There are a lot of factors that contribute to or reduce our energy levels and productivity. For better or worse, those two are connected—our energy (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) greatly affects the amount and quality of our output. The way to maintain good productivity is to make sure that we also have enough energy.
Here are the day-to-day factors that affect our energy levels and, in turn, our productivity.
Research shows that because of circadian rhythms, our energy levels naturally dip around 3 in the afternoon. Having good sleep hygiene allows for more physical and mental power throughout the day. We think that being productive means working more and doing what we can to churn out more finished products, sometimes to the detriment of our sleeping hours—but sleeping and resting are a huge part of coming up with output that is not just high in quantity but also quality. When we find ourselves yawning and in a constant state of sleepiness all day, it affects the level of quality of work we put out.
It’s simple: If you want to continue to have the brainpower and physical energy for productivity throughout the day, sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night. This is the one area of health you shouldn’t negotiate on.
Multiple studies have shown the effects of room temperature on people’s productivity. A study from Cornell investigated an office in Florida and found the following:
- When temperatures were too low, office workers made 44% more mistakes than average or optimal room temperature. The study posits that when people are cold to the point of discomfort, they tend to get distracted and use a significant amount of their energy to keep warm instead of focusing on their tasks.
- In the same manner, multiple studies have shown that extreme heat doesn’t just affect people’s productivity. It can affect whether employees would be present at all. One study found that a one-degree surge in the ten-day temperature average increased the probability that workers would be absent by as much as 5%.
Keep your office temperature at an optimal range. If you work in a room with other people, they prefer cooler temperatures, bundle up properly, or bring your own personal heater. You can also drink hot tea or coffee to help keep yourself warm. If you’re working from home, make sure your HVAC systems are functioning properly and that your home is properly insulated to help keep your home temperature at a comfortable rate. Don’t wait for the summer to have your AC repaired or checked—don’t even allow extreme heat to seep into your home, lest it makes you want to stop working at all.
Have you ever wondered why your mind tends to wander or itches to check Facebook or Instagram while working, or literally do anything else except the task at hand? This is a natural response to being bored at that specific task or finding it difficult or frustrating.
To combat this, you need to be able to manage well. It means you need to know what steps to take, where you can go, or who you can talk to when you’re tempted or triggered to procrastinate. Here is a list of steps that might help:
- Break down the tasks into a manageable level. An example of this is working on it for 25 minutes, then forcing yourself to stop for 5 minutes to do something else (drink water, go to the toilet, check on your Twitter, and others), and then working again for 25 minutes, and then taking another break for 5 minutes, and so on. It may be hard to stop to force yourself to stop working when you’re already in the zone, but a 5-minute break in between 25 minutes of work will do you a world of good.
- Observe the time of day when you have a higher level of energy and productivity. Make a graph of your daily schedule and plot your energy levels every hour by assigning a score. Allocate a lot of tasks during the time frame when you have the most energy and motivation.
- Regulate yourself by creating your own workplace policies, especially if you’re working from home. Create a reward system for yourself—for example, no Netflix or social media until you’ve finished your required tasks for the day. Rewards systems work, and you need to maximize this to motivate yourself to do what you need to do.
We live in a world filled with so many distractions—sometimes it feels like it’s working against us. So we need to find ways to fight this and allow ourselves to work smart, not hard.