Your energy levels are the most important part of your success.
We’ve been told that things like time management and to-do lists make the biggest difference, but the truth is that if you don’t have the energy to complete a task, then it doesn’t matter how well structured your day is. You won’t be able to get through it.
This might seem obvious, but very few goal-setting guides mention ways to maintain or increase your energy.
If you’re always tired, you won’t have the energy to get stuff done. If you start out in an all-out sprint, you’ll burn out before the end. If you don’t manage your energy, you’ll never succeed.
Accomplishing your goals is more like a marathon than a track meet.
Too many forget that anything worth having takes time and energy to acquire. You can’t force it to happen sooner than it’s going to happen but also have to be careful that you don’t run out of energy before you succeed.
This is exactly where most of us fail. We plan for the short-term but our the reality is that our energy levels need to be optimized and managed for the long haul if we ever want to be successful.
This post covers ten ways to maintain and increase your energy. They’re potent but they won’t make you burnt out, disgruntled, or crash with even less energy that you had when you started.
I’ve used the following energy raising techniques to help me:
- Box both as an amateur and professional
- Publish multiple books on Amazon
- Finish a physics degree
- Build a Twitter following of 115k from scratch
These are massive time and energy commitments. Not only that, but I was often doing them simultaneously. Sometimes I didn’t get enough sleep and I was only able to survive a cup of coffee glued to my hand.
Caffeine only helps, but the following tactics cover more than a quick power nap and a pick me-up from energy drink.
No matter what, there were several times I wanted to sit around and do nothing. Instead of giving in, I pushed forward by figuring out how to increase my energy. Here’s a breakdown of how I did it.
How to increase your energy in 10 steps
1) Wake up earlier to stay your day earlier
There’s something about waking up early that puts urgency in your blood. Some people like to say that staying up late works for them, believing the idea is just to get extra hours in the day to work. They’re WRONG.
It’s to get an actual head start on things and build momentum going forward. Wake up an hour earlier and you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm to chase your goals.
2) Break down complex tasks into simple steps
Crossing things off your to-do list is a great feeling. The feeling of accomplishment is addictive and builds momentum.
Your mind can’t really distinguish between a large task and a smaller one. All it sees is an accomplishment and accomplishments raise your energy and make you excited to push forward.
Break down complex tasks into simple parts with simple goals. Break down simple goals into their basic parts.
Sometimes when I write a post or a newsletter, my only goal is to write one sentence that day. If I have to continue this until it’s finished, that’s fine, but I almost never do because the progress is motivating. That motivation drives to write even more.
The most important thing about keeping your energy and enthusiasm high is this: each accomplishment snowballs and makes you feel like you can accomplish more. This is how to get motivated to push past your limits and try to accomplish more.
3) Shut up to get ahead
This is a very important component of high-energy, high-enthusiasm individuals.
They know how much energy is lost by telling people your positive plans and complaining about your negative situation. To solve this problem and give themselves an energy boost, they just shut up.
If you have low energy and non-existent enthusiasm about doing something, the WORST thing you can do is tell people you’re trying to do it.
In this social media age of validation through likes and retweets, everyone talks about what they’re GOING to do instead of actually doing.
When you talk about it before taking action, you get all the support and encouragement in the world. Maybe it’s because they know you can’t do it. Maybe it’s because they believe in you and think the pep talk is good. Regardless of their reasons, it’s not good for you.
The validation you get will murder your enthusiasm because you’ll prematurely get to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Complaining about your problems has a similar effect but for more insidious reasons.
The energy spent complaining takes away from energy that could be spent solving the problem. In turn, this makes it more difficult to solve the problem which makes it even easier to complain. Complaining also causes another problem that saps your energy: it increases your stress and lowers your intelligence.
There’s a large body of research which shows that complaining increases the stress hormone cortisol while simultaneously shrinking neurons. This shortens your temper and problem solving ability. This not only physically exhausting but your mental health suffers as well.
This tip is more about the conversion of present energy levels rather than the generation of greater ones, but this is still key. The battle for raising your energy levels is already difficult enough. We don’t need to make the job more challenging by draining what precious energy we already have.
4) Ignore the outcome and focus more on the process
Imagine that you’re running a marathon. You’re in shape to complete it, but it won’t be easy. Around the halfway mark, you realize something: you can no longer see the beginning and you can’t really tell how far the end is either. You’re officially in the middle. This is where most people quit because they can’t see how far they have left to go, but they’ve gone too far to turn back.
This is why so many people have so many half-finished projects. They get to the murky middle, where it’s difficult to rely on external motivation for an energy boost. They can’t see the finish line but the grind from how far they’ve already come has worn them down.
The remedy to this is to focus on the process of execution. Not the rewards of the outcome.
Focus on the process of running each step. Feel the breeze around you and think about executing each individual movement or component of your goal.
You don’t write a book by focusing on getting it published. You write a book by enjoying the crafting of each sentence. This applies to every goal.
5) Build a ritual
One of the things I noticed about my drinking is that I wasn’t addicted to booze, per se. I was more addicted to the ritual and the partying surrounding it.
