Your daily routine needs an overhaul. Here’s what to do:
It’s hard to scroll on social media without stumbling upon an article outlining the elaborate morning routines of the world’s most successful people. From how to be more productive at work to articles detailing the habits of millionaires, we are constantly being exposed to “hustle” culture.
But what happens when the mantra “work hard, play hard” leaves you depleted?
While there is nothing wrong with building productive habits and focusing your energy on your dreams and goals, it should never be at the expense of your overall health and well-being.
Whether it’s lack of sleep or high stress levels, there will be days when our energy levels just aren’t enough to fuel our typical routine, and that’s okay. For some, low energy means tossing all the rules out the window: skipping your workout altogether, indulging in unhealthy food, and kicking your schedule to the curb. However, this will only further deplete your energy levels, and for many, can result in an unproductive downward spiral.
A better solution for low energy days is to embrace a scaled-back routine that focuses on reducing stress while replenishing and reenergizing you. In this article, we will explore how to adjust your daily routine based on your energy level, and provide tips for dealing with low-energy days while staying productive.
1. Determine your bare-minimum routine: Examine your daily routine and determine what is the bare minimum you could do on low energy days to stay productive but reserve energy. For instance, if you typically workout for an hour each morning, instead of skipping your workout altogether, consider cutting down your routine to a 15-minute walk or stretching session. If you come home from work and typically cook dinner, consider meal prepping and keeping frozen meals you can easily heat up on low energy days. It’s all about maintaining a stable routine, but one that is scaled-back and easy to embrace. Once you determine your scaled-back routine, on days you wake up feeling depleted simply put your scaled-back routine into motion.
2. Reassess your schedule: When you’re feeling low on energy, it’s important to reassess your schedule. Take a look at what you have planned for the day and see if there is anything that can be removed or delegated to someone else. If you can, try to free up some time so that you can take a break and relax. If you can’t free up any time, then try to take a break in the middle of your day. Even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes, stepping away from your work will give you a chance to clear your head and recharge.
3. Set realistic goals: Low-energy days are not the days you are going to conquer the world. Embrace this. Determine the three most important things you need to accomplish for the day. Start with the most important task and make sure you give yourself enough time to complete it. Trying to accomplish too many things at once will only leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. If your day comes to an end and you didn’t accomplish all three tasks, simply work the less time-sensitive tasks into tomorrow’s schedule.
4. Eat healthy and stay hydrated: While it may be tempting to eat unhealthy comfort food on days when you aren’t feeling your best, these are the days when it’s most important to give your body the nutrients it needs. Look for foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Some good foods to eat when you’re feeling low on energy are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. These foods will give you sustained energy throughout the day without making you feel weighed down. Also, be sure to drink enough water (about eight glasses a day). Ensuring you are properly hydrated will help to improve your energy levels.
5. Take frequent breaks: Taking frequent breaks throughout the day will help you stay energized and focused. When you’re feeling tired, it’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed. Stepping away from your work for a few minutes will help clear your head and allow you to come back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever is in front of you.
6. Keep track of what depletes you: There are activities that give us energy and there are activities that deplete our energy and these activities are different for everyone. Throughout your day, pay attention to which activities feel the most draining. Is it too many back-to-back Zoom calls? Is it the monotony of answering emails? Take note of the most depleting activities so you can think of ways to reduce them in the future. For instance, if you find you have too many back-to-back meetings, perhaps you can block time on your calendar to focus on tasks or take a much-needed break. Perhaps you can determine which meetings aren’t 100 percent necessary and can simply be covered in an email. Taking preventative measures will help you reserve your energy in the future.
7. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Too much caffeine and alcohol can have negative effects on your energy level. If you find that you’re relying on caffeine to get through the day, try cutting back and increasing your water intake. The same goes for alcohol. While a glass of wine at the end of the day can help you relax, too much alcohol can actually make you feel more tired and cause sleep disturbances. Instead, try unwinding with herbal tea like chamomile or lavender to help you get a more rested sleep.
8. Create a nighttime ritual: You may already have a nighttime routine, but what rejuvenating activity can you add to your nightly routine on low-energy days? Consider soothing activities like a relaxing bath, meditation, or simply unwinding with a book or your favorite show. Think about what helps you destress and ensure you incorporate this into your nightly routine on days when you need a reset.
9. Limit screen time and go to bed early: If you are feeling depleted of energy, chances are you need more sleep. Try to be in bed by 10 p.m. and do not look at any screens (phone or TV) within an hour of going to bed. If you need an activity to help you fall asleep, try reading or listening to an audiobook.
10. Give yourself some grace: And finally, don’t forget to give yourself some grace on days when you just can’t seem to find the energy. These days happen to all of us and it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Maybe today isn’t the day for that big project you’ve been working on. Maybe today you just need to focus on taking care of yourself and getting through the day. That’s perfectly okay. The important thing is to listen to your body, take care of yourself, and be patient. Your energy will soon replenish. When the weekend arrives, be sure to find ways to relax and unwind. Here are 40 self-care Sunday activities and ideas that can help you relax and restore for the week ahead.
The bottom line: Low-energy days are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean they have to be unproductive. Taking frequent breaks, keeping track of what activities drain you, and creating a nighttime ritual are just some of the ways to help reserve energy. By following these tips, you can learn how to adjust your daily routine based on your energy level, and still get things done without overexerting yourself. You’ll reserve your energy (and your sanity) while tackling the most important items on your to-do list.