I believe that energy management and the ability to utilize your own energy is one of the most important keys to effectiveness. Although our ability to organize our time is limited to the number of hours in the day, our ultimate potential for improving energy has far fewer physical limitations. Being able to increase your energy capacity and your ability to use that energy effectively will have a huge impact on your results.
To help out with this I have made a list of ten ways you can either increase your energy capacity or better control the energy you already have. I have tried to provide advice that covers all four dimensions of human energy in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (purpose) areas. I have personally tried all of these techniques and I have found them to be incredibly effective in improving my own energy.
1) Eat Smaller Meals
Most people eat two to three meals a day, often going hours without eating and then gorging themselves each time they eat. Most nutritionists now suggest that eating five or six meals a day is superior whether you are looking to lose weight, or even build muscles. By eating smaller sized meals throughout the day you provide your body with a constant supply of nutrients and you reduce the chance that you will overeat. Although I have not yet made this eating style a full habit in my life yet, I have done some preliminary personal experiments that show its effectiveness.
The major benefit of eating smaller meals throughout the day comes in the benefit to your energy reserves. Digestion is one of the major drains on your energy supplies. Eating smaller meals throughout the day lessens the incredibly high energy drain associated with eating a huge meal. Furthermore, eating five or six meals each day provides the body with a more continuous supply of nutrients to stabilize energy supplies. Although eating smaller meals won’t make up for atrocious dietary habits, it can be a great way to improve the diet you already have.
This may seem like a hard habit to install given our fast paced lives where most people don’t have the time to cook two healthy meals a day nevermind six, so I can offer a few suggestions for reducing the time cost from this habit. Start by cooking meals in advance. If you cook healthy food only once the entire day and reheat it later, you can save yourself some time. You could also simply split up your regular meals into halves, eating the other half a few hours after your first meal. You may need to be creative in organizing your efforts to install this habit, but the energy benefits make it well worth it.
2) Exercise Regularly
This one isn’t a big surprise, but as far as physical energy goes, exercise is probably the most important factor. Exercise stresses the physical body so that when given proper recovery time the body becomes stronger, yielding more energy. By exercising regularly with strength, aerobic and flexibility training you can gain a huge boost to your energy levels while warding off many diseases and improving general health.
Exercise also releases endorphin, which itself creates a boost in energy. I often find the best time to do energy consuming work is right after exercising because of this fact. Endorphin is also a powerful pain killer and generally improves your mood. In more ways than one, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your energy.
3) Drink Plenty of Water
I have personally found that drinking more water can greatly improve your physical energy. Most of the research I have found on the subject agrees with me on this point, while others claim that consuming anything containing water is good enough. I’ll go with my own personal experience on this one and suggest that drinking more water can improve your energy. Seeing as more than two-thirds of our body is made of the stuff, replacing lost water is critical.
Carry a bottle of water around with you and fill it up several times throughout the day. If you aren’t used to drinking lots of water then you may have to schedule times in the day when you will drink more water. Try it out in a thirty day trial and see if it works for you. Fellow blogger, Ben Casnocha has even suggested that if your urine is yellow you are dehydrated. Not sure about the research on that one, but if it’s true than it is definitely a good indicator.
4) Learn New Things Every Day
The mental aspect of our energy will determine how effectively we can use the physical capacity of energy. A commitment to learning new things every day is one of the best ways to keep your mental energies sharp. Although there is inherent value in the added knowledge gained from learning, the activity of learning itself can be an excellent way to improve your mental energies.
If you don’t already read at least one non-fiction book a month, make that your goal. I personally read anywhere from 1-2 books a week, almost always non-fiction. Although fiction can be a great way to stimulate the imagination, there are many ways you can do that, but unfortunately the mental learning gained from non-fiction books doesn’t have as many alternatives.
Learning doesn’t even have to be directed towards a specific purpose. Even if you don’t have to learn anything new to maintain the point you are in your life right now, pick up something you find interesting and learn about it anyways. Many people never pick up another book after they leave high-school. Learning must be a lifelong habit, not just a chore to get a degree.
5) Stimulate Your Mind With Games
Assuming you are already committed to learning new things each day, stimulating your mind in other ways is one of the best ways to ensure your mental energies stay sharp. I enjoy playing games from poker to puzzles and I feel that playing games can be a great way to improve your ability to focus your energies, aside from being entertaining.
