Managing your energy levels

Managing your energy levels

Managing your energy levels to perform closer to your best, more of the time

After a big weekend of physical, mental and emotional exertion, I knew that yesterday was going to be a lower-than-usual energy day.
I took a team of 50+ members of my Facebook group On The Wagon to Wasing Park in Reading for Endure24, the 24 hour ultra marathon I’ve run twice as a solo runner covering 100 miles.
This time wasn’t about distance though, it was about the team.
#OTW started out about 3 and a half years ago and has grown and evolved in that time to become a ‘proper’ community.
Where people support each other, encourage each other, and challenge each other.
Usually it’s all done virtually, though Facebook (!) but this was the first time we had such a big group meeting up in real life.
So from the Friday night to the Sunday afternoon, we camped, ran, ate and rested together, as one big OTW gang and within our smaller teams.
It was an incredible weekend, but also predictably tiring.
After any weekend of physical, mental and emotional exertion, I knew that yesterday was going to be a lower-than-usual energy day.
We know that we need to balance physical exercise with rest, because this is what allows our muscles to recover and grow.
But the same thing applies to emotional and mental exertion. 
After any intense period where you’ve had to be on your A-game, with lots of mental focus where you’re ‘always on’, or in an emotionally charged situation, you need to take time to recover afterwards.
Even being out of your usual environment can elevate those background stress levels.
The survival part of your brain is constantly scanning to figure out if there’s a threat.
When you’re at home this scanner can relax a bit, but you don’t get the same down-time when you’re away in a new environment and can’t predict what might happen next.
And although there usually is no threat, it’s those background levels of ‘on-ness’ that can drain you the next day.

 

Resilience 

Resilience = stress + recovery
Physical stress, emotional stress, mental stress… we need to build in periods of recovery in order to GROW from them.
For me yesterday that meant a day of low-pressure activities.
A later alarm clock and more relaxed morning routine.
Less thinky tasks planned for the day.
Lots of good food, plenty of water and rest.
And minimal pressure to perform.
I think that last one has always been the key for me.
When I know that I’ll likely be feeling depleted, I can avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts and emotions that inevitably occur.
Knowing that they don’t necessarily reflect reality, and that they will pass in a short amount of time.
My energy is definitely on the bounce back today and thankfully I’m not carrying any niggles from the weekend either.
I’ve got my ultra swim-run Frog Graham Round challenge in just 3 weeks’ time, so I’m in full on final-prep mode for that from here.
Any time I’ve felt a bit low these past couple of days, I’ve just looked at this photograph from the weekend as it makes me laugh every time!
Sugar: what happens when we eat it and why cravings are so much worse in the afternoons

Sugar: what happens when we eat it and why cravings are so much worse in the afternoons

What happens to your body (and brain!) when you eat something sugary?

And why are sugar cravings always so much worse in the afternoon and evening than then were in the morning (when you were feeling motivated and focused on your goals!)?

Nutrition is a minefield of controversy, contradiction and cult-like followers of the latest diet.

But one thing that most sane people agree on is that eating too much sugar is bad for us.

I’m assuming here I’m not telling you something you didn’t already know, so let’s cut to the chase.

This 10 minute sugar video explains:

– How we become addicted to sugar

– When insulin drives down our blood sugar levels… where does all that sugar go?!

– Why all that ‘energy’ can actually make us feel sluggish and lethargic

– How sleep, ‘decision fatigue’ and stress all make us more susceptible to caving in to the cravings

Why your willpower drops off a cliff in the afternoons

Why your willpower drops off a cliff in the afternoons

Some people seem to have more willpower than others, but is that really the case?

Do you ever wake up in the morning full of resolve to ‘be good’ only to give in to something mid-afternoon and then write off the rest of the day?

If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health this can be a bit of a problem and we often put it down to a lack of willpower.

But willpower is like a battery, and it depletes through the course of the day.

The more decisions you have to make and the more stress you are under, the quicker the battery drains until you dip below your ‘people tolerance’ threshold and drive your wagon off the edge of a cliff.

One of the best ways to make sure your resolve lasts right the way through the day is to start paying attention to the quality of your sleep.

