Narath Carlile in Articles · 3 minute read

Better ways to end hard days

Being mindful of your energy can really boost your work outcomes

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It’s taken a while for me to recognize the importance of understanding, and not just resisting, the different levels of energy in my day. So this week, I’ve been cultivating practices that manage my energy.

The effects on my quality of life have been remarkable.

What does it look like?

You know that time of the afternoon when you’re slogging through work, pushing yourself to just keep going (you can get stuff done but it’s slow and painful and never your best work).

Well, that happened to me the other day, so I thought I’d take a short walk to see if it would help me reset. I wasn’t super hopeful, and expected I’d be just as tired afterwards. As I walked, I came across a secluded bench in the sunlight. I thought it would be good to sit there for a few minutes and just do some mindful breaths.

It was secluded enough that the thought of lying down seemed okay. That said, I’m 6’3” so it’s not elegant when I lie on a bench. No matter; I was going for it. So I set my watch timer and lay down with the sunlight dappling through the leaves, and closed my eyes. I didn’t sleep, but it was very restful.

When my timer went off, it was hard to open my eyes and I didn’t exactly bound up, but as I walked back to my desk at the innovation lab I felt very different. The dragging tiredness was gone. I got more done and it was better work in the next 45 minutes, including a great shutdown and feeling much more able to be present when I got home.

There is evidence from research1 that napping can improve cognitive and skill performance as well as mood. If a nap is not possible, brief meditation (even 5 minutes) has some evidence2 to show improved motivation, attention and learning.

As a result of that park-bench experience, I’m now integrating short breaks - outdoors whenever possible - into my work day, especially in the afternoons when that energy doldrum hits. The effect on my productivity and mood has been measurable, so I’ll continue building this habit and experimenting with tweaks to it.

Let me know if you have experiences or tips to share about the power of breaks!

Brief caveat: don’t use this as an excuse to develop poor sleep habits. While napping can help you overcome some sleep debt that builds up from poor sleep, it’s likely not a good replacement for healthy sleep habits.

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