In today’s world of violent video games I think the value of play has been too often discredited. Games that cause you to think and reason are one of the best ways to keep the mind active. Playing games that challenge you to think strategically, problem solve or even test your memory are all great ways to stimulate the mind. Don’t forget that some of the best games can be very low tech. Charades, Scrabble and card games can be great ways to flex those mental muscles and improve your mental energies.
6) Find a Hobby
Escapism, that is trying to escape from reality, is a serious problem and is in many ways the complete opposite of personal development. However, constructive disengagement can be one of the best ways to recover both your mental and emotional energies. Focusing exclusively one only one set of problems and issues is incredibly taxing of your energy resources and is likely to lead to burnout. By spending a small amount of time to focus your mind and resources on something completely different you can have an amazing positive boost on your energy resources.
If you don’t currently have a hobby, you might want to try picking one up. I have noticed that some of the most successful people who are also the happiest usually have a side pursuit that interests them. Even the busiest people can usually find their fifteen minutes a day or hour or two a week to invest in a hobby. Investing in a hobby also balances you more as a person, so you aren’t focusing exclusively on one area.
7) Inject Your Day with Optimism
We live in a very negative world. Just reading the news or having a conversation with most people and you can usually feel a lot of negativity, fear and pessimism. This isn’t always a bad thing, either. Discontentment and negativity can often lead to more action than just pretending you feel wonderful when you don’t. The problem occurs when we surround ourselves with so much negativity that we drain our energies and our ability to act. Negativity isn’t always bad but it is incredibly draining of your emotional energy. Only someone with incredibly high emotional energy reserves can take the onslaught of negativity in our society and still have the positive focus to take action.
Positivity and optimism motivate and inspire. In other words, positivity creates energy. Devoting a certain proportion of your day to get yourself excited, enthusiastic and optimistic can give you a huge boost in your energy. My favorite way to inject optimism into my day is to listen to audio recordings from personal development speakers such as Anthony Robbins or Zig Ziglar. Even though I’ve listened to most of them many times, the positivity of their speeches can give you some of the emotional energy that the world has drained from you.
8 ) Align Action With Conscience
Spiritual energy, or purpose, is the most powerful factor of energy and it controls the other three. A strong enough spiritual dimension to your energy and you can make up for huge mental, emotional and physical deficits. The first step to improving your spiritual energy is to start shifting all of your actions towards what your conscience is telling you. By doing what you believe is right, you can get huge gains in your energy.
Look at how you are living right now. What are you doing that your conscience disapproves of? Are you badmouthing people behind their backs? Are you being insensitive to others in need? Are you doing work that bothers your conscience? I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on you, your conscience will do it for me. When you start to remove the internal conflict between what you believe is right and what you do, you greatly increase your energy. Don’t expect your behavior to change automatically, aligning with your conscience isn’t easy. I know I am far from perfect in this regard, but the act of trying to align your actions with what you feel is right has incredible value.
9) Set Goals
Goal setting has to be one of the best ways to manage your energy more effectively. The act of deciding what you want, motivating yourself to achieve it and defining purpose impacts all dimensions of energy. By focusing your resources towards your goals you create an incredible boost in energy, particularly in the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions.
I won’t talk more about goal-setting because I’ve already said so much. If you are interested in reading more, check out my program, Goals! An Interactive Guide or see the written transcript of Goals! here.
10) Find Your Purpose
Above all the other suggestions I have made, nothing will impact your energies more than finding and creating your own life purpose. From this purpose you can begin to align all of your goals and actions toward it. The greater congruency you have between the actions you take and the meaning they have, the greater your energies will be.
Finding your purpose doesn’t have to be some divine epiphany, although it certainly could be. Your purpose is what you are deciding your life means with the information you currently have available. You can’t achieve perfection with a purpose because you are not omnipotent. All you can do is decide what your life is going to mean, right now. Decide this and begin aligning all your resources towards this aim. Congruency between action and purpose creates more energy than anything else.
Implementing the Suggestions
So how can you implement these ten suggestions for improving your energy? The first thing you need to do is pick out which of the ten you feel would best improve your energy currently. Some of these improvements can be simple additions that can automatically be added to your life, others will require a lot more training to become permanent habits. Start by just finding which ones you think will benefit you most.
Your next step is to turn this idea into a habit. I have written extensively about how to create habits in my Habitual Mastery series, so I would suggest reading that first if you haven’t already. With the habit installed you can immediately begin to take advantage of your improved energy resources for greater effectiveness.