Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Does your afternoon need perking up?

Do you suffer from a post-lunch energy dip?  This some edited highlights from an article that appeared in The Independent with some useful tips on how to keep your batteries charged all day.

Research shows that the most common time for energy slumps is 2.16pm. This is when many people hit a brick wall – and wish they could hit a pillow. Low blood sugar and the body's circadian rhythm hitting a natural low are the culprits. But you can take action.

Don't fight it - Sleeping on the job was once grounds for dismissal but employers are coming round to power naps. After Cornell University found they increase productivity in the workplace, some US companies, including Nike and Deloitte Consulting, started encouraging employees to add an afternoon snooze to their to-do list, and some firms have installed beds or sleep pods.

Have an energy snack - Opt for a snack with low GI, such as oat cakes or hummus and carrot sticks, to raise your blood sugar levels steadily and keep them up. And ideally, eat your snack half an hour before you know you're likely to slump because it takes the body that long to convert what you eat to energy, says Wilkinson.

Revamp your lunch - Afternoon crashes are often the delayed result of too many simple sugars at a midday meal. Replace white bread, pastas and dessert with protein (chicken, tuna, hard-boiled eggs) and a slow-digesting carb (brown rice, lentils, sweet potato).

Drink some water - Dehydration causes fatigue. It diminishes the capacity of most of our organs, especially the brain, kidneys and skin. Keep a filled bottle on your desk so you're more likely to drink regularly and can monitor if you're getting enough.

Have some early nights - If you go to bed late, your sleep cycles get messed up and you may pay for it with a post-lunch sluggish feeling.

Take a break - As soon as you feel slothful, walk for 10 minutes, preferably outside. Rest and recovery in the day is one of the most effective ways to avoid a dip.

Change your work focus - Nothing can sap your energy like filling out an expenses report or listening in on a conference call. So save stimulating jobs for early afternoon. If you’re having a one-to-one meeting, why not go for walk? Walking and talking engages your mind and body.

Never skip breakfast - Low afternoon energy is down to what we eat from the moment we get up and this meal does what it says: refuels the body by breaking a fast. You'll need a healthy, sizable breakfast with complex (slow-digesting) carbohydrates and a little protein. Good choices include an egg on wholemeal toast, oats or sugar-free muesli with berries and natural yoghurt, or porridge with semi-skimmed milk and a banana.

What works for you?

Let it go Louis

Even the best of jobs can have their challenges as not everything is always going to go your way or as you would like it. Upsets, issues with bosses and colleagues, offences, missed opportunities, losses, perceived unfairness and a host of things that can cause negative feelings are going to happen.

The question is how do you deal with them? Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is as much about how we handle our emotions and negative feelings as it is juggling time and energy between many commitments.  If people allow an issue to fester, it can move on from simply being something they moan about for a short while, to becoming an obsession.  In the worst cases, people can harbour resentments, hurts or issues to such an extent that a single moment in time can end up shaping their lives from that point onwards. For example, I knew a man at work once who still went on about the unfairness of a missed promotion 10 years previously! He’d become so resentful and bitter about it that 10 years later it still had him.  Needless to say his ensuing negative outlook made him unpromotable.

What are the keys then to maintaining a healthy perspective and not letting things get to you unduly? 

The first is to accept how things are. You’re going to lose or be offended sometimes, so why let it consume more energy and emotion than necessary?

The second is learning to “let it go”.  There’s a saying that’s become popular in America - “Let it go Louis”. It comes from a Budweiser advert starring frogs, where one frog is going on and on grumbling and the other frog urges him to “Let it go Louis”.  The humour of it caught on and people use the saying now when they see someone continually obsessively ranting about something.
Another saying in the states which I love for its pithy accuracy is; “Don’t let them rent space in your head”.  The point is; deal with the issues you can do something about, but don’t dwell on issues that are beyond your control – let them go and move on.

Have You Done a Strengths Audit Recently?

A Strengths Audit is a great tool to help you focus on behaviours that will improve your performance and increase your long term satisfaction at work and at home. I have just done my own audit and found it an enjoyable and stimulating experience. Why don’t you try it too? Research has shown that greater use of your strengths makes you more successful in your endeavours and happier and more fulfilled at the same time.

Step 1 – do a Strengths 360
In this initial step ask up to 20 people who know you well to give you three stories of you using your strengths. You want them to identify things that you are good at and that absorb and energise you.  Try asking them these two questions to focus the responses:

Question 1:  When do you see me being most energised and absorbed in what I am doing?
Question 2: What am I doing when you see me delivering my best contribution?

Step 2 – Identify the Themes
Read the stories and look for the common themes - behaviours that you demonstrate repeatedly and consistently, behaviours that energise you and that others perceive you as doing well. Focus on finding what you are doing when you are performing at your best and are fully absorbed. These are your strengths and ideally you are looking for your top 5-7. For example I received a lot of stories about how much I like learning things, so one of my strengths is a love of learning.

I found it easiest to group the stories under themes. Some stories cover several strengths so just put them under each one.

Step 3 – Summarise Your Core Strengths  
One of the most valuable applications of the Strengths Audit comes from communicating your strengths to others. To help you do this succinctly, write an overview of each strength, drawn from the stories that illustrate them. Keep each one short, one or two paragraphs at most, and try to capture the essence of how you use your strengths when you are at your best. They should feel relevant and energising. At the end you may well get a sense of – yes that’s me!
Apply Your Unique Special Talent for Excellence  
Combining your strengths defines your unique special talent for excellence. To achieve more apply your strengths more often, in more situations and in different combinations. Think/talk about them when starting new projects, in career development meetings, performance appraisals and, of course, interviews.  A strengths audit gives you the confidence to let others know exactly how you uniquely add value.