The Broken Sleep Cycle

After a busy day – especially one that has been fuelled by copious amounts of caffeine – we usually want a bit of time in the evening to unwind and relax.

The TV goes on, smart phones come out and we double screen our way through another Netflix binge-watch.

A lot has been written about how a ‘morning routine’ can set you up for a productive day.

But a more structured evening routine that promotes higher quality sleep can be just as effective.

Improve your willpower

Here are a few ideas for how you can start to improve your evening routine and sleep quality:

– Switch off screens earlier (especially social media!)

– Do all your ‘chores’ before you sit down to relax

– Bring your lights out time a little earlier

– Take a magnesium supplement an hour before bed

– Write down 3-5 things you have been grateful for during the day just before you switch out the lights

– Take a warm bath or shower in the evening

– Read a (fiction) book for a few minutes in bed

– Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink earlier on in the day

Progress, not perfection

There are loads of other things you could do and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

But a nudge in the right direction here will have a knock on effect on your willpower battery and the decisions you make the next day.

Overcoming Procrastination | 4 reasons for procrastination

Overcoming Procrastination | 4 reasons for procrastination

If procrastination wasn’t so frustrating and disastrous to productivity it would almost be funny.

Some of the things we do just to avoid doing the things we should be doing… when it comes to procrastination there should be awards for how creative we can be in our excuses.

I’ve been known in the past to clear out my medicine cabinet instead of sitting down to work.

Some people do ironing to put off going for a run.

Others go for a run to put off doing the ironing.

We can put off making big decisions and we can put off taking small actions.

Wherever it shows up in our lives, procrastination can severely hamper our progress towards important goals.

4 reasons for procrastination

I believe there are 4 main reasons for procrastination, and I’d like to share them with you now.

Maybe you can identify with some (or all) of them.

#1 UNclear

When you’re not completely certain about what you need to do, it’s hard to get started.

This lack of clarity often comes when we’re faced with big overwhelming tasks or projects where the start point is unclear.

I always find it interesting that when I do manage to overcome The Resistance*, the it’s often followed by a glorious flow state where some of my most productive work is done.

It’s just getting there in the first place that’s the problem.

#2 UNpleasant

Some tasks or activities are just downright unpleasant.

If your get fit program tells you to that today’s activity is to ‘go for a run’, but you HATE running and it’s cold and wet outside, you can see how this might get pushed down the to-do list!

Especially when you can do something far easier and more satisfying such as checking Facebook or YouTube.

Where the reward is both instant and guaranteed, rather than delayed and uncertain.

#3 UNtimed

The third cause of procrastination is when something doesn’t have a definite end point, or you’re unable to predict how much time it’s going to take.

A couple of weeks ago I started a DIY project to replace my bathroom suite.

This is very unlike me, as I normally break out into a cold sweat at the mere thought of such activities.

My experience of DIY is that even ‘small’ tasks like putting up a shelf turn into big problems, where I use the wrong drill bit or put it up wonky and have to fill in the wall, repaint it and then start again.

So instead I say that I’ll do it later when I have more time, which is the procrastinators go-to response in such situations.

When an activity has no determinable duration – especially if it’s something you’re not entirely keen on – it’s safest not to start.

#4 UNimportant

This is a late addition to my list of procrastination reasons.

It relates to those times where an urgent deadline is required to spur you into action.

Stephen Covey came up with the ‘Productivity Matrix’ in his book ‘7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’.

It puts tasks into one of four categories:

i) Unimportant and non-urgent (like checking Facebook)
ii) Unimportant and urgent (like a ringing phone)
iii) Important and non-urgent (like preparing for a presentation well in advance)
iv) Important and urgent (like cramming revision in the night before a big exam)

The best place to check off tasks is when they are in the important and non-urgent box.

But it’s that ‘non-urgent’ thing that catches us out.

We won’t experience the reward until some point in the future, and there are no immediate consequences if we don’t take action now.

The thing can wait whilst we get a shot of immediate gratification from indulging in a quick check of email or social media.

Of course, the thing we need to do is important, but at the point of decision it’s importance is downgraded because of a lack of urgency.

