When the workweek — or workday — get long, here's how to power through

Editor's note: The Gray Area is undergoing a format change. Donna Gray is going to start blogging on common issues facing small business owners, lending her perspective and insights based on a lifetime of experience in business. Think of it as “Dear Abby” for business. If you have a business issue or question you'd like expert guidance on, email Online Editor Jason Busch at jason@ibmadison.com, with the subject “The Gray Area,” and we'll have Donna and her extensive network of business experts tackle it for you.

At a recent business function, several people at my table commented on how busy they have been and how much they’re looking forward to summer when they have fewer business commitments.

One business friend talked about how there’s something on the calendar five days a week but their energy runs out by Wednesday. The weekend just isn’t long enough to recover the mojo needed to get through another week of constantly being on. Constant daily, unrealistic demands regularly cause our focus and attention to fade before 3 p.m., allowing burn out to take over.

I’ve been experiencing a little of this myself during the recovery from my accident earlier this year. Since I’ve had to depend on someone to drive me to and from appointments and activities, I’ve had to find different ways to approach the details.

When I asked my business and life coach friend for suggestions on how to deal with having too much on your plate and not enough energy to go around, she gave me the following thoughts:

  • Get organized. Nothing diminishes energy more than having loose ends and things that need to get done hanging out there. Having too much to accomplish and not enough time to get it all done leads to daily end-of-day depression. Only set the most important goals for the day and delegate every chance possible. Preserving your energy becomes an exercise in mind over matter to help get and keep control over the business day.
  • Get out of a rut. Ruts cause us to lose energy. Even the smallest changes can make a difference in the amount of vitality you feel. Consider changes in the workplace environment — it can be something as simple as changing the pictures on the wall. There is a famous phenomenon known as the Hawthorne Effect where it’s been observed that even small changes in the environment will help productivity, at least for a short time.
  • Drink your “morning joe” in the afternoon. Coffee triggers an insulin reaction that may actually leave you feeling depleted by the end of a busy hour. Someone told me that waiting until after 3 p.m. to have that extra jolt works best. Can’t prove it by me; I’m a decaf gal.
  • Eat power lunches. The recommendation is to choose proteins instead of carbs to trigger the neurotransmitters in the brain so the brain powers up for action. I guess the burgers and fries that are my faves are now off the list.
  • Get enough rest. We can’t be Superman or Superwoman every day without adequate rest at night. Experts tell us that we should get eight hours of sleep a night. I’d have to say it’s a rare businessperson who can enjoy that routine on a regular basis — most of us feel lucky when we get five to six hours; we’re thrilled with nights of seven or eight. So, if you can’t get the recommended eight hours, at least find ways to disconnect a hour or so before bed to give your brain time to unwind.

When we’re racing from one task or appointment to another, we tend to take shallow breaths without even knowing it. My life coach friend suggests that during these activity-filled, stressful days, you could try some deep breathing and/or meditation during the free moments between appointments. Either of those may be the perfect refresher to help you get back on the fast track.

This is one of those weeks for me; so if you see me with my eyes closed and breathing heavy, don’t worry. I’m just temporarily powering down. Anything to find that extra natural boost of energy to power through those long afternoons.

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