25 minutes. That’s how long it takes most people to get back on track after a distraction.
And with our increasingly digitised lives, multiple screens and infinite media streams at our fingertips, it’s safe to say we’re more distracted than ever before.
So it’s no wonder that our Work Energy could use a little boost these days - especially when you’re finding it harder to get in the zone.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there: Work Energy naturally ebbs and flows, depending on what’s going on in our professional and personal lives, as well as the world around us.
So what is Work Energy, and why does it need a boost sometimes?
Work Energy is how you feel at work, and how you feel about what it is you do.
Rather than just motivation or productivity alone, Work Energy includes all the moods, attitudes, and actions that come up because of how you feel at work. When Work Energy levels are high, it’s much easier to focus because we feel a greater sense of purpose and job satisfaction.
While it’s always good to approach Work Energy with long-term management goals in mind, sometimes we just need a quick energy fix to get through a certain project or task.
That’s why we sat down with Michelle George, one of our licensed coaches and the Head of People Science at Vyou, to get her top five tips on how to quickly boost your Work Energy. Read on to find out what they are and how they can transform your daily work life too.
5 Fast Ways to Boost Your Work Energy
- Make time to talk
Even if our diaries are packed, “it's important to make time to chat with those who inspire you or motivate you at work”, advises Michelle. With remote work increasingly becoming the norm, finding time to chat with people is more important than ever before.
Whether you’re a fan of Zoom, Teams, Slack, or a good old-fashioned phone call, it’s important to keep your Work Energy topped up by those who give you a real boost at work and can help you maintain that feeling of connectedness.
How it helps: socialisation is extremely important for brain health. Humans are social animals; we typically feel and perform better when we belong to a community and frequently interact with other people. Ideally, those interactions should be face-to-face, but virtually will do the trick too.
According to psychologist Susan Pinker’s TED Talk, direct contact with other people encourages our brains to release a cocktail of neurotransmitters that help us manage cortisol levels.
In other words, talking helps us manage stress better. It also triggers a release of oxytocin and dopamine - two very potent mood chemicals that reduce pain and make us feel happier.
- Set small, measurable goals
We all know the feeling of tackling work that seems never ending.
Here’s the trick: if you’re struggling to complete a task or get started on a project, try breaking it down into smaller chunks that are achievable within a 15 minute window.
Next, write out your list of subtasks and make sure to put a big, bold checkmark next to each one when you’ve finished it.
As Michelle says: “Not only does this make tasks seem more manageable, but you also get a great buzz and sense of achievement four times an hour - win, win!”
How it helps: sometimes when we set very ambitious goals they can end up feeling overwhelming or even unattainable. Breaking them down into small, actionable, and realistic tasks transforms them into something much more psychologically doable.
And every time you add a checkmark next to a subtask you’ve just finished, your brain recognizes that you have completed something and releases a ton of dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter or “happiness chemical” that makes us feel accomplished and satisfied. This powerful feel-good chemical drives us to keep working on achieving our overall goal.
- Take a break
Take five to stretch, jump, walk, run, lunge... or whatever gets your blood circulating - and enjoy some precious time away from your desk (or dining room table) to give your head some time to decompress.
If you’re not up for taking a physical break, Michelle suggests mindfulness meditation: “Simply focus on your breathing and being present. Lock out the stress, tune out of any hectic thoughts and simply be.”
How it helps: although our instinct is to keep pushing when we start to struggle, your brain can only focus for so long. Concentrating requires a lot of energy from a network of regions in our brains, including our frontal cortex, whose responsibility is to keep us on task and avoid getting distracted.
While studies vary on the optimal time to work before taking a break, a general rule of thumb is that for every 45 - 60 minutes of work, you’ll need a 5 - 15 minute break to keep working as effectively as possible. Treat it like an experiment for yourself - figure out what works best for you and your own working rhythm, and then schedule your day around that.
- Snack on energy boosting food
Now we’re talking! Who doesn’t love a good snack?
Sadly, we’re not exactly advising you to down entire packets of your favourite processed snacks (but no judgement here, you do you).
If you’re up for it, try nuts, seeds, or dark chocolate instead. These handy snack options increase serotonin levels that promote calmness, and provide phenylethylamine for mental stimulation.
For the ultimate healthy brain-food snack, chomping on raw carrots will fill up your glucose reserves - something our brains rely on to function at their best. Pair it with a yummy dip like hummus or tzatziki so that you can feel full for longer (meaning you won’t be distracted by hunger pangs later on).
How it helps: our bodies need good fuel to work well. Snacking in between meals helps control blood sugar levels and gives us a little boost of energy to keep going with whatever we’re working on.
Getting up to grab or prepare a snack is also a good way to motivate yourself to move your body and disconnect from work for a bit. When eating your snack, avoid multitasking on work at the same time (we’re all guilty of it) and focus on enjoying your food mindfully while taking a well-deserved break.
- Get yourself a new (green) desk buddy
Finally - an excuse to grow your houseplant family for legitimate work reasons! And when you’ve chosen your new succulent or palm, look at it for 10 minutes straight.
As Michelle explains, that “the colour green reminds us of nature, relieves tiredness and boosts creativity.”
How it helps: Studies show that contact with nature helps reduce stress and fatigue. Spending time in nature to improve mental health is a common practice in many cultures. For example, in Japan they call this physiological and psychological exercise shinrin-yoku or “forest-bathing” and recommend it as a remedy for burn-out.
While many of our workplaces may look different than they used to nowadays, we still don’t typically have much access to nature in indoors spaces. So whether you work from an office, a co-working space, or your own home, try to find a way to integrate some plants and greenery into your immediate environment.
Which tip do you think you’ll try first? For more insights on workplace wellbeing from the team, keep an eye on this space and let us know how your wellbeing journey is coming along!