I associated good times with drinking so whenever I wanted to have a good time, I drank. Whenever I talk to other addicts, I hear a similar story. The ritual plays as big a part in the addiction as the actual substance does.
In the cases of substance abuse, this is obviously a negative. However, this same principle can be used to raise your energy levels and enthusiasm.
My ritual before writing is to make a cup of coffee. My ritual before training was to watch highlight videos of my favorite fighters. Before studying, I listened to the Downton Abbey soundtrack.
These are little rituals primed my mind because I’ve associated them with the task at hand. When I do these things, I can’t help but get excited.
6) Think about the stress of your current situation
Few things get me more excited than thinking about how much I’ll benefit from accomplishing my goal. More specifically, I think about how bad things are now and I imagine that accomplishing my goal will alleviate some of the problem.
Maybe accomplishing my goal will only offer a small relief. Maybe accomplishing my goal will change my life entirely. Either way, the accomplishment of my goal has the power to alleviate some misery in my life and this excites me
For this to work, you have to look in the mirror and admit that your life sucks. At the very least, you have to acknowledge that the portion of your life sucks where the accomplishment of your goal will make a difference.
If you want to tell yourself that it’s not that bad, then there’s nothing I can do for you. But if you believe that you can be better and want to be better, then focusing on the pain of lack can do wonders for your energy levels.
Note: This does not contradict the 4th tip. The 4th tip is meant to keep you from thinking of the outcome as an escape from the work. This tip is to teach you how to use the outcome to stay focused.
7) Figure out what motivates you
I’ve had people tell me that they value freedom, but they don’t want to do the things to make themselves free. They’re more interested in getting a promotion and making $75k a year in exchange for working 50 hours a week.
I’m not presenting this as a negative. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a great position. But the goal there isn’t freedom. The goal there is security. It’s very hard to get motivated if you don’t know exactly what you’re chasing.
I’ve had other people tell me that they value freedom, and this is why they won’t get promoted to a higher paying salary management position. Instead, preferring to be an hourly employee. This is a fine goal and lifestyle, but you have to admit that your goal is to have as little responsibility as possible. Not to be free.
Whatever motivates you, admit that and own it.
Just because it’s cool to say you’re a “laptop millionaire” or a CEO doesn’t mean that these goals are for you. If you want to make $60k/yr with 3 weeks of vacation, that’s fine. If you want to be able to sleep in until noon, that’s fine too. If your goals don’t excite you, they won’t motivate you. If they don’t motivate you, then they won’t give you more energy.
No matter how sleazy, selfish, hedonistic or lazy–as long as no one gets hurt–own your goals. Feel your energy surge when you do this.
8) Work away from technology whenever possible
While the internet, computers, and smartphones make life easier, they also make life more difficult. Even as I write this email, I have to exert mental energy to not check my phone or browse push notifications.
I’m prolific on Twitter and this activity level on Twitter is part of my goal, and I still find it a distraction.
Distractions like this eat away at your energy reserve. This makes it impossible to conserve your energy and enthusiasm, let alone generate more of it.
I like to carry a notebook with me and jot down my ideas. I like to outline by hand. Even now, a surprising number of my tweets come from what I outline with my hands rather than what I type with my fingers.
9) Get enough sleep
We already talked about why early rising is superior to staying up late. Let’s go even further on that idea.
If you aren’t getting adequate rest, you’ll be tired while you work. This means that you’ll work more slowly, make more mistakes, get frustrated more easily, and lack the will power to ignore distractions. “Adequate rest” varies from person to person, but it’s safe to say that most of you need 7-8 hours of sleep.
This is still easily doable while waking up an hour early, even if it puts you on the lower end of 7 hours a night rather than 8. That’s a small percentage of people who refresh on much less, but that’s likely not you.
Sorry, that’s just how probability and statistics work.
10) Use legal drugs to beat fatigue
I saved this one for last because it’s a short term tactical fix.
That doesn’t mean it’s ineffective–just that it’s a specific technique rather than an overall approach. I also have to put “legal” in parenthesis because I don’t want anyone to interpret this advice as “let’s go smoke crack and meth”.
On a side note, I actually read a story about a banker who smokes meth because it skyrocketed his productivity. Do with that information what you will.
The legal drugs I’m suggesting:
- Caffeine. A pot of black coffee can do wonders.
- Gorilla Mind Rush. I started using this in place of Modafinil because of certain ingredients. It’s easier on the system and works just as well.
I’m sure there are others, but these are the only ones I use and I can honestly recommend.
Use these drugs in conjunction with your work ritual. They will boost your focus and energy level, allowing you to get even more done. This work will build momentum towards the rest of your goals.
Summary of 10 ways to quickly get more energy and enthusiasm
- Wake up early
- Break down complex tasks into simple ones
- Shut up
- Ignore the outcome and focus on the process
- Build a ritual
- Think about how bad it is now
- Figure out what motivates you
- Work away from technology
- Get more sleep
- Use legal drugs
These are 10 ways you can raise your energy levels and enthusiasm.
Most are lifestyle and perspective changes, which should tell you something very important: high-energy and enthusiasm is a long-term lifestyle; not a short-term fix.
As always, the rest is up to you