5 essentials for greater productivity

Are you wasting your peak creativity periods on menial tasks, sapping your energy through the illusion of multitasking, and skipping restorative breaks? Here’s how to turn the tide.

Ever suffered that mid-afternoon lag?

Through his Energy Project, Tony Schwartz has long been an innovator and instigator in the realm of how we can bring our best selves to work and sustain that level of great effort throughout the days, weeks, months and years.

This article can help you produce more and get better results by focusing on your “energy renewal.” Humans work on 90-minute cycles of energy, after which our energy and productivity drop.

Schwartz explains that although time is a finite resource, energy can be renewed and expanded through specific rituals. We can’t get more time in the day, but we actually don’t need it. By renewing our energy through specific techniques, we can remain at our highest level of productivity and happiness.

Here are five techniques that will keep you at your peak productivity:

1. Take effective breaks.

Sixty percent of Americans don’t take time to recharge. Taking a break every 90 minutes seems unproductive, but even a few minutes of effective rest can elevate energy levels. Cyberloafing (such as checking social media or personal email) does not relax and recharge you as much as six- to 10-minute power naps, breathing exercises or walking outside. When your brain is not focused on a particular task and you change your environment, you can solve problems and come up with your most innovative ideas.

2. Sleep more at night.

A Harvard study revealed that U.S. companies are losing $63.2 billion on lost productivity due to workers’ sleep deprivation. Three in five Americans often get less than seven hours of sleep and wake up feeling tired. Sleep loss breeds irritability.

One study included a story of Gary Faro, a VP at Wachovia, who saw his “energy levels soar” (and his weight drop 50 pounds) when he started sleeping more and taking regular breaks away from his desk. Another Schwartz study showed similar results for Steve Wanner, a partner at Ernst & Young, who changed his habits and was able to enjoy more time with his family and have higher productivity in his job.

3. Identify your priorities.

Map out your goals; then track how much time you spend doing each activity. At day’s end, look at how much time you spent on meaningful tasks that worked toward meeting your goals. How can you modify your workflow to realize your objectives?

4. Devote your most productive hours to your priorities.

Don’t squander your peak-productivity periods on administrative or reactive activities. Take a rest or social break mid-afternoon, when humans are least energetic.

5. Stop multitasking.

Multitasking is the activity of switching, not being productive. “Switching time” increases the time it takes to complete your primary task by 25 percent. See whether the distractions are avoidable for all or a few hours of your day (such as switching off the notifications for new emails or logging out of personal social media).

When you are happy and passionate about something, you are more driven and creative. Schwartz explains, “Without intermittent recovery, we’re not physiologically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long periods [and] most people perform best when they’re feeling positive energy.” So, take time for breaks, and you’ll come back happier and energized.

Energy is the catalyst for creativity and the fuel that powers productive work. When was the last time you worked extra hours? When was the last time you took a break to reenergize? When was the last time you were at your peak performance?

A version of this article originally appeared on Recognize This!

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