At first glance the subjects of health and productivity don’t seem to have much in common. One concerns how you treat your body and the other how you handle your time. Yet the two are inextricably entwined. It is only by maintaining and improving your health that you can find the energy to do the things you want (and need) to do.
I must confess that I only understood the correlation recently. Over the years I had noticed a lessening of my energy levels. Considering that I am nearing the half-century mark, I attributed it to age and dismissed it. Everybody slows down when they get older, I told myself.
Over the past two years a lingering dental problem (a lifetime of drinking soft drinks has destroyed the enamel on my teeth) forced me to have several teeth removed. As I began to have the teeth extracted, I noticed a surprising side effect: Every time I had a tooth removed, my energy levels increased. With every single boost of energy, I became more productive in my daily life.
I began to ask questions about this phenomenon. Dental issues can cause lingering infections in the body. By removing the source of the infection, I was reducing the load on my immune system and allowing it to work more efficiently. Instead of expending energy to keep infections at bay, my body now had excess energy that could be channeled into other areas of my life.
I pondered this quietly as I noticed the change. If eliminating the cause of infection in my body could cause such a dramatic improvement in my productivity, could actively caring for my body improve my productivity even more?
I decided upon a simple experiment. As most people in this modern age, I didn’t get enough sleep. I would stay up until late in the night writing or chatting online with friends. As a result I would have to drag myself out of bed each morning and force myself to get to work. Since sleep is essential for health, getting more of it should not only boost my health but increase my productivity as well.
At first it was difficult to train myself to go to bed earlier. It felt as if I was wasting time sleeping instead of doing more important things like writing or cleaning my home. I can sleep when I’m dead, I would tell myself stubbornly when my designated bedtime arrived.
I kept working on my experiment. Since a set bedtime wasn’t helping, I instead started setting my alarm clock a bit earlier. Within a week or so my body would start forcing me to go to bed earlier at night.
I didn’t see much difference at first. I would still be a bit groggy in the mornings as I woke up and began to work. Over time that began to change.
I began to wake up before my alarm each morning, sometimes by several hours. At first I was content to lie there and think but over time I began to get restless. I began hopping out of bed ready to get to work.
I began to feel a restless energy that I hadn’t felt in years. Each time I would feel it surface I would get up and do something. While some of these spurts didn’t last long, others lasted for several hours. Over time, these spurts of energy began to get longer and tiny little health issues I’d attributed to age began to decrease.
My ankles no longer swell painfully after a long shift. My shoulder rarely aches after a busy day scanning purchases. My ability to deal with the daily stress of life has improved. Things that used to upset me are now met with a shrug.
I feel as if I’m doing less yet the evidence around me proves that I’m doing more than ever. My home is cleaner. I write more. I read more books than ever. I even started mowing my own yard instead of hiring others to do it yet I still have time and energy to spare. Even with starting college I now find myself with enough time and energy to get it all done.
And it all started by taking care of me first.
If you find yourself perpetually exhausted and feel as if you don’t have enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, you can improve that situation by making one simple change to your routine:
Get more sleep.
Sleep is like a magic potion to the human body. It allows it to recharge, giving it time to devote to healing and restoration. It can solve problems that the modern medical community cannot even detect, much less repair. Even better, the solution is free.
So go to bed earlier tonight. If like me you have trouble doing that, start by setting your alarm a bit earlier each morning so that your body will force the issue. Take naps whenever you can. This is especially important if you find yourself nodding off whenever you sit down since this is a classic sign of sleep deprivation.
Take one day each week to just rest. You may sleep the entire day away at first (like I did), but over time you will notice that your sleep periods will get shorter and your energy levels begin to climb.
When your energy levels go up, your productivity will follow.
If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend. If you find that you have trouble sleeping, you may want to consider picking up a copy of Set Your Sleep on Autopilot: Learn How to Fall Asleep Fast by Eric West. In this book he compiled a number of very helpful suggestions. I had the honor of contributing my personal method for dealing with insomnia to this book as well. Over the years I’ve revisited this book several times to learn from him and the other contributors so I highly recommend it.