly unhealthy. The same goes in the other direction – if you eat healthy, minimally-processed foods, your body will feel more energized.
We recommend starting small. Instead of buying a burger for lunch every day, bring a homemade sandwich or wrap. Instead of potato chips for a snack, try unsalted corn chips or vegetable straws. With all of the healthy choices we have available to us today, you’d be surprised by how many of your favorite foods you can swap out for a healthier version, while still preserving your personal tastes and favorite flavors.
Buzzfeed suggests a short list of food swaps to increase health and decrease calories, and we’ve listed the best of them below.
- Swap a bagel out for a healthier English muffin
- Try Greek yogurt with your cereal instead of milk
- Eat half of an orange instead of drinking a glass of orange juice
- Have your sandwich on a wrap instead of bread
- Substitute apple slices for crackers
- Try corn tortillas instead of flour
- Swap mixed nuts for a healthy trail mix
- Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
- Top your chili with radishes instead of corn chips
- Try a light vegetable and goat cheese omelet instead of heavy cheddar and ham
- Make your own fruit parfait at home instead of buying one premade
- Toast and butter some cinnamon raisin bread instead of a sugary cinnamon roll
- Top pancakes with pecans and yogurt instead of fatty butter and syrup
- Add flavor to oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, and honey instead of brown sugar
- Indulge in a low-fat ice cream sandwich instead of a scoop of ice cream
- Mix lemonade with sparkling water instead of reaching for sugary lemon-lime soda
- Spread cheese on flatbread as an alternative to salty cheese crackers
- Try a handful of edamame instead of calorie-heavy peanuts
Keep in mind that most of the swaps we’ve mentioned above are from a calorie-focused perspective. If you’ve already established a healthy calorie balance or are looking to put on muscle, more calories would be fine for you. Nuts, for example, are a heart-healthy snack across the board, but they tend to be heavy in calories. With the plentiful options available to us today, it’s not difficult to make diet choices that suit your needs.
Staying hydrated is just as important as exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. Many of us don’t drink as much pure water as we really should, especially with the popularity of diuretics like coffee and energy drinks. Sometimes, when you have a headache or just feel down in the dumps, simple dehydration can be the cause.
An easy solution to this is to keep a beverage with you at all times. We recommend water, but coffee and electrolyte drinks are also healthy in moderation. Just be aware that many electrolyte beverages contain high amounts of sugar and sodium – these beverages are designed for athletes, not sedentary office individuals. Low-sugar fruit juice is an excellent alternative to water if you need some variety.
If you keep a water bottle with you on the job or at home, you will undoubtedly find yourself drinking from it more often. This is good for you! Don’t force yourself to drink water – too much can be just as unhealthy as too little water – but make sure you always have some on hand for when you get thirsty. If we don’t have water on hand, we tend to forget about it and not drink when we’re busy or working.
Caffeine is also something to watch out for. While coffee and energy drinks are healthy in moderation, caffeine is a known diuretic, meaning that it works to expel water from the body. It’s still hydrating to drink coffee and energy drinks, of course, but you will become dehydrated faster as compared to drinking water alone.
As long as you keep everything balanced, you shouldn’t run into any problems. Caffeine is also great for helping you feel energized and motivated in a pinch, but don’t overuse it!
A consistent, healthy sleep schedule is one of the cornerstones to remaining energized and motivated, and it’s just as critical as healthy eating and exercise, if not more so. According to science, we don’t have a clear reason as to why the human body needs sleep. All we know is that we need it in specific, predictable amounts to be healthy.
Here are several theories that Scientists hold on why we might need sleep. However, while they’re all compelling theories, we don’t have any clear winner as to which is the most accurate. Regardless of the why, it’s the how that’s more important, anyway. We’re all familiar with the worn-out, motivation-starved feeling of not getting enough sleep.
When we haven’t had a decent night’s sleep, that’s often all we can think about. All we want to do is lay back and catch up on the sleep we’ve lost. In fact, that’s actually the best thing to do, if you have the time. Even a short power nap of ten or fifteen minutes is enough to boost your energy and mental clarity. LifeHacker suggests the following intervals:
- 10 to 20 minutes: ideal for increasing alertness and energy
- 30 minutes: same as above, but may result in some grogginess
- 60 minutes: the above, plus helps with remembering facts, faces, and names, with some grogginess
- 90 minutes: the above, plus improved procedural and emotional memory, typically without grogginess
Of course, it’s always better to get the sleep that you need at night. A nap will help you feel better when you’ve been shorted on your usual sleep time, but it doesn’t replace a consistent sleep schedule.
