25 things I do to preserve energy, time, and optimism for my work

I am not a guru. (I can’t even make my legs do that thing they do.)

But I am a healthy human being who looks for all the little tweaks and tactics to help me squeeze more energy out of my day, so I can do more of the stuff I love doing. I’m not a productivity nut, but I am a living science experiment—I try everything at least once to see if it works for me. I keep the tactics that make a difference, ditch the ones that don’t.

Here, in no particular order and for no particular reason other than to share what might be some fresh ideas with you, is my list of 25 things that have made the cut and are part of my life now.

  1. Stress is natural to some extent. But whenever I feel like I’m moving the red zone, I stop right away and move into creative rest (see below). I call this “living by the traffic light” and I’ve written about it here.
  2. I stopped shoehorning my calendar, earmarking every single minute. (I don’t care what the productivity gurus say.)
  3. And no matter what those gurus say about recapturing that “wasted” time, like the hours between 10:00pm and 6:00am, to cram in more productivity, there’s not a chance in the world I’ll do that.
  4. At 9:00pm, the computing devices go off, and don’t go on again until after 7:00am the next day. We are just now starting to see the negative effects of constantly being tethered to our electronics, and it’s only likely to get worse. I won’t risk my future on that.
  5. There is no mobile phone on my nightstand at night, ever. I am not a neurosurgeon and do not need to be that accessible. It’s switched off an in another room.
  6. I don’t have any “push notifications” on my mobile phone either. No Facebook Messenger notifications, no email notifications pinging me all day, no Twitter feed alerts. It’s disruptive, concentration-shattering, and addictive.
  7. I avoid watching/listening to/reading the news except under carefully controlled circumstances. When I do, it’s for a finite and short piece of time, and it’s a more neutral source like Reuters.com, which spares me the shrillness and polarization of “normal” news.
  8. When bad energy – irritation, frustration, hopelessness – comes into my day, I drop it like it’s hot. It’s duly noted, and I set aside time to figure it out in a calmer moment, when I can think my way to a solution.
  9. I take regular digital detoxes, so I can be sure I’m not falling into the device-driven catatonia that most of society’s people seem to be in these days.
  10. I do not “hustle.” I build relationships in the same way I live the rest of my life: I take care of people. I serve them in personal, high-touch ways. And I always treat them like human beings, not numbers on a spreadsheet or names I might get onto my email list.
  11. I’ve reshaped my social media to be a positive space by removing partisan dreck and noisy thought leaders and replacing them with reminders of how much goodness there is out there. I consume things like Good News Network, Good Good Good, Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal, Reuters.com for topline global news without slant, and local news from a trusted local source – news that actually affects me.
  12. Since I need to remain on Facebook for my work, I use the FB Purity app to keep the rest of my feed free of sickening ads, celebrity news, and incendiary political junk.
  13. I stay hydrated. It sounds oversimplified, but for me it’s absolutely not. When I’m dehydrated, I can’t think my way out of a paper bag. Two tall glasses of water and some gentle moving of my body (like stretching) and I can notice an obvious difference. Your mileage may vary, but try it for a week and see, especially first thing in the morning.
  14. I practice intermittent fasting, or as I like to put it, intermittent eating (the former sounds so horrible). Nothing clouds my mind or slows me down as much as a steady stream of calories spiking my insulin in all of my waking hours. I eat between noon and 8pm, and just have tea, coffee, or water at most other times.
  15. I monitor my carbohydrate intake and keep it at a sensible level for me (see how high-carbohydrate foods make you feel versus protein – research it! – and experiment with using it strategically).
  16. Strategic intake of certain foods, like lean protein, fresh crunchy vegetables, and healthy fats can energize and clarify my thinking like nothing else.
  17. I have a sweet collection of guided meditations (because I suck at real meditation). It’s my go-to to wipe the slate clean between arduous mental tasks.
  18. My “morning ritual lite.” It sets me up to feel good about myself before, during, and after my work day.
  19. I watch very little TV and can’t tell you who the celebrities-du-jour are these days, but I know almost all my neighbors, I know which friend has a sprained ankle and can’t make it to the grocery store, and I know the names of all the birds and plants in my yard. Priorities.
  20. I seek out a community/support/accountability group for my work (even if I have to pay for it). Mastermind groups have helped me multiply my happiness AND productivity in just a couple of short years.
  21. As an introvert, I build in time to recover from extroverting. A quiet 30-minute break, a nap, guided meditations (see above), all of these help me find my center again.
  22. I am a huge fan of what George Kao calls “creative rest,” which breaks up my day and ensures I’m not a useless, exhausted wreck by day’s end.
  23. Pick-a-mix self-care. It’s not all bubble baths and candles. For me, it can be sitting in a vibrant cafe, walking the dog around the block, or making a batch of soup (I find chopping very meditative). Find some activities that allow you to clear your mental slate and start fresh.
  24. Finding MY people: Some say that we’re the average of the five people we hang out with the most, and whether or not that’s scientific, I find it to be true for me. I absorb negative vibes like an energy sponge. So I surround myself with people who are curious, self-aware, perceptive, and/or always looking for the glass half (or fully) full, no matter whether they’re literally there yet.
  25. I make it a priority to stay positive as much and as often as humanly possible. There seems to be a badge of honor for “freaking out about the state of the planet” or “getting so mad at that idiot I want to scream.” These are purely elective, and letting them spike our cortisol and make us sick does absolutely no good. I try to move through life keeping a calm head, refusing to get caught up in other peoples’ drama, and noticing + celebrating goodness in the world as though my life depends on it.

Because I think it does.