Fatigue, brain fog, low drive – these all result in lowered productivity which can cost us time, money, and relationships. A Virgin Pulse study of over 1,000 participants found that 76% of employees feel tired most weekdays and 15% have fallen asleep at work. Finding your optimum means that you are not part of the 76% club and have energy to spare; not the caffeinated, artificial energy that often leaves people with headaches, but true vital energy that allows you to operate at your full potential, generate income, get the workout in, be a great parent, and ultimately kick some butt in the game of life.
- Track Your Sleep – Dr. Michael Breus, known as The Sleep Doctor, suggests that we all have a different amount of sleep required for our optimum. This will change at different times of your life so if you only required 6 hours in your twenties and now in your forties, you feel like a zombie most of the time, you likely need to get a few more z’s. Age, illness, life stress, and burning the proverbial candle at both ends leave our bodies craving sleep. If you aren’t losing weight, have no drive, are mentally foggy, a lowered immune system, and a host of other challenges, fixing your sleep is a great place to start.
On more than one occasion, in my twenties, I said, ‘I will sleep when I am dead.’ I frequently operated on 5-6 hours of sleep, 6.5 hours on a good night. I was exhausted all the time however I was also in a state of denial. I thought if I worked out harder and took more supplements, I would have more energy. Pushing myself through 8 hour training days as a pro triathlete, running a health club, being on television, radio, and being a mom to a 2-year old, was intense; doing so on very little sleep was immature. Eventually, I made myself sick and it took years to recover.
Today, I require about 7.5 hours of sleep to be functional. I have tracked different numbers and there is no difference for me with 8.5 hours and 7.5 hours however once I go below 7 hours, I start to feel nauseous, can’t think straight, and can become overly emotional. Not to mention, my digestion doesn’t function as well, and my skin tends to breakout.
Conversely, when I am rested, I am unstoppable. Energy is the greatest asset we have and an adequate, individualized amount of sleep is essential.
- Eat for Your Optimal – Let’s start with this – your optimal diet is going to be different than someone else’s and that someone else might be sharing your bed. My husband likes to eat meat – any meat really – lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, elk…he loves it all. I, on the other hand, have never digested it well and gave up trying almost fifteen years ago. When I used to eat beef, I got anxiety and often woke-up during the night. When I ate chicken, I often vomited. Sparing you the gory details, I thought, ‘feeling like this isn’t optimum and so there is no point.’ I haven’t looked back.
We all have an optimal diet and very few people actually take time to keep an intensive food journal for a minimum of three weeks and figure out what it is. When your diet is optimal for you, you are energized, a healthy weight, happy, sleep well, and have clear skin. Obviously, the reverse is true – if your diet is not optimal for you then you are going to feel like crap. Crap is not optimal!
There are some universal fundamentals when it comes to optimal diet:
- A gallon of water per day.
- No artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors.
- 5-7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day.
- We need to periodically detox our bodies from the pollutants we involuntarily, and voluntarily, ingest.
Beyond this, as someone who was a holistic nutritionist for years, I will tell you that:
- Some people do really well with a cup or two of coffee per day while others don’t.
- Some people can eat gluten and not gain a pound and have tons of energy while others can’t.
- Some people can eat dairy and shed body fat with things like whey protein while others will be bloated, breakout, and gain weight.
- Some people do well on a Paleo Diet (high protein, no starch) and some don’t.
- Some people do well on a Ketogenic Diet (high fat, medium protein, no starch) and some don’t.
- Some people do well on a Zone Style Diet (a balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) and some don’t.
- Some people look at diet soda and get a headache and gain weight. Other people can tolerate it though, should they?
- Some people are energized as vegans while others aren’t.
You get my point – you have an optimum and you are going to have to play with different types of eating plans until you figure it out. When you do – look out world!
- Keep a Journal of Optimal Productivity Times – We all have our best time of day to perform. For some, like myself, it is first thing in the morning. For others, it is late at night. The caution, however, with the latter is that our adrenals (the glands that sit atop our kidneys) can give us a burst of late-night adrenalin. We think that this burst of energy is healthy when the contrary is true – our body is in fight or flight mode and it thinks that we need more energy to complete a task. Once in a while a late-night work session won’t do much damage however repeatedly pushing ourselves to the wee hours of the morning ultimately lowers growth hormone (the hormone that keeps us youthful) and melatonin (helps us sleep).
If your optimum is later in the day, aim to be in that state no later than nine o’clock at night. If it is later than that, chances are that you are feeling the effects and are falling into the 76% of people mentioned in the Virgin Pulse study. To pull your optimum back, start to wake up 20 minutes earlier and go to bed 20 minutes earlier. The following week, go to bed 20 minutes earlier, and wake up 20 minutes earlier, than you did the previous week. Once you can get your bedtime to before eleven o’clock, your hormones will begin to re-balance and your body will thank you.
Keeping a journal of your optimum productivity is essential to knowing when you are the most likely to make good decisions, get your best work done, and have better meetings. Trying to schedule important things when you are not at optimum can have severe consequences – you are terse with a client, you miss out on a deal, you eat and drink things to give you fake energy, and live with more regret than accomplishment. Ideally, you want to define your optimum productivity times and make those your best hours of the day.
Currently, my optimum is from 5:00 a.m. to noon. My energy is high, my mind is clear, I am logical, and make my best decisions. I also tend to frontend load my week so on Monday and Tuesday, I hit another optimal from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This is when I teach classes, book calls in other time zones, and feel most productive. Sunday morning is another optimal productivity time for me. I am energized, creative, and rested. I like to do creative work early on Sundays while my children are still asleep. This is when I write my blog, plan for meetings, and get organized for the week ahead.
In total, I currently have approximately 43 hours per week of optimal productivity. My goal is to increase it to over 50 through diet, acupuncture, journaling, and truly listening to my body.
Lastly, know that everyone in your life deserves for you to operate at optimal and I would love to hear what you do to increase your own productivity. Feel free to Tweet at me to share your ideas on optimal performance.