Momentum is a powerful thing. You may be tempted to work on several tasks at once, but it’s actually much less effective than working on one thing at a time. If you have several things to do, it’s been proven better to get in the zone and knock down one thing at a time.
According to the above article, the way our brain works is that it switches between different cognitive rules as you work. For example, if you’re writing emails and working on math in a spreadsheet at the same time, your brain will have to take a few moments to switch between math and language rules whenever you move between tasks. This can cause a productivity loss.
If you only switch between different tasks once – that being when you finish one and move to the other – your brain will be able to work much more efficiently. It will cause less mental fatigue for you, as well. Try to resist the urge to address everything at once. Whenever possible, isolate the most urgent work first, finish that, move to the next, and so on.
Entrepreneur provides a list of several things you can do to help you focus on one task at a time, reducing distraction. Try some of the following:
- Do your hardest work first, or save it for the times of day that you’re at your most productive. Our brains fatigue throughout the day.
- Allocate your time properly. Try setting an alarm for twenty minutes and devoting yourself to focusing for that entire time.
- Train your brain. The more you train your mind to stay focused on a single task, the easier it will become!
Do Something You Enjoy
When we do something that we enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work. This is part of the allure of things like video games, television, reading, and other activities that suck you in. While not all of the work you do will be enjoyable, of course, there’s something to be said for the increased productivity that comes with doing something you like.
If you have a bit of flexibility in your workplace, plan your work around your skills and interests, or ask your boss if you can do more work that’s up your alley. This isn’t possible in all situations, but if you back it up with a promise of more productivity, it might be hard for your superiors to refuse. If it’s a job that everyone covets doing, you might not get very far, but if not, you may be able to make a strong case for yourself.
Working hard at something we enjoy can be just as fatiguing as what we don’t like, but it often doesn’t feel like it. As a result, make sure to be careful with your energy levels at work; don’t push yourself too far. Increased productivity is a beautiful thing, but not at the expense of your health or the quality of your work.
Going outside is a proven way to wake up your system and help you feel motivated and energized. There’s just something about the fresh, pure air that you get from being out in nature that makes us feel happy, healthy, and ready to take on the world. We don’t necessarily mean just walking outside your building here – while that’s nice in a pinch, it’s better to get out of the city and into nature itself.
Being outside in natural environments like forests and meadows is proven to have several health benefits. Business Insider lists the following things that spending time in nature can do:
- Boosts your short-term memory
- De-stresses your mind and body
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces fatigue
- Fights anxiety and depression
- Good for your eyesight
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Helps you focus
- Improves ability to do creative tasks
- May help prevent cancer
- Can boost your immune system
- Lowers risk of early death across the board
With such a wide range of benefits even going beyond that of fighting fatigue and boosting motivation, spending time out in nature should be high on anyone’s priority list. If you live in a city setting far from open green spaces, we recommend finding time to visit green parks and other natural areas several times a week.
If you can, combining this time spent in green spaces with time spend alongside animals and pets is a great idea. Spending time with animals is another proven way to increase your health and general happiness, and an activity like taking your dog to the dog park is a great way to hit two birds with one stone.
Listening to music is a fantastic mood-boosting trick, and it’s one that’s far too underutilized by people in the workplace. Besides its mood-boosting effects, listening to music is also proven to boost focus and help increase productivity. Listening to your favorite songs can even provide a temporary boost to your energy and motivation.
According to LifeHack, you can increasing your productivity with music. They recommend the following:
- Nature sounds are an excellent way to improve productivity in the workplace. Water sounds, in particular, are low-key and are minimally distracting, but they still mask the sounds of a busy environment.
- Motivating songs, whether they be fan favorites or your favorites, are great for a big boost of energy.
- Listening to your favorite music can help reduce stress and increase productivity as a general rule.
- Play music that coordinates with the work you’re doing. Fast-paced music, for example, is excellent for jogging or exercising. Slower music is suitable for staying calm and focused at work.
- Don’t turn the music up too loud. Keep it loud enough to drown out distracting outside noises, but no louder. Music that’s too loud can interfere with your focus.
You can find playlists for all sorts of activities across the web, or you can create your own. There are several located in the above article, too. YouTube is an excellent place to create these playlists if you don’t mind dealing with ads. Other services like Pandora and Spotify are also excellent platforms to create motivational playlists.
Create a Routine
One of the best ways to get your body and mind to focus on something is to get it used to a routine. When you do the same thing every day, it will become something like a habit over time. Your brain and body will learn to expect the routine that you’re putting it through.
