There's a Smart Way to Do More Work Than You Ever Thought You Could
The difficulty in getting more done lies in managing your energy, not so much your time. Here are a few tips on boosting your energy levels.
I'm Ivan Burazin; I'm the co-founder and president of Codeanywhere and an executive at Infobip. I parallelly run a small, diversified investment portfolio, ensure quality family time, read at least one book a month, work out every day and travel extensively.
Through work and social life, I find myself surrounded by highly driven, inspiring people, and all of us are finding ways to build thriving careers and live our best lives. We understand that this usually boils down to working smarter and harder than others around us. We call this "hustling," and we embrace it in our quest for success.
When we're unable to do as much work as we would like to do each day, we generally blame it on time. Sure, we can improve productivity by scheduling our calendars better. We can plug time leaks between meetings or tasks. But at the end of the day, everyone still has the same 24 hours.
Fix your energy, not your time
I recently read a post on Twitter where someone asked, "How do you have the energy to do a side project with a full-time job?" This question really struck me, as I have been trying to do multiple things for decades, and maybe you're wondering the same thing. This doesn't have to be a side hustle per se — it could be anything you want to accomplish outside of your full-time job. No matter what you want to do, you will soon discover that the difficulty in getting more done lies in managing your energy, not so much your time.
Personally, energy is something I've always felt I lacked. I'd often wake up tired. I'd feel sluggish in the afternoons. And at the end of the day, I'd find it hard to sleep — not ideal to get a lot done in a day.
Because of this, over the last couple of years, I've been on a mission to build more energy — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and it has changed my work and my life. I've learned that if you want to lead a high-performing life, it helps to think of yourself as an F1 car. F1 cars are so fast that the drivers are actually called "pilots." And yet, winning is not just about speed, but also about synchronicity.
Everything that makes up an F1 car has to work perfectly in sync. The driver, the engine, the tires, the bolts and everything else has to collectively build the momentum to win. In the exact same way, if you want to operate at your highest potential, you can't just fix one part of yourself, but rather all of it. Your body, mind, sleep, food, habits and various other factors have to align. That's how you'll unleash the most of your energy and your best self.
Here are eight health habits I have implemented that have substantially improved my energy levels, enabling me not just to do more, but to actually feel better while doing more. While I don't promise all habits will work for everyone, I encourage you to test as many as you can, and implement those that work for you.
1. Decide to prioritize sleep
I recommend grabbing a copy of sleep scientist Matthew Walker's book, Why We Sleep. It completely changed my perspective on the importance of sleeping well. It explains that sleep is the most fundamental thing you need to be highly productive, and almost no one can sleep for fewer than 6 hours and still function at their best. I find that when I'm well-rested, I'm able to do tasks much faster. Establishing a system of sleeping well for at least 7 to 8 hours every day is essential, but just going to sleep is not all it will take to feel well-rested.
2. Question your alcohol intake
Like most of you out there, I enjoy a good drink now and then. However, I've learned to avoid nightcaps. I know a lot of people think alcohol helps them sleep, because it "quiets the mind" or "knocks them out" faster, which can be true. But what they don't realize is that even a single drink less than two hours before bedtime can disrupt the quality of their sleep drastically.
It's not that you need to stop drinking altogether. Just start being more mindful of the day you have planned ahead of you. If it's a typical day, try drinking at least a couple of hours before sleeping. And if you're going to need all your energy to take on the next day, try skipping the alcohol altogether.
3. Manage your melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our 24-hour internal clocks or "circadian rhythms," helping us ease into our night-day or sleep-wake cycles. Our bodies produce melatonin in response to darkness. Ideally, you want to maintain melatonin levels that look like a nice smooth upward graph — as low as possible in the morning, and high as possible at night.
