If you are like most employees in today’s “Era of Exhaustion,” you likely experience moments at work when you cannot fully access your knowledge, experience, skills and strengths.
“When we are low on energy, the first thing we lose is our executive function — the part of our brain that affects our ability to focus, analyze information, regulate our emotions, be innovative, and make smart decisions,” said Wilson.
Most organizations do not focus on employee energy — instead relying on traditional engagement initiatives that do little to safeguard people’s executive function. Moreover, said Wilson, “You could be the most engaged employee, but without energy, you can’t operate at full capacity.”
I spoke with Wilson about how, by putting aside a bit of time each day, employees can boost their own energy. Here are his four tips:
Got 2 minutes? Make a micro-connection
Brain science shows that meaningful face-to-face conversation has the ability to release high-performance hormones in the brain: Dopamine (which enhances pleasure and improves creativity), oxytocin (which increases trust and decreases stress), and serotonin (which reduces fear, tension and worry).
The key, according to Wilson, is learning how to engage in “quality” conversation. “It’s about being present with each other, not thinking about anything else, and showing genuine curiosity,” he said. “Instead of asking people how they are doing, start asking them what they are doing and what they are interested in lately. Acknowledge what matters most to the other person. Then, share what matters most to you.”
When you experience a moment of connection with someone, even within just two minutes, this can elevate your energy levels, giving you that quick boost you need.
Got 5 minutes? Dump the depleters
“Like any technology, the human brain has a limited amount of RAM and will become bogged down if too many ‘applications’ are open at the same time,” said Wilson.
Distractions such as too many meetings, having to multi-task between projects, and the ongoing need to pay continuous partial attention deplete the brain, affecting a person’s ability to continuously produce quality work.
To get re-energized, Wilson suggests two things. First, dump your undone tasks in a safe place, like a task management system or even a simple to-do list. This will reduce the “Oh, I’d better remember to do that!” kind of messages that tend to flare up at the most inopportune times, interrupting you in the middle of flow.
Second, stop multi-tasking. When people’s focus is continuously split between multiple cognitive tasks, the effect is constant and intense mental exhaustion, which, said Wilson, “…can reduce your intellectual capacity from that of a Harvard MBA to an eight-year-old.”
Got 10 minutes? Rewire your energy
Brain science shows us that we feel before we think. As such, said Wilson, “When negative emotions arise, this depletes our energy, making us less focused and less likely to get things done.”
However, there is a way to essentially rewire your brain to suppress and better control those unwanted and unhelpful feelings: Through meditation.
“Meditation helps us strengthen our anterior cingulate, which is essentially the clutching mechanism between the rational and emotional brain,” said Wilson. “Not only that, meditation is perfect for a quick energy boost, and allows you to get immediately back to the task at hand.”
Wilson recommends saying aloud one of these words while breathing out: Peace,gratitude, or compassion.
Got 20 minutes? Install power generators
Our bodies consist of mitochondria — which, said Wilson, are like micro-power plants embedded in your muscle tissue. The more mitochondria in the body, the more energy the person feels.
Because lean muscle mass holds up to 10 times more mitochondria than soft muscle mass, Wilson said, “Anything you can do to stress your muscles, make them a bit leaner and grow more mitochondria, will help you produce more energy.”
To get energized, Wilson recommends this 20-minute “mito-making” workout that requires zero gym equipment. Start with five minutes of light stretching, following by 30 seconds of burpees, then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat five times. Then cool down with five minutes of light stretching.
Without energy, the best you will ever be is a dedicated under-performer. But by following recommendations like the above, you can effectively unlock and access all the power tools of your brain — allowing you to be your very best self on the job, every single day.