When establishing a routine, it’s best to set up a unique cue that marks the start of that routine. Boredom is mentioned as the cue for many smokers that fall into the habit. If you want to make your productivity a habit, base it off this psychology. Choose a signal that your brain understands as your way of getting into your groove.
Building off of the last section, we would suggest using a song or a playlist as a cue. Alternatively, you could set a specific alarm sound for mornings that you want to wake up and be productive. Eating a certain breakfast or drinking a particular beverage on these days works, too.
Scientific studies have shown that something as simple as chewing a specific flavor of gum can help with memory and recall. Something easy like this – opening a piece of gum when you’re ready to really hit the grindstone at work – is a great way to help your brain identify these routines.
While setting aside time for prolonged exercise is a great way to make you healthier, staying motivated at work when you’re forced to sit at a desk all day is a different story. We don’t have time to spend half an hour exercising at work except maybe on our break. In situations like this, brief periods of standing, stretching, and walking around are the kings of maintaining motivation and focus.
Studies have shown that brief, activity-filled breaks when you’re finding it hard to focus are ideal for maintaining your mental, emotional, and physical states. This study covered by BMC states that short periods of activity throughout a sedentary workday can even help decrease your appetite for snacks!
If you have access to outdoor green space at your workplace, such as a garden or backyard, walking there would be an ideal way to spend these short breaks. In this way, you can take advantage of the benefits of green spaces and moving around together. However, if you don’t, walking to the bathroom, water cooler, or simply up and down the stairs is also acceptable.
If the space you have to work with is limited, consider something like stretching in place or a short bout of jumping jacks when you need a short break from work. Anything that you can get up and do behind your desk or within your cubicle is an excellent activity to take advantage of. Activities that require more room, such as yoga, may need to be saved for later.
Take care to keep your coworkers in mind, as well as your boss. While increased productivity is a benefit in any working environment, make sure your boss is okay with your activity breaks, and that they know you’re not simply wasting time. Additionally, you may wish to pass on activities that could disrupt those around you. In a cubicle environment, for example, exercises like jumping jacks might bother your neighbors.
Everyone knows that stress is the enemy of productivity. In fact, stress is the enemy of many things, such as your mental state, emotional well-being, and even physical health. It’s essential to stay as stress-free as possible to protect your motivation and make the most of your productivity.
However, this can be easier said than done, especially if it’s things at work that tend to stress you out. If this is the case, we recommend going into work as relaxed as possible to minimize the effects of stress. We’ve included some accessible strategies (some even doable at work) to keep stress down, courtesy of Harvard University, below.
- Practice good time management
- Learn some relaxation techniques
- Resolve any stressful situations that you can
- Have a support system
- Ask for help when necessary
- Be kind to yourself
- Get enough sleep
We’ve already talked about the importance of good sleep habits, and bad ones can add to the stress you already feel at work. When you’re tired, you’re not able to work well, and this can even lead to falling behind on your duties, leading to more stress. This is where time management techniques come in, but we still recommend starting with a good, stable sleep schedule.
A good support system is essential to have for when the stress ends up becoming too much to handle. A friendly third party can help provide clarity on stressful situations, and they can often help you figure out how to resolve them, too. Someone not directly involved can often see solutions that you might be blind to.
However, for general stressful situations, a good relaxation technique can be sufficient for dispelling tension and getting back on the right track. Things like counting to ten, taking a minute to meditate, or even listening to calming music can be great for this purpose. If all else fails, venting to a trustworthy third party can be another good way to blow off some steam.
Be sure to treat yourself right, above all else. If you’re feeling overworked, treat yourself to a reward for a job well done, such as a massage or special purchase. Resolving stressful situations as soon as possible, or even before they start, though, is an even better strategy. Avoiding added stress in the first place makes needing to blow off steam or take time to relax unnecessarily.
Asking for help comes into play here, too. If you need help with something at work, it’s better to ask your boss or coworkers rather than return a flawed product. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of what needs to be done in all situations.
More so than anything else we’ve listed in this article, being willing to commit to your work is the ultimate strategy. Motivation can only take you so far, and it always wanes with time. However, with a little creativity and work, you can keep your motivation and energy in the best shape they can be. Committing to this, as well as your usual duties is the key.
When motivation does fail you, the routines and strategies you’ve built up will be your biggest allies. Having to commit to various things even when your desire to do them is zero will be something that everyone faces eventually. Setting yourself up for success using helpful resources like this article will be what sets you apart from the guy next door!