Q and A: Short- and long-term ways to stay charged up at work
QUESTION: In my job, I have long periods where I have to stay focused, and, even though I like what I do, sometimes I feel pretty worn down. Do you have ideas for ways to stay energized?...
QUESTION: In my job, I have long periods where I have to stay focused, and, even though I like what I do, sometimes I feel pretty worn down. Do you have ideas for ways to stay energized?
ANSWER: Prevent fatigue with both long-term and short-term steps, and have strategies to use if it still catches up with you.
What are the ways that you feel worn down? Notice both mental and physical signs. Perhaps you start to make mistakes, lose your place in your task, or get a headache or stiff neck. These are signals that can be used to get this under control.
Also think about what your focused work time is actually like. You may literally be at your computer for hours with no breaks, or it may be less intense but still need to be moderated. Then consider the options that you may have in terms of breaking up the work into smaller sections or building in periodic distractions. You may have some latitude in terms of structure; if not, you can at least provide yourself with brief mental breaks.
Look outside the workday to the other ways that you build endurance and energy. What is your portfolio of hobbies, exercise and social engagement?
Part of the solution involves having options to keep yourself energized. There are a number of "in the moment" things you could try -- putting on music that energizes you, taking a quick walk, getting up and stretching, finding someone for a quick chat, even some Sudoku or a crossword puzzle. Part of the issue may be eye fatigue, so browsing the Internet may not be the best option. None of these takes long, five minutes or less, but any of them may be enough to keep you feeling livelier. These options, and others that you may identify, can be used either preventively or when you find yourself flagging.
For example, you may decide that every hour you're going to take two minutes to get out of your chair for a quick stretch. The problem is, if you're engrossed in your work, you may not even think of it. In this case, some reminders, like a computer alert, can be helpful. If there are others around you in similar roles, try the buddy system, where you and a co-worker get together for a quick lap around your work area.
And don't forget humor -- a good laugh can make all the difference.
Stay attuned to the signals that you identified above. Do periodic inventories to see if you're physically or mentally uncomfortable, and then use your strategies to get re-energized.
In the big picture, build energy-charging practices outside of work. Include healthy practices related to food, exercise and sleep, but also build in enough fun. If your personal time is also draining, this will make it even harder to stay charged up at the office.
Even a job you like can be fatiguing. Solutions, however, can be very simple and achievable.