Have you ever had a morning where you just feel so exhausted that you can hardly move, let alone focus. What do you do? Do you skip your workout? Hide under the covers? How can you find your focus when you feel fatigued?
The Slippery Slope of Excuses
It’s easy to use fatigue as an excuse to skip your morning workout. You might rationalize this by saying you need the rest. It’s possible that your fatigue may stem from a poor night’s sleep or a hard workout the day before. Maybe you’ve been pulling a lot of late nights on a work project. Maybe you do need the rest.
There’s no question that rest is important.
It’s also equally possible that your fatigue may not be physical at all. It could be an effect of big decisions you’re navigating, an issue at work, or a relationship challenge.
Once you give into the rationalization of any excuse, you head down a slippery slope. It becomes easier to accept other excuses your mind presents to you.
Too tired. Too busy. Too overwhelmed by other demands. Maybe you just don’t feel like it.
Where do you draw the line? One day becomes two days. Before you know it, a month has gone by. Inertia and stagnation set in.
How Stagnation Spreads
Energy is contagious. So when you feel stagnation in one area, it bleeds into other areas of your life.
Eventually, you may find yourself depleted of your focus and drive across the spectrum of your life, barreling towards burnout. Everything is related. Burnout causes disengagement in all areas of your life — including your work, your relationships, and your connection to yourself.
So how do you navigate this line between pushing yourself and getting the rest you need? How can you find your focus and fire even when you’re feeling fatigued? It comes down to energy management.
As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz explain in their book, The Power of Full Engagement, energy is the core currency of productivity.
In today’s episode of My Circus Life, I shared 7 tips to find and maintain your focus and fire, even when you feel fatigued. This article covers the first 3. Come back tomorrow for the other 4 tips.
(1) Get Moving
There are many reasons to exercise in the morning. Studies have shown, for example, that people who exercise in the morning stay more consistent with their workouts.
In my experience, the best reason to exercise in the morning is that it helps create energy and momentum for the day. Objects in motion stay in motion.
It may seem counter-intuitive to push yourself to do a workout if you wake up exhausted. But here’s what I know: no matter how tired I am when I wake up, I know I always feel better after I move my body. Staying in bed doesn’t wake me up. This is why I have a no-excuses rule for my morning workout. That doesn’t mean you have to go hardcore. The key is to do something to get yourself moving. (See more on this in tip 2.)
This morning I felt drained of energy when I woke up. For the briefest moment, I actually contemplated skipping my weekly trampoline practice. It was a very brief moment. I haven’t skipped a morning workout in over 4 years, and I wasn’t starting today.
I made it to practice. And although it took me a while to warm up, I ended up creating enough energy to make great progress on some of my skills.
By all means, listen to your body. And also, know that your body is built to move.
(2) Ease Into It
When we are tired we often try to do things faster to get them over with. But faster tends to create lower quality results, especially when we are fatigued. The frenetic nature of rushing is a huge energy drain that depletes whatever focus we do have.
Give yourself permission to move slowly. Let your energy level guide your pace.
This applies to your work too. Brian Tracy’s “eat the frog” approach is very popular among high-achievers, but it is the wrong approach when you’re having a low energy day.
Rather than starting with your hardest task, start with something easy. Break up your work into smaller tasks, bringing focus to each chunk and allowing yourself time to rest in between. (More on rest in part 2).
(3) Get Back to Basics
Make sure you’re covering the basics in terms of proper nutrition and staying hydrated. I know my weakness is that I love sugar, but when I’m really tired I put all my efforts towards proper nutrition and drinking lots of water.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of breathing.
Yes, breathing. You might be surprised to see how a few minutes of deep breathing can refuel your energy and ignite your focus.
Focus on tightening up your skills and techniques, so you can avoid any imbalances that might lead to injury.
Just like muscular imbalances can lead to physical injury that spreads up the kinetic chain of your body, imbalances in your skills and systems can create injury to your business.
Find focus through your fatigue by bringing full presence to your work. Pay attention to your clients. Listen more intentionally. Stop multi-tasking.
Bonus: Optimize The Energy You Have to Make Progress on Something
Just like physical movement can jumpstart your physical energy and sharpen your focus, making progress on a project can help you gain traction. This will feed your momentum.
Keep a list of activities and tasks that are well-suited for low energy days. On those days, go to that list for ideas of what to do. If you follow the GTD method, you can create contexts for energy levels. This will also help you with tip #4.
Share: Which of These is Your Biggest Challenge?
All of these tips are easy enough to apply, in theory, but many of us resist them. There are many reasons why we find these tips difficult to implement. I’ll address those in a future article. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you:
Which tip feels most challenging for you to implement? Please share with me in the comments.
The Ritual Revolution is a movement I started to help creative entrepreneurs and agents of change create sustainable practices to avoid burnout. Join the tribe for more wisdom on how to serve without self-sacrifice.