A while back, I experienced some pain in my neck. Not the figurative sort of pain, but the real pain at the bottom of your skull that makes it hard to concentrate and causes a bit of dizziness sometimes. As seems logical, I focused my efforts directly on the area of pain, which sort of worked but didn't completely fix the problem.
Then I started to do some research and discovered that what I was experiencing was probably referral pain, meaning that the muscle knot causing the pain was at a different point than I was experiencing the discomfort. I began to focus on the trigger point, instead of the pain point and the problem melted away...
The same principle applies when you're looking to overcome your time investment challenges, particularly when it comes to energy and focus. If you're perpetually exhausted, the answer isn't to be more disciplined and think more positively. The real answer is to take care of yourself.
I know that the idea of taking better care of yourself may seem ludicrous when you feel like you can't keep up already. But it truly is the only way to be more effective, make better decisions about what you will and won't do, and to not constantly feel like you're suffering from battle fatigue.
If you're feeling "off" right now, ask yourself how you're investing in these areas and make adjustments as necessary:
- Sleep: The vast majority of the population needs at least six hours of sleep a night. If you're undergoing any sort of stress, such as an intense time at work, heavy physical training, a new baby, or an illness, you'll need to give yourself even more. For some tips on developing your sleep habits, check out this article.
- Food: What you're eating or not eating can have a huge impact on your energy level and focus throughout the day. Our ability to think clearly about food tends to decrease the more hungry that we get so your best option is to decide the night before what you plan on eating. This could include packing your lunch or thinking about what's the healthiest option to order the next day. If you tend to get tired after lunch, consider eating less or breaking up your meal throughout the day. If you tend to forget to eat, having snacks like those available NatureBox can help you keep up your blood sugar levels.
- Movement: Even five minutes of "green exercise," meaning outdoor physical activity, can improve your mood, enhance focus, and boost self control, according to The Willpower Instinct. When you notice yourself getting agitated, don't reach for a chocolate bar, walk around the block.
- Alone Time: If you're feeling frazzled, it may mean that you need to take some time for yourself. It could involve going on a walk or reading or meditating or driving or doing whatever else you find relaxing and refreshing. If you have a big decision to make and/or have something on your mind that's bothering you, time to reconnect with yourself is incredibly important. Finding this time could be as simple as not turning on the radio when you're driving or heading to a park at lunch instead of the cafeteria.
- One-on-One Time: If you're feeling lonely, it may be time to have more quality one-on-one time with key people in your life. This doesn't just involve being with them but actually engaging in quality conversation about what you're thinking and feeling right now. I find this can happen especially well at a coffee shop or on a walk where you're less likely to be distracted by other tasks or people.
- Group Time: If you lack a sense of belonging, it's time to attend more group events. Those could be with your family, your co-workers, your religious groups, your professional organizations, or really any cluster of people that you desire to be part of your life. If you're feeling on the fringe, one of the best things you can do is put yourself back into the circle by showing up.
- Fun Time: If you feel like all you do is work, it's time to play. For different people, this means different things. For some, it's going skiing, for others it's knitting, for others it's reading, and for others it's going to the theatre. Basically fun time is where you're just truly enjoying yourself and can totally get lost in the moment.
Experiment with your time investment in one or more of the above areas.
About Real Life E
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also encourages Christians to align themselves with God's heart through Divine Time Management.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review published her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.
Find more at ScheduleMakeover.com.