The easiest way to manage melatonin levels is to control your exposure to light, because light blocks melatonin, while darkness generates it. In the mornings, as soon as I wake up, I open all the windows and turn on all the lights in the apartment, to get my melatonin levels to drop as fast and as low as possible and to be fully "awake" as fast as possible. I like to get out on the balcony or pop my head out the window to get some actual sunlight on my face for a few minutes. All of this helps me to start being and remain more alert throughout the day.
I try to keep as much light around as I can until sunset. Dusk onwards, I begin to turn off the lights in the house. Ideally, you'll have some indirect lighting in the house — you should turn these on, while turning off the direct lighting. Another good idea is to have all your screens switch from blue light to yellow light as soon as nightfall begins. The idea is to make it easy to "slide" into sleep, by reducing ambient light to increase melatonin production.
4. Count your coffees
Besides light, caffeine is also a blocker of melatonin. So, try to get most of your coffee fixes (or any other type of caffeine hits) in the mornings, and reduce the intake as the day progresses. I stop consuming any type of caffeine after 5:00 p.m., so as to release the "wall" blocking melatonin and to assist the process of creating more of it.
5. Fix your food patterns
If you really observe your energy throughout the day, it's easy to find a correlation between how you feel and what you eat.
Like most people, I used to feel a huge dip in energy right after lunch. I've fixed this by scheduling light, high-protein and veggie-based lunches. I also do no sugar, no alcohol, as these ingredients are heavy to digest and make you drowsy, and a follow-up dose of caffeine to counteract even the smallest dips I get from the food — this works wonders for me. Some people find their sleep quality is impacted by heavy dinners as well, so you might want to remedy that too.
6. Get serious about exercise
You know how great exercise can make you feel, so it's something you should try to do for yourself every day. You could use early morning exercise to jumpstart your body; to do this in the mornings, I personally prefer cardio. I sometimes schedule workouts around 6:00 p.m., which gives me another few hours of refreshed energy. I find that evening exercise, which for me is mostly weight training, makes it also easier for me to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. When it comes to working out, just don't overdo it — the idea is to feel more energy, not less.
7. Unleash your flow
When was the last time you were in the "flow" state — when you felt so "in the zone" that nothing else mattered but the work you were doing? If you can't remember it, don't worry. The average worker deals with 87 interruptions to their work every single day!
Getting into and staying in "flow" is currently my biggest challenge in building entrepreneurial energy, and something I'm trying to make a habit of. I know that it isn't about adding to the number of hours I work, but rather about making the most of the hours I work. Doing hard, creative work while being in a state of focus and flow unleashes the best of me.
I recommend scheduling at least half a day, twice a week, just for this. Figure out what time of the day it is easiest for you to concentrate. For some people, this is early in the morning, and for others, it's late at night. Choose whatever works well for you, but make sure to turn off all notifications, and get yourself induced in a state of flow to discover your best mind-work.
8. Learn to rest
I know that to the ambitious entrepreneur, rest seems like an unnecessary luxury. You tell yourself you'll have plenty of time to rest later. What you don't realize, until you burn out, is that to succeed, you need consistency.
It isn't occasional spurts of enthusiastic work that get your biggest wins; it's sustained effort over a prolonged period of time. Learn to listen to your body's demands. When you feel like you can push through, go ahead. But when you need to stop, stop. Even though it might seem counterintuitive, to create more energy, make sure to rest when you need to.
Good energy is integral to good leadership. Combine this with consistency, and I believe you will keep going even when others give up. Once you've built consistency, no matter what the day holds for you, you'll know the next day is coming and that your routine is waiting. You'll find this can be invaluable to anyone living the emotional roller coaster that is the entrepreneurial life.
Lastly, please note that each of these habits are deep subjects in their own right, and we have only touched the surface here. Hopefully though, this article has inspired you enough to do just that. Now that you're equipped with this formula to boost your entrepreneurial energy, go ahead and say goodbye to burnout forever.
Entrepreneur Editors' Picks
If You Focus on Problems, You'll Only Find More Problems. Here's How to Focus on Solutions.
Apple Asks This Jarring Interview Question as a Secret Way to Evaluate a Candidate