Instead of working until your brain forces you to zone out for a bit, proactively plan real breaks in your day.
This is a 3-step process:
Step 1: Assess when your energy slumps
You probably already know roughly when you’re dragging, but if you’re not sure, try tracking your time and then giving yourself an energy score every 30 minutes.
A 10 means you’re ready to run a marathon. A zero means you’re flat on your back. Most of the time, you’re somewhere in the middle.
Some of this is biological — most people have more energy in the morning and less in the mid-afternoon — but some of it is situational.
An intense, confrontational meeting is more draining than organizing your inbox. An extrovert might find a big group networking event energizing, an introvert less so.
Once you monitor your energy for a few days, you’ll be able to see patterns. And that means, each day, you will be able to look at your schedule and pinpoint your deepest troughs.
Step 2: Figure out what activities you find energizing
Almost everyone finds fresh air and physical activity energizing.
Your energy score will rise notably after a 15-minute brisk walk outside. If you can’t make it outside, walking the halls or climbing the stairs can work too.
A healthy snack can help — aim for something with protein and fiber (like apple slices with peanut butter) to make that energy boost last.
A quick phone call to a friend or family member energizes some people.
An introvert might enjoy a quiet reading break; social people might want to grab a cup of tea with a colleague.
Listening to a favorite piece of music can do wonders.
Step 3: Add in those energy boosters to your slump times
Figure out your go-to boosts, then strategically deploy them in your schedule.
Got an intense meeting from 9 to 10:30 a.m.?
Build in a 15-minute interlude after that to go for a walk, read quietly, or drink a second cup of coffee.
If you normally lose time to web surfing in the afternoon, budget 20 minutes to run an errand.
All these breaks from work might sound alarming in these productivity-obsessed times, but from studying time logs, I’ve learned that those unintentional breaks can eat up incredible chunks of time.
It’s far wiser to take a 20-minute intentional break than waste a mindless hour.
Humans aren’t machines — and even machines get scheduled downtime for maintenance.
It makes sense to schedule daily maintenance for your brain and body, too.