I work long hours and every day in the middle of the afternoon, my mind starts to wander and my energy levels dip. That time of day also seems to be the time when my boss needs an extra push on ideas and momentum from the team and I struggle to keep up. What pointers would you give me to help me stay alert all through the day, rather than just in the morning? AS
Hi AS - Oh, how I hear you, a cry from my dark distant past. When working for yourself, hours can be as long or as short as you like, and even creatively distributed in a way that works for you, your body clock and the clients. Yet should I assume you do not have the luxury of that scenario as I currently do? Without being privy to the exact details of your employment agreement, the type of boss you work for, the industry demands and flexibility it allows or even your family scenario, I will cheekily add a caveat to my reply.
First and foremost, I want to make a statement here: long hours do not guarantee productivity. There's only two undisputed facts in your dilemma, and they both conflict. One is that we are all different, and the other is that most workplaces do not recognise that. Herein lies a huge dilemma, one that you wouldn't want to get me started on. The world is changing, yet what I see regularly in workplaces is the concept of "being in attendance", rather than ensuring what needs to get done, gets done.
I think you have two options in the short term and a third for the long term:
1. Create a whole new way of work that suits both you and your boss. Why not open the topic of flexible hours with your boss and see how he feels about the way things are happening? Who knows, he may even be going through a similar dilemma to you.
2. If the new way is not welcomed, try to find ways to get your waning energy flowing.
(a) Is there a particular job task that you love more than others? If so, perhaps the excitement of that might get you more energised. Bring variety in at times of lethargy; for example, perhaps mental energy is not what is required as much as creative energy. For me, when I find my mind wandering, I start developing programmes and the light just switches straight back on again, and I find I can't stop.
(b) Bring in some physical movement. Airlines suggest passengers twist their ankles - I suggest taking a walk outside, or even a yoga session. If it's too hot outside, outdoors can simply mean another floor, another space - out of your routine.
(c) Analyse your diet. Why not eliminate or add certain foods to your diet that drain or stimulate you in times of energy lapse. Could it be the wrong foods at the wrong times or even the amounts? Like the dieticians always say eat more often, just smaller amounts.
(d) Reorganise the timings of your shift to coincide the peak times with your peak energy.
3. If all else fails, consider a change to your employment conditions - go out on your own, and feel the difference.
AS, thanks for the letter and admitting that you are only human.
Bring change, momentum and diversity into your daily routine.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at email@example.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague