How To Get More Done Without Being Completely Exhausted
You don’t have to constantly overwork yourself to get amazing results.
Yesterday was my weekly meeting with my marketing team to get updates on what’s happening and what sort of plans we all have. As usual it was nice and productive, however one of the members couldn’t make it to the meeting yesterday due to a sudden illness.
This member in particular is highly sensitive to drastic shifts in temperature and where she’s from the temperature has been shifting a lot due to it raining on and off.
For the past month, this has been the case for her where she ends up getting sick and having to take time off work to recover.
But the other issue is that during this time when she is feeling well, she isn’t taking care of herself. Last week, she talked about how she was working on piles of work and her husband has also mentioned to other members of her team that she’s been skipping out on meals and eating junk food to keep her going.
It’s sad to see someone in a state like this but this is something I can fully relate to. Before moving to my apartment in 2019, I was constantly working in my childhood room. My eating wasn’t as bad as what I mentioned above, but I still neglected various aspects of my life for several months.
It led me to make some changes in my life. Changes that I have to remind myself to instill during times where I feel like I’m pushing myself too hard.
It’s these particular principles below that have helped me to work at a steady pace, make ample progress, and not drive myself to sheer exhaustion every time.
As someone who is working on losing weight since last year, I’ve become more sensitive to the number on the scale. Not that I’d be embarrassed or ashamed or anything. Rather, I can easily identify problems with my life if I start gaining significant weight. Significant being a gain of 2+ pounds per week.
Last week was the case, but that was attributed to the fact I was eating a lot of protein that also was high in calories and fat. I’ve since reverted back to a lighter weight after switching my diet to two protein shakes per day rather than one.
But for other people, they may not notice this at all or are rather numb to the whole thing. Like the member in my marketing team, she knows what she’s eating is terrible for her, but in her mind it’s the most sensible item to consume.
In short, she’s stress eating and it won’t be long before she starts gaining weight.
To counteract all this, I enforce strict rules on myself in terms of what I’m eating:
- I promise to myself that I’ll cook all or most of my meals.
- If I don’t cook, I stick to healthier options like salads in most instances.
- I remove all snacks from the apartment save for healthier snacks. Things like fruit, some protein bars, and nuts.
The idea with all of this is that I make it a massive hassle for me to get anything unhealthy.
I can order take-out, but I have to buy online and wait for my order.
If I want junk food, I’m going to have to walk outside, go to a store, buy the item, and head back home on foot.
The reason for that is that eating proper food is good for you in so many ways.
It’s to the point that some productivity hacks mention having a nice meal once per week is a good way to boost productivity. It offers an extra incentive to work hard and look forward to something.
But instead of striving for one good meal, why not consider having multiple good meals?
That’s not to say it needs to be fancy every single time. Nice meals can simply be taking time out of your day to cook something. Whether it’s chicken with rice, stir-fry, or pasta, making something colourful and/or something that you created is nice for those same reasons.
Cooking also helps in activating the creative side of yourself to an extent as you’re incorporating different spices in the mix to enhance flavours. There’s also specific foodstuff you’re using to create the dish and the sequence of the ingredients can play a role in the overall flavour.
You don’t always need to go to a four or five-star restaurant every two weeks to be distressed. Merely taking the time to be eating proper food and cooking it with the various ingredients at home can give you the same effects. Making it a daily thing allows you something to look forward to similar to making plans to go to an expensive or nice restaurant.
Scale Back Work, Mentally And Physically
I am a big fan of to-do lists and have used them for years now to help with structuring my business. Without them, I’d be completely lost.
The reason that this structure works so well for me is the fact that I don’t mentally overwhelm myself with the list. My to-do list is a place where the most important tasks for the day are present. Anything that I know to do — like working out, getting groceries, washing dishes, etc. — aren’t necessary to be on the list.
But proper to-do lists have further use in my life and is ultimately how I can get a lot done and not feel drained mentally. Because the lists are purposely short (I put no more than 5 tasks on my list, typically settling with 3.), it gets me into the frame of mind that my tasks aren’t as time-consuming as I think.
Even if the tasks take an afternoon or a full morning to complete, it feels like time is moving quickly and that my mind is fully occupied on the task.
This also allows me to leverage Parkinson’s Law. A law that goes like this:
“Work expands to fill time allotted.”
If I look at my task list and note that I only have a few tasks, I can normally tell myself that these tasks will take me roughly an hour or less to complete. By telling myself that, I set an internal timer for myself to get the task done as quickly as possible.
Even though I make corrections and adjustments along the way of that task, it gets me into the frame of mind of focusing on the things that are most important at the moment.
If I give myself an hour to write an article, I’ll make sure I don’t waste all my time diving into pointless details or rambling. I’ll put more time and energy into the things that matter most.
This method is a massive stress reliever as many people feel like their tasks sap away their energy and the more time it takes them, the more they feel exhausted and overwhelmed. This only leads to further stress in their lives.
Ultimately, you need time to recharge. However, I know not everyone has the ability to do that. In this scenario, shrinking the size of the task either mentally or physically via your task list can help.
It removes the sense of overwhelmingness. And while it could still take a long time to finish the task, knowing it’s smaller allows you to convince yourself to do the task anyway.
Find Tasks To Decompress Or That Give You Energy
One other common productivity hack is having longer — or more frequent — breaks in order to boost productivity. Studies found that morale increases, posture at desks or machines improves, and less accidents happen when we’re given more breaks.
Breaks are the productivity hacks that we gravitate the most to allow us to decompress and give us energy. But over the years of working, one thing I find helpful is to keep doing work — though the work is incredibly mundane.
It’s inspired by the Pomodoro Technique where you focus intensively on a single task for a period of time before going off and doing menial tasks for another period of time.
These tasks aren’t necessarily more work, however they can still be important things to do. Things like getting up from a chair and stretching, doing a bit of cleaning around the house, taking out the trash.
These work wonders since many of us aren’t used to moving around much. Many occupations require the same kind of movements repeatedly and will naturally get sore over time and will need to recover. And so, by doing different movements once in a while, you’re allowing other muscles that were in use to get a breather while your other muscles do some other work.
This is one of the reasons for why you get a sudden burst of energy initially when performing other tasks. It’s akin to working out. You may be exhausted from doing bench presses, but you can still manage to do other movements that focus on different muscles.
Another avenue that you can consider is focusing on tasks that give you energy. The menial tasks can serve as these tasks in a way as doing something else less mentally intensive can do that. However, this trick also works with more mentally demanding things.
For example, writing requires mental focus — even if it’s a topic that you’re fully aware of. There are always new discoveries and new information that you find that you can expand on and so on.
Writing overall can be a mentally tiring task for me, but I find it depends more on the topic that I’m writing about. If it’s something that I’m familiar with — it tends to give me energy to the point I can get through the article. If it’s something that I have plenty of reference material for it also does the same thing.
But the hardest part is on topics I’m not at all familiar with or interested in doing at the moment. These can be draining even if they’re about the same length as any other article of mine.
I find that in certain cases jumping between these demanding articles and articles that give me energy I find it easy to get through them and recharge myself. This same principle can work for you as well.
Another crucial source of energy is through exercise. Whether you’re going to a gym or going out for a walk, some level of activity is helpful for you no matter what. There are tonnes of videos on Youtube that go through all kinds of training programs.
If that’s not your thing then doing things like push ups and sit-ups, running in place, doing squats against a wall or going up and down the stairs a few times works too. Anything to elevate your heart rate.
Despite exercise being tiring, it eventually leads to giving you energy. Energy that you can then use on whatever tasks you’re working on.
Listen To Some Tunes
More and more studies have been coming out that music does help you in boosting productivity and our moods when we work. The catch though depends on the type of music that you are listening to over the course of the day.
Music with lyrics isn’t good as the lyrics can distract you if you’re doing cognitive work.
Furthermore, the type of beat that’s being played can also be significant in your performance. Fast music will make you work faster while slower can get you to pause and take your time.
Music ultimately can lead you into a flow state — a state of mind where you simply do things without a whole lot of thought. During this state, it’s hard to feel exhausted.
Nap If All Else Fails
The final method that I use — if it comes to it — is to take naps. Napping does wonders if you can recall the wonders of nap time in preschool or you have kids of your own. The thing is, it also work for adults as well.
You could also chalk your nap time as meditating — another method of relaxing that is known to give one energy amongst other benefits.
The nap also doesn’t have to be that long — a mere 25 minutes will provide you with ample energy and allow your body to relax.
Similarly, getting enough sleep is also a crucial aspect since those who overwork themselves or get into a constant exhaustive state don’t get enough sleep.
Sleep is never a waste of time despite what other people say. Some people have the luxury of living off of 5 or 6 hours of sleep a day, but not everyone can pull that off realistically.
Figure out how much sleep you need to properly function and ensure you consistently hit that number.
There are all kinds of productivity hacks out there but I found that relying on these particular methods day in and day out have been the most helpful for me. All of these things give me plenty of energy to get through the day — even on days where I’m demanding more from myself.
My hope is that these will help you out too.