Hello my cubicle comatose, open space snoozers, corner office coziers, home den dozers and coffee shop shut eyes. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am here to turn you into a Workplace Hero. And don’t worry, to be this type of hero, spandex is optional.
Before we slip into something more comfortable, I want to direct you to SkywalkerFitness.ca. That’s the coaching business that I run. Whether you want to run a 10k or a marathon, race in a triathlon, put on some muscle, clean up your diet, or get totally ripped, I will create a plan specifically for you. No cookie cutter one-size-fits-all programs, just 100% tailored programs that fit around your life’s commitments. And for being a Workplace Hero, I will give you a special deal on your first 3 months of coaching. Head over to SkywalkerFitness.ca and send me a note referencing this podcast so I can start building you the perfect program to meet your wellness goals.
Ok, back to the topic at hand…
Let me set the stage for you - It’s Monday morning. Once again, in a wondrous turn of events, you wake up feeling great! You had an amazing weekend of deep sleep, good food, enjoyable exercise, and aside from the beer you had with dinner on Saturday night you stuck to your diet exceptionally well. You are feeling so good that you pull out that fitted shirt that looks so good on you but you often feel too selfconscious to wear. And - yes! It looks goooood.
Your morning is going great until around 9:30 or 10:00 am when you start feeling yourself losing energy and focus. Your eyes start feeling heavy and the words start to swimming on the page.
So, you go grab yourself a second (or is it a third) cup of coffee and hunker down - but you think to yourself: How can I be so tired? I slept so well and had such a restful weekend. What the hell?
Back in the real world, I just Googled the phrase “low energy at work” and in 0.90 seconds it returned 75,600,000 results. Whoa! So it is safe to say that this is a bit of a common problem.
The search results come from big hitters like Redbull, FastCompany, Webmd and Forbes and the list goes on and on featuring titles like: 8 Unobvious Ways To Have Way More Energy At Work, Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Energy, 10 Ways to Skyrocket your Energy Levels, The Fatigue Solution: How To Increase Your Energy In Eight Easy Steps. And so on…
So why is this such an issue? Why are we seemingly such a chronically low energy bunch of loafers?
The DailyMail says that it might be because you are a perfectionist. Apparently being a perfectionist can sap someone's energy, as perfectionists spend longer than their less conscientious counterparts worrying and ruminating over their decisions.
Another reason I saw on a few websites is that you might be eating too many carbs. Filling up on pasta, bread and rice – as well as cookies, chocolate and chips - causes spikes and dips in blood sugar that leave a person dozing off when the sugar is low.
WebMD says that you might have a magnesium deficiency. They say that this mineral is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy, so when levels are even a little low, energy can drop. They suggest two delicious solutions - adding a handful of almonds, hazelnuts or cashews to your daily diet, or eating more fish, especially halibut. Yum.
A Fast Company article suggests that you need to get more movement in your day. They say that we need not yield to the Sedentary Death that awaits our constantly sat seats; we can show some derrière-relieving daring-do by having walking meetings. Ah… what?
Men’s Fitness suggests that we nix the nightcap. Alcohol prevents your body from entering REM sleep (the most restful sleep phase). So, even if you're getting plenty of sleep each night, you may not feel fully rested if you are finishing the evening off with a drinky drink. They also suggested eating more fish and nuts so there may be something to this delicious solution.
Prevention.com says that your body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and keep neurons functioning properly. A B12 deficiency decreases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry through your body, leaving you with that sleeping-with-your-eyes-open feeling.
Womentowomen.com says that the problem could be inactivity. The body needs both rest and movement. When it comes to fatigue — and you may find this counterintuitive but long periods of inactivity can actually make you more tired. Think of it as a kind of atrophy: use it or lose it.
The Queen of daytime TV herself, Oprah, says that it might be your thyroid gland. Located at the base of your neck—and barely larger than the knot in a tie—the thyroid controls your body's metabolic speed by producing the hormones. If it churns out too little all the processes in your body slow down. The result: decreased endurance and a sluggish mind.
A website run by a fellow with an undeniably awesome name, Dr. Axe, suggested that we might just be dehydrated. He says that one of the first signs of dehydration is feeling tired or exhausted. That’s right – not drinking enough water could be the reason your energy levels are lacking and you feel exhausted. Because our bodies are made up of mostly water, even small dips in H2O levels are apparently enough to affect your metabolism.
One last article actually suggested that you might have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes! Tiredness, usually accompanied by sight problems, a constant thirst and passing urine frequently, as well as suffering frequent infections, could be a sign of undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Yikes!
After spending a few hours pouring through articles, studies and opinions, I decided to enlist the help of my LA based Wellness Specialist friend, Hailey Rowe, to find out what she is encountering out there in the California trenches.
Hi, my name is Hailey Rowe. I am the founder of www.theprimetimehealth.com. I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition industry for about 7 years now as a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. I’m also a Certified Bulletproof Coach helping people to develop lifelong healthy habits. Working with people the ages of 18 to 70, I believe it’s never to too late or too early to start changing your ways.
As you probably guessed, I share many of Hailey’s views… if not her sunny disposition.
As a High Performance Coach, I work with a lot of clients who are drained from overworking & feel like their life is out of whack. I’ve noticed 3 major factors that lead to energy depletion in the workplace:
•Lack of breaks
•Energy-zapping co-workers (AKA toxic people)
I don’t know about you guys but I am generally guilty of all three of those issues. I am a terrible multi-tasker, I have issues dealing with negativity (even via email) and I often get in the groove and don’t want to take a break. Heck right now, as I type this, my stomach is growling and it is closing in on 2:00 pm - I clearly need to take a break and eat some lunch!
