zen habits : breathe

14 Ways to Get the Energy for Important Stuff

By Leo Babauta

How do you avoid procrastination when you’re tired, burned out, exhausted?

The short answer is it’s usually too difficult. Not impossible — if you have enough social pressure, like an impending deadline and a boss breathing down your back, you can get things done even when you have very little energy.

But what about the rest of the time? It’s so hard to focus and get important work done when you’re low on energy. And so, let’s look at some of the best ways to find the energy you need to get the important stuff done.

1. More sleep. This is obvious, but most people don’t get enough sleep, so it had to be said. If you’re tired all the time, it’s possible that you need more sleep. Shoot for 7-8 hours. Longer than 9 hours and you might actually feel more tired. If you have trouble falling asleep, turn off the computer, wind down by reading and flossing and washing up, then lay down, close your eyes, and start picturing your entire day (that just passed) in the smallest detail, from the moment you woke up. I usually fall alseep within a few minutes.

2. Tea. I often have a lull in the afternoon, and a break where I have some tea is usually the perfect solution. It’s partly because I take a break and slow down to be mindful with the tea, and partly because green tea has a bit of caffeine but not too much.

3. Exercise. You’ve heard it before, but exercise is one of the best ways to have more energy each day. I prefer to start the day with some exercise, sometime in the morning, and the rest of my day is always better. Even a brisk walk or jog is enough.

4. Naps. You got more sleep at night, but you’re still tired? Take a nap if at all possible. Usually just 15-20 minutes will be enough to get you feeling more rested and ready to take on the world. I often take a short nap in the afternoon — even when I worked in an office, I found a quiet back room and would rest there when possible.

5. Music. Sometimes you just need your mood lifted. Play a few songs with a good beat, and it will get you moving more.

6. Water. Often we’re dehydrated and that makes us feel tired. Drink plenty of water, and you’ll feel better throughout the day.

7. Walk, stretch, refresh. Take frequent breaks. Working too long without breaks will drain you. Every 30 minutes or so, get up, stretch, walk around, get some water, and refresh your mind. You’ll be more focused because of the breaks.

8. Talk with someone. Get up and find someone to talk to. If there isn’t anyone, call someone. It often helps you to get your mind off your work, or get some perspective, or new ideas that will energize you.

9. Work with someone. It can be hard to sustain your motivation and energy levels if you work alone. Working with someone else on a project can give you that motivation, bring in fresh ideas and energy, and make the project more fun.

10. Find your body’s rhythm. It’s not possible to have high energy levels all day long — we all have a dip sometime. It’s a good idea to pay attention to your energy levels and do your most important work when you have the energy, and do more routine work (or rest) when you normally have a dip. Use the dip to schedule a nap or exercise or a tea break.

11. Play. Our minds need play to refresh themselves and find new sparks. So have something that you have fun playing, and take a break now and then to play it. Sudoku, solitaire, Words with Friends, Angry Birds, juggling, anything.

12. Take a shower. If possible, take a quick shower to refresh yourself. A hot shower can melt away tension, and a cold shower can wake you up. Sometimes it can be great to do one and then the other in one shower.

13. Massage. I like to massage my neck and shoulders, and if I can get my wife to do it for me, that’s even better! It’s more of a relaxation thing, but it helps if you’re feeling burned out.

14. Meditate. Even 5 minutes of meditation is great for finding mindfulness and focus. If you have time for 10-20 minutes, even better.

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