You Should Be Dancing, Yeah: At Work

How often do you hit the wall?

It’s 3 o’clock (or 10 o’clock), you haven’t finished half of what you need to accomplish, but fatigue is hitting you like a ton of bricks.

For me, it’s feels like a wave of exhaustion washing over my entire body.

I notice it most when I transition from one thing to the next. I’ll be hyper-focused for hours, running on adrenaline, but when I stop, the wave hits.  It’s not a soft gentle washing wave, for me it’s a big huge surfer wave slamming into my entire body.

We all know the real answers:  adequate sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise and no back-to-back 14 hours days. But for the ambitious among us, there are going to be times when your goals are bigger than your energy.

Until you achieve that Zen, no-stress life, here are three tips to help you avoid hitting the wall, or least deal with it when you do:

1. Take a dance break
Disco Fever might not seem like the best solution to a business problem, but The Journal of Music Therapy, says listening to your favorite music lowers your perception of tension. It doesn’t have to be soft jazz, if Led Zeppelin puts you in a good mood, use it.

According to Peter Quily, an adult Attention Deficit Disorder coach quoted in a recent CNN piece, “music can have positive physiological effects on patients who suffer from adult ADD. Specifically, listening to music can increase dopamine levels in your brain – which in turn can help you focus.”

Our client, G Adventures, equips their inside sales team with headphones that enable team members to start a silent dance party any time they want. When a rep needs an energy boost they hit the button for their personal playlist, anyone not on the phone to a client joins in. It looks weird, a bunch of people in headphones silently rocking out in the middle of an office, but their customer and employee satisfaction scores demonstrate:  It works.

Our office’s energizing playlist includes Abba, the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson. When the stress is high, channeling your inner (younger) Travolta clears your head, and gets the oxygen and blood flowing to help you tackle the next thing.

2. Work in sprints
Instead of slow and steady, you’ll maintain better energy working in 90-minute intense sprints. Nathaniel Kleitman, a groundbreaking sleep researcher calls it the “basic rest-activity cycle.” Kleitman found the 90-minute cycles you progress through the five stages of sleep apply to our days as well. We’re most effective in a 90-minute pattern as we move from higher to lower alertness – the ultradian rhythm.

Pushing past 90 minutes without a break causes heavy fatigue that may be unrecoverable without a good night’s sleep. Taking a break every 90 minutes enables you to get more done.

3. Keep it beautiful
If you’re tired, staring at mess only makes you feel worse. Your physical surroundings affect your energy.

Do yourself a favor; create a beautiful, well-lit workspace on a good day to sustain you on the bad days. For our team that means no mess of black cords trailing over the desk, art on the walls (instead of a thumbtacked to-do list), and a clear desk with a light colored monitor.

Work is hard, but it shouldn’t be soul-sucking awful. Make it beautiful, work in sprints, and remember when the going gets rough maybe, You Should Be Dancing, Yeah.

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