Even if you're a hyper-organized, task-oriented worker with an expansive mind and endless ambition, you won't get a lot done if your mind and body are demanding you curl up and doze off. Luckily, you can overcome a late night of net surfing, a rough morning, or just the post-lunch stupor without becoming an over-wired mess. We've put together 10 of the best ways to jumpstart your brain and get back into a productive groove, and all of them are tricks you can put to work this Monday. Photo by neps.
10. Make your own energy products.
If you're going to resort to a brick of grains and protein to give you short-term "power" or "energy," you may as well have it be cheap—and tastier than those foil-wrapped roofing tiles. Same goes for re-hydrating drinks, which can be easily mixed at home. Foodie extraordinaire Alton Brown has recipes for three different home-baked bars, as does About.com's Sports Medicine section. Of course, there's always the free stuff flowing from the tap for true replenishment.
9. Listen to brain-stretching music.
Among other tips offered up by software programmer Brad Isaac for beating "brain drain," the exhaustion that comes from sustained concentration, is working a little Mozart or Bach into your playlist. There's no overly hook-y melody to pull your mind away, and the harmony of so many instruments together relaxes your mind. Strings and brass not your thing? Try the non-intrusive, up-tempo ambient of Groove Salad.
8. Deal with job burnout.
Even if you're generally happy with your job, the people you work with, and the work you're doing, small annoyances and responsibilities can build up over time, until a dark, angry cloud hangs over you seven and a half hours per day. Seriously—feeling overwhelmed by your tasks was the second most frequent response in our poll on energy zappers. The Simple Dollar blog recommends scheduling an immediate vacation to take care of piling-up home stuff and set your mind free. Web Worker Daily suggests finding a new project. However you handle burnout, keeping an even head about your job gives you a lot more energy to spend on stuff that's a lot more fun.
7. Schedule around your energy peaks.
Writer and speaker Michelle Dunn describes herself as "very organized," but there are times of the day she just can't be productive. So when she's about to hit a lull—like right after lunch—she schedules errands and tackles non-thinking tasks, and otherwise schedules around her energy. Of course, not everybody can just run off to Target whenever they're feeling blah, so 43 Folders honcho Merlin Mann explains subtle ways to work inside your schedule.
6. Get outside—even if it's cloudy.
Even if you live in one of those areas with perma-gray skies for two-thirds of the year, getting outside every day can give you a vitamin D boost and the resulting mood and energy improvements. The National Institutes of Health recommends getting 10 to 15 minutes of sun each day, and a layer of sunscreen if you're getting more. Even better, you get away from the screens, voicemails, and low-level humming of the office.
5. Crank out some morning exercises.
You know those mornings where you have to get right up and do something with a deadline? The groans about coffee and sleep fall away, and you usually get it done. Give yourself a now-now-now pushup cycle right after your breakfast, and you might just shake off your sluggish self-doubt and get moving. If you're looking to get more out of your morning time, personal trainer Dan Boyle offers a two and a half minute core routine that'll definitely leave you aware that you're awake. Photo by whyld.
4. Eat the right nutrition mix.
Sugar and bread give you a quick jolt of energy, but ultimately result in an insulin-powered crash later in the day. Too much meat doesn't give you enough of the quick-firing stuff. Balancing out your lunch, instead of just eating leftover pasta, can have a big impact on your day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source. As Lifehacker guest editor (and current io9 editor) Annalee Newitz puts it:
Remember, carbs come in fruits and veggies as well as grains. And you can get protein from meat, dairy, fish, eggs and beans (like soy or pinto). The perfect lunch might be veggies with fish (mmm, nicoise salad, anyone?), and the best snack an apple with a little cheese.
It's also not a bad idea to keep the heavy meals for morning to ensure better sleeping patterns.
3. Put your senses to work.
If you're stuck at work after a rough night, chances are you'll be staring at a hypnotizing screen or look-alike paperwork and finding it hard to stay awake. WikiHow suggests a multi-sensory assault on your tired self. Try scenting yourself awake with some essential oils of (or just strong scent of) peppermint or rosemary, or target the alertness-sparking stress points like your earlobes and the skin between your thumb and forefinger. Keep yourself a little chilly, and try to move around a bit—it's your best shot at not having the boss notice you haven't said a word since 9AM. Photo by cote.
2. Switch from venti to smaller caffeine doses.
Slamming half a carafe of coffee to get alert and productive is kind of like pounding a six-pack to get social and funny—you're going to miss your mark, in often painful ways. Research suggests that small, frequent doses of caffeine—like tea breaks, caffeinated mints, and even chocolate—do a better job of keeping your brain from feeling fatigued than jitter-inducing java. Of course, if you've got the willpower and patience, you could also just drink half-cups of coffee more frequently. Photo by ToOb.
1. Master the power nap.
Taking a nap isn't calling it quits on getting energized—it's just running a quick defrag on your neural drive and rebooting. We've covered the ins and outs of napping pretty thoroughly here, but if you need a quick take-away, try the Boston Globe's comprehensive cheat sheet. If shut-eye alone can't bring you back, try a coffee-charged caffeine nap.
9:00 AM on Sat Sep 27 2008
By Kevin Purdy