We may all dream about the 4-Hour Workweek, but the reality for many business owners is that there are a lot of early mornings and late nights. The longer your workday, however, the less likely you are to plow through tasks. Your productivity can fall off dramatically once you put in more than 55 hours a week, according to a Stanford study. So before you chug a triple-shot latte or down another energy drink, you may want to try some of these ideas for sharpening your focus when you’re struggling to stay awake:
Stand up to fatigue
Getting out of your chair can have a positive effect on brainpower. Standing can help reduce fatigue and confusion while increasing positive feelings about the tasks, recent studies show. You don’t even need a standing desk, as long as you can post up at a counter or shelf for 30 minutes. At the very least, standing for short periods may trick you into thinking you’re more energetic, which is half the battle.
Break it down
When you’re wiped out, the thought of writing a lengthy report or reviewing the monthly budget can make your heart sink. Assuming you’re not on a super-tight deadline, make a big job more manageable by splitting it into bite-sized pieces. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, is a fan of focusing on what he calls smaller “next actions,” which aren’t as intimidating. For example, review just part of the budget and save the remainder for a time when you’re rested and ready. Or just write the outline or the introduction to the report. Finishing one piece at a time can boost your motivation. Once you’ve finished one piece, it may be easier to move on to the next.
Energize your diet
One of the biggest factors in your energy level may be your diet. Eating right can make sure you stay sharp and alert, especially during busy times. Try to cut back on sugary foods and beverages that may cause huge swings in energy. Similarly, limit caffeine intake to that morning cup of coffee, as large amounts of caffeine have been shown to cause problems sleeping at night. Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook, also says staying hydrated keeps energy-fueling nutrients flowing through the body.
Turn up the heat
Now that we’re in the the middle of winter, a chilly workspace can squelch creative thinking. When Cornell ergonomics researchers turned down the thermostat in a test office, workers made more typing mistakes and finished less work — but they sped up again when the warmth came back. Try boosting your thermostat a notch so you can work more comfortably.
Get active, or get some rest
If exhaustion is still working against your desire to be productive, try taking a nap or walk. Napping proponents believe a 20-minute rest gives you “a burst of alertness and increased motor performance,” sleep expert Sara Mednick tells WebMD. “That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.” If napping isn’t your style, the blast of fresh air and boost in circulation from a walk around the block may help you push through that final task of the day.
Not every formula fits every person, but finding the method that works for you can help you power through your most tired times. And as a result, that can make your toughest days a little easier to manage.