Don’t forget the basics of productivity

Takeaway : Productivity hacks are fun, but they don’t always produce the greatest returns on your time. If you care about productivity, be sure to invest in your energy levels.

Estimated Reading Time : 2 minutes, 21s.

When it comes to productivity, the simplest advice often holds true.

As I write these words, I’m in the middle of a caffeine reset—going without the substance for a couple of weeks to reset my tolerance. In addition to being a helpful strategy to get more energy out of caffeine in the long run, the exercise has served as a nice reminder of the important role energy plays in productivity.  

I view energy as the fuel we burn to be productive. When our energy is toast, our productivity takes a nosedive alongside it—especially for those of us who do knowledge work for a living. My energy levels are low right now and I’m feeling the effects on my personal productivity. (It’s taking me forever to write this article.) 

If you don’t believe energy matters, try writing a 2,500-word report after overeating at a lunch buffet, giving an important presentation on two hours of fragmented sleep, or doing your taxes before you’ve had your morning coffee. Other factors affect our energy levels, too: the amount of time spent with and around other people, our exposure to nature (the average person spends just 7% of their day outside), and exercise habits, just to name a few.   

Checking in on these factors is common sense, eat-your-vegetables kind of advice. But, as the saying goes, common sense is not common action—and if you’re looking to become more productive, investing in your energy is a great place to start. It’s easy to focus on quick tips and hacks. But tactics like bullet journaling, turning off notifications, and prioritizing three daily tasks won’t work if you’re running on empty. 

As I wrote the other week, it’s normal to have less energy these days—it’s a weird time. But do check up on the energy-related factors I’ve mentioned in this article and see them as habits to invest in.  

Other simple elements can really contribute to your energy, including:  

  • Time spent in nature; 
  • Exercising on a regular basis;
  • Caffeine consumption, especially if it makes you jittery, anxious, or fatigued;
  • The amount of mind wandering time you set aside to process thoughts; 
  • The healthiness of the food you eat; 
  • Hours of nightly sleep; 
  • How much water you drink throughout the day; and 
  • Face-to-face people time. 

Plenty of other factors also contribute to how much energy you have. For example, I consider meditation one of the best ways to bring more of yourself to each moment. If you’re dragging your feet, this list above is a great place to start. Give it a scan and pick one or two pieces of low hanging fruit you’ve been missing out on.  

Investing in your energy requires energy. But in the long run you’ll make this energy back and then some. And better yet, these tactics will probably save you time, too. 

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