18/30: How to Keep Your Energy Levels High
Product managers are busy people. In a previous post, I shared strategies on how to aggressively protect your time and develop good habits to keep a routine going. But even with all the time in the world, how do you decide what to work on and still manage to stay energetic and upbeat?
Here is how I prioritize my work and keep my energy levels high:
Every Monday, I take a look at my calendar and start writing a new “weekly note.” On the top of each weekly note, I list out the top 5 (sometimes 6 or 7) most important activities or jobs I have that week. Putting them down on paper makes them top of mind. Crossing them out gives me a small dopamine kick and a feeling of accomplishment.
For the top 3 activities on that list, I block off time on my calendar. My calendar already has several “Do Not Schedule” blockers, and I’ll use one of those times. It’s important to have time before and after the activity to get started and spark creativity (or find motivation) and to let your thoughts simmer, so you can come back for any corrections to the work.
Say “no” to meetings that don’t bring real value and use the time to finish small tasks that have piled up instead.
My days are busy and packed with meetings. I try to frontload meetings to the beginning of the day, as that energizes me, then take a break for lunch, and have focus time in the afternoon. This keeps my energy levels high.
I used to drink 3, 4, sometimes 5 cups of coffee a day. It was a bad habit. While I never gave up coffee completely, I now only drink two a day — one in the morning with my breakfast and a low-caf coffee after lunch. It’s important to find what works for your body. Green tea is a great replacement for coffee. Just careful not to drink it too late in the day!
Tech jobs are desk jobs. We spend most of our day sitting, staring at a computer. So I try to stretch my legs every hour, and if I can, go for a walk after lunch. It’s better for your metabolism, and it helps avoid the post-meal slump.
Avoid heavy meals for lunch while at work. I’m not saying you need to eat like a rabbit, but know what your body can and cannot do to stay energetic. If you know a meal will cause you to sink into the couch for an hour after, I’d probably keep that for dinner. Whatever you eat, make sure it’s healthy and good for you. Don’t let work cause you to stress eat!
Don’t overwork yourself. There is little to be gained from working too much. Long hours are correlated with cognitive decline, and therefore, poorer job performance. The quality of your work will suffer, and you will exact a toll on your body. It’s more important to focus on high-value activities during the time you have than to get to inbox zero daily.