As millennials, many of us watched our parents and grandparents work themselves to the bone. In fact, a large portion of Baby Boomers are still working just as hard because they don’t have the savings to retire. Being an entrepreneur without employer contributions to a 401K also means you’ll either contribute more or work a little longer than the average Joe to save for retirement.
Considering the time, dedication, and energy that goes into your business, it’s crucial to take care of yourself mentally and physically so that you can reach your long-term goals.
You already know it’s best to get eight hours of sleep each night and drink roughly 64 ounces of water each day, but here are some tips that might further lower your stress levels and improve your energy, motivation, productivity, and focus.
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine For Less Stress
After collapsing from exhaustion within two years of launching the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington now takes her bedtime routine seriously.
She suggests this as the ultimate schedule. Essentially it involves knocking out certain activities in the hours before lights out.
For example, the infographic she references from the National Sleep Foundation suggests to stop consuming caffeine six hours before bed, alcohol three hours before, and food two to three hours prior.
What else should you monitor? Finish exercising at least two hours before putting on your PJs and turn off electronics in addition to leaving behind work, study, and stress at least an hour after the gym. Turns out all of those activities can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
You’ll want to get those eight hours in so you can rise with the sunlight, getting nature’s dose of Vitamin D which, according to sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., “resets your biological clock, helping your body and mind feel less stressed.”
2. Swap Coffee for Tea for Longer Lasting Energy
Speaking of stress, having a nice cup of hot tea is a common de-stressor. But what about energy? When you imagine someone energized and ready for work, you probably assume they’ve already had a few cups of coffee. However, the person with energy remaining at three in the afternoon is much more likely to be the tea drinker.
Their secret is the tannin in black tea that slows the absorption of caffeine, releasing it in more manageable increments: This makes for a drink that’s okay to sip throughout the day, keeping your energy levels consistent rather than fluctuating up and down. Black tea and green tea also have antioxidant activity in their polyphenols, theaflavins, and thearubigins, which the National Cancer Institute reports might prevent cancer.
Of course, there’s always the relaxing ritual of making, pouring, and drinking a cup of tea, which inherently has its own mental benefits.
3. Strike a Power Pose to Gain Motivation and Confidence
Did you know that a certain posture can have a mental influence? Perhaps it derives from to our primal days, but it turns out that appearing larger can make a difference in both the way we think and act.
A collaborative study between Columbia and Harvard University researchers found that body language symbolizing power actually subconsciously affects decision-making. Basically the participants stood with their arms out wide to open up their bodies (appearing larger than they normally would). Those in poses that were deemed “powerful” felt more powerful and “in charge” and were even 45% more likely to take a risky bet. These powerful positions even changed the participants’ hormone levels. Salivary samples showed that expansive postures led to elevated testosterone and decreased cortisol.
So if you want a boost of confidence or a push of motivation to get an important task done, try taking up a lot more space while standing up straight.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique for Higher Productivity
If you’ve been running in entrepreneurial circles for any length of time, you’ve probably come across this technique. Trust me, it’s worth taking the time to try out.
A typical, easily-distracted college student named Francesco Cirillo developed the technique after experimenting with timing himself studying for a certain amount of time. He found that a 25-minute work session “maximized attention and minimized the chance of interruption.” Thus was born the Pomodoro technique, which suggests alternating 25-minute focused sessions with 5 minute breaks.
The key is to truly use the breaks to decompress and do something healthy like take a walk, do some yoga, massage your neck, or even just venture to the other room for a glass of water. The point is to rest your brain so that you’re ready for another focused session.
Using this strategy, entrepreneur Chris Winfield makes a goal to achieve 40 Pomodoros over a full seven-day week, and he ends up accomplishing what once was 40 hours of work in only 16.7 hours. The lesson is that these small blocks of time add up over the day and you end up being more productive than you would’ve by trying to push yourself until you’re exhausted.
5. Practice Meditation for Increased Focus
Most people don’t realize how many opportunities we have each day to practice mindful meditation. You literally get a new chance with each breath. So why take the time? A recent study discovered that even a few weeks of meditation training improved participants’ focus and memory for the verbal reasoning section of the GRE (with a 16 percentile point score increase).
The easiest way to try meditation is to avoid trying to control your breathing. Instead, just focus on the sensation. Feel the way the air slides across your nostrils and upper lips on the way in. Think about how it gently touches the back of your throat, then the way it escapes your body. If you notice your thoughts drifting, think of them like clouds.
Watch them go by, but don’t follow them. Just stay with your body. Make a habit to do a few minutes of meditation during your drive into work (don’t close your eyes!), before you start your computer at work, or while you’re waiting in line for a salad at the deli. The scientific research is strongly in support of meditation for anxiety too, so it’s certainly a practice worth cultivating.
You’re a busy, educated professional with an interest in having more energy and being more productive. You don’t have time to waste on health and wellness tips that aren’t well researched and backed by data.
So before you jump on the next wave of pseudoscience about what new products or foods will supposedly help increase your energy, remember that the true secrets are pretty simple: keeping to a bedtime routine, drinking tea, holding a strong posture, timing tasks, and practicing meditation.
Adopt these new habits, stay consistent, and you’ll find yourself with more focus and energy.