Ok. While I make myself a salad, I’ll let Hailey continue:
The brain was not meant to focus for 8 hours at a time. Taking breaks is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a good use of your time. In fact, a study in the journal Cognition shows that even brief breaks from a task can dramatically improve work endurance, focus, and productivity.
It is recommended to work in bursts of 60-90 minutes, followed by a 10-15 minute break.
You might be wondering, like I am, why 90 minutes is the magic number?
That number comes from researcher Nathan Kleitman who discovered something called the “basic rest-activity cycle.” When we are sleeping, we progress through the 5 stages of sleep every 90 minutes. Our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythm during the day, going from high alertness to low alertness.
Test it out. Try working for 90 minutes straight (intensely!), and then take a break. If you’re skeptical or you doubt your ability to focus for that long, try starting with 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. This is called the Pomodoro Method.
I’ll put a link to the Pomodoro Method in the show notes at workplacehero.me/energy
During your focus periods, keep distractions to a minimum by putting on headphones so co-workers know you’re busy, or politely ask if you can catch up with them when you’re done. Use your breaks to go outside, move around, or just step away from the computer for a few minutes. Bonus points if you do 4 minutes of exercise for every hour of work, just like Katy Bowman suggested on the WorkPlace Hero Podcast.
You can find that one over at workplacehero.me/stand
The second issue Hailey listed is something near and dear to my heart. I have a rule that I believe I stole from an episode of the 80s TV show, MASH. As Charles Emerson Winchester the Third once said “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.” The odd time I deviate from that rather audacious game plan, I pay the price.
Neuroscientists have found that multitasking literally drains your brain’s energy. Switching between different unfinished tasks confuses the brain and makes you feel tired very quickly.
Devora Zack, author of Singletasking: Get More Done- One Thing at a Time, reported that multitasking can decrease your productivity by up to 40%. Research also shows that you make twice as many errors when multitasking. Lastly, it can shrink the gray matter in your brain, which is much needed for self-control and decision-making.
But what if I am in the middle of doing something like say, writing a podcast and I suddenly remember that I forgot to invoice a client?
If the urge to start another task comes up while you’re working on something else, write it down and come back to it later. Turn off all potential distractions (phone, email, etc.) when working on something important. There are even apps for your computer and phone like FocusMe that allow you to block websites you use to procrastinate.
Great advice. Turning off all notifications on your phone, tablet and computer is something I advise everyone to do - right now… well, ok when you finish listening to the podcast. There is not a single app that should be allowed to disturb you. You can check your email, Facebook, messages, and everything else on your own time. Not theirs. That small change can really make a huge difference.
Now on to Hailey’s third and likely most touchy point - Toxic co-workers…
The ability to remain calm and manage your emotions around stressful people is so important if you want to feel good at work. According to a study by leadership development consultancy, Fierce Inc., 4 out of 5 employees work or have worked with a co-worker who could be considered toxic to the office environment. Surprisingly, only 40% of bosses say they would eliminate a toxic team member, versus 88% of employees who would.
To stay mindful and prevent yourself from getting sucked into the drama, practice the ABC method. This stands for Acknowledge, Breathe and Choose.
Acknowledge when you’re allowing someone else to suck you dry or undermine your work. Notice your negative feelings and where you feel them in your body. Noticing your thoughts keeps you in control.
The second step is to breathe. Take a deep breath, meditate, clear your head, or give it some time.
Then, choose how you’re going to respond… Are you going to be solutions-oriented? Are you going to establish some kind of boundary? Or are you going to play the victim?
This simple acronym can come in handy if you find yourself slipping into a negative state around toxic co-workers.
ABC - Acknowledge, Breathe and Choose. I like it! And if you need a reminder on one of my favourite breathing techniques, check out workplacehero.me/commute for instructions on how to do a Box Breath by Yoga15.com maven, Abi Carver.
And now, it wouldn’t be an episode of Workplace Hero if you didn’t get some homework, now would it? And this week, I defer to Hailey.
We’ve covered a lot of juicy material in this podcast, but you’ll only benefit if you take action. Your homework assignment this week is to build at least one 60-90 minute period of uninterrupted focus followed by a short renewal break. Bonus points if you can sneak in 2-3 short breaks throughout the day. If you’re worried about your co-workers judging you for going outside or taking a small break, just think about how happy your team will be when you are producing greater results using this trick.
Awesome advice. I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks Hailey!
This is obviously a topic that we could spend many episodes on but hopefully this is a good start for you. Whether you try eating more fish, drinking more water, nixing the nightcap, getting yourself checked for diabetes, taking breaks, breaking the mute-tasking habit or practicing your ABCs, I would love to hear what works for you. Leave me a note on Facebook, Twitter, the blog post for this episode at workplacehero.me/energy or you can even send me an email at email@example.com. You never know, you may spark an entire new episode with your feedback!
Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in rainy downtown Vancouver. Support and additional editing from Eleanor Cohen. Artwork by Ken Cunningham. Today’s Guest Hero is of course, Hailey Rowe. Check out her website at www.theprimetimehealth.com and sign up for her newsletter to receive a High Intensity Interval Training Guide for free.
Now, you know what to do - go make this week count!