10 sure-fire ways to increase your energy at work

When I first became a coach, I was still working as a marketing director full-time. When I started my business and opened my private coaching office, I had this idea I would be in a state of euphoria by being by myself and able to concentrate on my work without distractions - other than seeing my clients, of course.  Sure, it was nice at first. But within a month, I started to get some serious cabin fever.

My office is located on the lower level without any windows.  For the few months I was there, a therapist saw her clients in the office next to mine.  I had a one-room, 150 square foot office that shared a common wall with her. That meant I could hear all her client sessions. I mentioned this to her, and she said, "If you can hear us talking, could you please knock hard on the wall so I know?" I told her I was not comfortable doing this and suggested she purchase the brand of white-noise machine I had.  She never did and moved out soon after. I don't think it was because of me.

Then, I was the only person on the floor that saw clients, that actually had anyone from the public come to an office. I found myself avoiding coming to the office when I didn't have clients to see. Or I'd hang out at the Starbucks next door or the public library on the other side of my office complex. Anything to be around other people.

And when I didn't do this, I found myself dozing off in front of my laptop.

Having a lack of energy at work is a pretty common complaint among my career coaching clients. Sometimes it's the beginning signs of burnout or a general dissatisfaction with the work they are doing. Sometimes it's due to other causes. I created the list below of 10 common ways to increase energy at work to address those situations.

  1. Get a good night sleep:  This seems like a no-brainer, but I am amazed at the number of people who stay up late.  I take that back. Before I got married, I was definitely a night owl.  I'd eat something around 9 pm and was amazed to discover I'd get a second wind and be able to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning. Imagine that! It wasn't obvious to me then that the natural progression of the body during the day is to burn off the food we eat as energy. When we eat at 6 pm or so, we burn off that food so we start getting sleepy around 10 or 11 pm.  That's our cue to go to
    Photo of family having breakfast together uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis Indiana

    It's the most important meal of the day!

    bed. I coach clients to create their own sleep hygiene ideas - things like reading a book in bed a half hour before you want to be asleep. Don't use electronics. One woman I coached took the 15 minutes before bed to clean up her kids' toys.  That became the signal to her body to start getting ready for sleep.

  2. Eat breakfast: Again, I get it. We're rushing around in the morning to leave for work, and breakfast takes a backseat. I try to have a protein-heavy breakfast of an Egg Beaters omelet with turkey sausage and toast with peanut butter. If I am seriously running behind, I will take a few handfuls of cereal and put it into a sandwich baggy and eat that on the drive to my office.   Whatever you do, you have to feed your brain and your body to have the energy to make it until lunch.
  3. Take the stairs, get up during the day to walk:  If you have a desk job or sit at a computer all day, this lack of movement can wreck havoc on your energy level.  Try Googling "desk stretches" and try them out.  Download an app to your phone that tells you to take a quick exercise break every hour or so.
  4. Keep snacks available to eat during the day; drink water instead of soda:  Bring an assortment of high-protein snacks on Monday morning and keep them in your desk or locker.  If you eat lunch at noon, plan for a snack around 10 am.  Then another snack (or more!) around 2 or 3 pm to get you energized until you get home for dinner. I cut up two apples and bring them to eat as a snack with vanilla Greek yogurt.  Almonds are a great energy source. I had a co-worker once who kept peanut butter and crackers in her desk for her snack break.
Sleeping worker uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis, Indiana

Take a nap if you need to, but it's best in your car!

Studies have shown that we can build up a tolerance to caffeine, so having another cup of coffee or a diet soda to bridge the energy divide might end up being counteractive.  Often when we are starting to get dehydrated, we start to feel sleepy.  Water is the best antidote!

5. Take a nap!  Those kindergarteners have the life, don't they? I never grew out of taking naps. My husband, on the other hand, can't sleep during the day no matter how tired he is.  I feel really sorry for him, because naps are heaven-sent!  You've probably heard that a 20-30 minute power nap is better than a longer nap.  It's probably also better for keeping your job.  Take a snooze in your car during a break and see how that perks you up.