Do any of these resonate with you?

This week I’m going to be adding to this post by unpacking each of them and giving you a few ways to overcome their productivity-slaying effects.

Procrastinating when something is UNCLEAR…

Procrastinating when something seems UNIMPORTANT…

Procrastinating because something is UNPLEASANT…

Procrastinating because something is UNTIMED…

*The Resistance is an expression coined by Steven Pressfield in his book ‘The War Of Art’.

One of my favourite passages from the book is this:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it”

Productivity: Defining Categories of Useful Work | productivity insights through journaling

It’s amazing how helpful journaling can be to jot down some of your ideas, thoughts and even how you’re feeling.

One of the things I find gets in people’s way is knowing what to write and where to start.

And really there is no ‘best’ way to do it, you literally just write down what ever is on your mind.

I think when you put pressure on yourself to come up to a certain standard it can put you off before you even get going.

Grab a notebook, stick the date at the top and just… write!

I’ve been doing a lot more of this recently and it’s really been helping me process my thoughts.

I also find that when I start writing, new thoughts spring out of nowhere which in turn lead to more new ideas.

This hasn’t been limited to written journaling either.

Every day this year I’ve recorded a short video with thoughts and observations on my journey towards my motivational speaking goals.

And quite often I find that I have new ideas and make sense of things right there in the middle of the video.

Something to do with articulating thoughts I expect… taking them from the jumbled mess inside your head and putting them into some semblance of order and sense.

In yesterday’s video for example I was talking about how I had yet again failed to do any kind of meaningful work for this goal.

Understandable as it was a) a Sunday and b) I spent most of my day working on a DIY project (I’m putting in a new bathroom lol!).

But I found myself trying to make sense of this as I pointed the camera at my face, having said the day before that I was going to do at least an hour of productive work.

The realisation was that there are three categories of ‘useful work’ in this respect.

1) Following up with leads and developing business

2) Sharing who I am and what I do with the world (for example in these blogs and emails and social media posts)

3) Creating content (for example new talks, workshops and seminars)

I thought that was them all, but half way through the video I realised there’s actually a 4th, which I broadly categorised as ‘research and development’.

This is all the TED talks and presentation videos I watch, books that I read and listen to on my subject matter, and even the skills development of activities such as Toastmasters.

Even the daily videos I upload onto my YouTube channel.

The thing is, it’s #1, #2 and #3 that make me feel like I’ve ‘been productive’.

But #4 is just as important, and possibly more suited to the change of pace of a weekend.

That key insight might seem really obvious, but it was a revelation to me yesterday.

It took me from a feeling of guilt from getting behind on my promises, to one of control and empowerment that I am already doing a good job of balancing my personal and business goals, with my role as a father, husband and DIY-unenthusiast.

The insight was the result of 5 minutes of ‘journalling’, and has a real world value in terms of my effectiveness and happiness.

If you don’t already do any form of journalling, why not give it a go this week.

No expectations… no pressure… just 5-10 minutes of jotting down a few of your thoughts.

See what you come up with, and don’t forget to let me know if you uncover any gold!

Mindset seminar launched | Thame mindset seminar September 27

Mindset seminar launched | Thame mindset seminar September 27

Mindset seminar launched for September 27 in Thame

It’s been a while since I put on a solo seminar, so I’m really excited to be launching this brand new event here on my doorstep in Thame.

The progress I’ve made with writing the book on ‘Knowing To Doing’ has really focused my attention on this topic, and the seminar will delve deeper into some of the core concepts.

– Procrastination

– Self-sabotage

– Motivation and willpower

– Progress, not perfection

 

2 hour seminar

The seminar is 2 hours long, and will take the format of a workshop rather than a straight up talk.

I want those who attend to walk out the room with a list of 3-5 things that they feel supremely confident about applying to their lives immediately.

Seminar details

The mindset seminar will be held at the Spread Eagle Hotel on Thame’s Cornmarket, with doors opening at 6:30pm for a 7pm start, finishing at 9pm.

Tickets are available for £35 from this page.

If you have questions about the event, please don’t hesitate to get in touch through the contact form.