6. Exercise your brain: Every job has awful, mind-numbing tasks that have to be done. For me, it's accounting and entering data into Quickbooks. Ideally, you'll schedule your day to work on these unpleasant tasks when you have more energy. But if it's a long run of boring work, then take a break and do something to get your brain engaged.  I love doing crossword puzzles. I have the Across Lite app on my iPad and do them throughout the day. Or bring a book to read at lunch.  I worked with a guy who had various toys he kept in his desk, such as a Rubik's cube and other puzzles.  

7. Positivity breaks:  Being more social at work can help increase your energy and also position you as a positive influence in the office.  Even though I am technically an extrovert, I still have trouble just going up and talking to people, unless I know them well.  You don't have to discuss world affairs,  A comment about the weather, or a new project, or asking co-workers about their kids or weekend is just fine.  You can also simply put yourself around others who are talking and benefit just as much.

I admit that now that I work for myself, I do find myself on Facebook occasionally.  If you can visit Facebook at work without getting in trouble, then visit this page and like it.  Visit it to feel warm and fuzzy fast!  https://www.facebook.com/positiveoutlooks

If you can't, then here is a link to one of the stories this page featured. Print it out and bring it to you to work tomorrow to read for inspiration.

A truly heart-warming story!

Try taking a music break (with headphones! I don't miss that part of cubicle life in an office!) or listen to a positive podcast or e-book.

8. Out with the negative:  Just as important as making time for the positive is eliminating as much of the negative as possible. Isn't there enough negative elements of work without compounding it by gossiping or listening to the office whiner/complainer? Instead, focus on the good things about the people in your office. What might be the impact if you took an inventory right now of all the people you work with and list 1-2 positive attributes of each of them?

Photo of a gremlin uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis Indiana

I have an entire battalion of gremlins, This is the one that tells me I am bad at math.

Care to take a guess about what is the most negative influence at work?  Cue Jeopardy music. . .yep, it's you.  And me.  We can fall too easily into mind traps that cause an endless loop of hypercritical self-talk.  You know the voice:  "God, what a dumb thing to do! You're so stupid! People are going to find out you have no

business being in this job.  You don't have a clue what you're doing." I explain to clients that this voice in our head (and we all have it, unless we've managed to tame it to shut the heck up. It's the result of humans having consciousness,) is our gremlin.  Coaches spend a lot of time helping our clients manage this gremlin. I tell clients they can tell if it's a gremlin if it speaks in the third person:  "you."


Our limiting beliefs speak to us in the first person, "I can't do this.  I don't know what I'm doing. I'm bad with numbers. I am a terrible speller. I can't write."  Anything that starts with "I."

If you're constantly beating yourself up throughout the day, consider working with a coach.

9. See a doctor:  Sometimes there is a physical cause to fatigue and low energy. Sleep apnea is not just a condition

Download icon uploaded by Drew Carey career coach in Indianapolis Indiana

Click above to download my handout about the four types of Gremlins we face as human beings.

that overweight people face.  You could have obstructive sleep apnea due to the anatomy of your sinuses, and this can cause you to wake up hundreds of times a night. Fibromyalgia and other immune disorders can cause debilitating fatigue.  Clinical depression and anxiety disorders are often the energy-drain culprit.  If the solutions above don't work for you, make an appointment with your physician to get checked out.


10. Honor your brain and what it’s trying to tell you. If your brain is stressed, it will shut itself off by releasing a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters from our primal brain, the amygdala.  We can tell this has happened because we feel drowsy, foggy, confused, perhaps agitated or irritable. This is a stress response.  It's better to address this stress immediately by taking action (using the solutions listed above) or risk it becoming chronic stress.

When nothing seems to work and our physician has ruled out a physical cause, is it time to look for a new job? Or explore a new career? Most coaches, including myself, offer a free discovery session to help potential clients determine if coaching is the best answer for their particular situation.  You can access my online scheduling system to find an appointment time that works for you by clicking on the link below.

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