I’ve long admired people who have boundless energy.
Let’s face it—in life, the highest energy wins.
Who doesn’t like the life of a party?
Yet, most people just apply caffeine to cope with their low energy level.
As an engineer who treats my life as a grand experiment, here are 33 rituals and tools I’ve tested and used every day to help me optimize my energy level.
These are strategies that help me be my optimal self in all aspects of my life.
Here you go:
1. Meditation with Calm.com
First thing when I get up in the morning, I use the calm.com app to meditate. As a beginner, I just count my breaths as naturally as I can—“1…2…3…”—and whenever I notice that my mind drifts off to la-la land, I start over. This practice helps me to be more present and focused.
I learned this technique from Dave Asprey. It sounded gross before I tried it but it tastes no different than heavy cream. And it gives me sustainable energy without the caffeine crash.
I take Vitamin D and fish oil gels. The difference in my energy with them or without them is like night and day.
4. Foam Roller
Rolling on these foam rollers helps me be more aware of the hidden tension in my body. “Rolling out” is a good way to prep my body before I start to lift heavy weights.
Richard Branson once said the #1 ritual he does every day to fuel his entrepreneurial career is exercise. I couldn’t agree more. Without it, I feel lethargic and negative; with it, I am ready for anything.
Over time, I have tested a variety of movements at different intensities. What works best for me are the big three complex movements (squats, deadlifts, and bench press) at 5×3 (5 reps and 3 sets).
If I’m short on time, I’ll do either stationary bicycle (1 minute as hard as I can, 1 minute rest, counting the difference in heartbeats between sets) and do 5 sets or Versa Climber machine (5 minutes)
6. Shave and Shower Routine @ the Gym
One thing that works for me to help trick myself into exercising consistently is to use the gym to shower and shave before the day starts. It sounds funny, but having the razors and shaving cream there ready for me motivates me to go to the gym Monday to Friday.
7. Cold Showers
There are many benefits of cold showers. I’ve been taking daily cold showers for nearly 2 years. Though I can’t verify the biochemical stimulation, I can tell you that it gives me more energy and makes me feel more manly.
On my way back from the gym, I say my declarations (aka incantations) every day in my car. Example here.
9. Vocal Exercises
After my declarations, I practice Roger Love’s vocal exercises in the car. I don’t do it because I aspire to be a professional singer (though I like singing), but rather because my brain interprets singing and speaking as the same. By doing these exercises, I warm up and strengthen my vocal cords for the day.
10. Reciting Energizing Speeches
One of the weird tricks I use to energize myself is to borrow the energy from a world class orator. Whether it’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech or Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, I find myself to be more energized and persuasive after a brief session channeling great speakers in my car. =)
11. Green Shakes
When I was younger I dreamed that one day we’d be able to take a pill and be full for the day. For the most part I care only about sustenance rather than taste. Therefore, when I came across the concept of blending your greens/carbs/proteins into one power shake, I was immediately smitten and haven’t looked back since. Here is one recipe for a power energy shake: frozen kale, frozen blueberries, yerba mate tea, maca powder, chocolate protein powder, cacao nibs, and oatmeal. Blend everything with a high-powered blender and put it in mason jars. Try it before you knock it.
12. Saying Hello to Strangers
The simple gesture of saying “good morning” and “hello” makes me feel good, even if people don’t respond in kind. Try it.
13. Sunny Surroundings
I am fortunate to live in Southern California, one of the few places with Mediterranean weather all year long. Being in the sun lifts mood and triggers the production of Vitamin D.
14. Limit Sugar Intake
I love sugar, but sugar (natural or otherwise) has a predictable effect on my energy level. I may be bouncing off the wall for 10 minutes—but then insulin kicks in and I crash and get sleepy. So unless I am ready to endure the consequences, I do my best to limit my sugar intake.
15. 10-Minute Power Naps
After a meal, when my insulin kicks in, I often get sleepy. Rather than fighting the urge for 20 minutes, I just turn on Calm.com and close my eyes for 10 minutes. The short rest has quite a refreshing effect.
16. Nurture Positive Relationships
Life goes by quickly if you don’t pay attention. Often we assume the important relationships we have can withstand the test of time so we only nurture them during special occasions. Each day is a gift, so rather than waiting for special events, why not set aside 15 minutes a day to nurture those relationships?
17. Fixed Meals
People spend a lot of energy every day thinking about what they want to eat. Monday through Friday I eat for sustenance, so I prep my meals and put them in box containers. Whenever I get hungry, I just pull out a lunch box. No energy required.
18. Drink Water with Lemon
People who are into water would tell you that acidic water is not good for you and that alkaline water is better. I don’t really care about that. But water with lemon tastes better and compels me to drink more water every day. This is one of those energy hacks I never knew I’d like until I tested it.
19. 5-Minute Favors
I learned this technique from my friend Adam Rifkin, the most connected hacker in Silicon Valley. Much like the “Getting Things Done” philosophy, if someone asks you to do a favor that would take less than 5 minutes to do, just go ahead and do it so you don’t need to burden your mind with remembering these tiny tasks. Whether it’s an introduction, a recommendation, or a quick conversation, I am happy to do these 5-minute favors for my friends. The cumulative satisfaction and goodwill gained is immeasurable.
Research shows that our attention budget is limited. Yet we work super-long hours while expecting sustainable output throughout the day. The Pomodoro technique is a simple technique that has me work in 50-minute chunks (with a 10-minute break). This way I can compartmentalize my attention for tasks and breaks.
21. White Noise in the Background
I find noise to be extremely distracting. Because I’m not always able to control the noise level of my surroundings (people talking or the coffee machine or crying babies), the next best thing I can do is use white noise to drown out the distracting noise. My favorite place is noisli.com because I can formulate the noise(s) just the way I like it.
22. Block Website Addiction
I love Facebook and I love checking my analytics dashboard and I love viral videos. So unless I interrupt my behavior myself, I’d go on this infinite loop while thinking that I am being productive. Here’s the most effective tool I’ve found to disrupt my infinite loop—use the SelfControl app to block these sites for any specific number of minutes or hours. This way I just make the decision once—set it and forget it—and remain distraction-free for the duration of my focus session.
23. Long Walks in Nature
There is something spiritual about having long walks in nature. But spirituality aside, it allows me to step away from the noise and get a little bit of silence, and that silence and space is often where good ideas come from.
24. Appreciation Journal
I had heard over and over again that keeping a gratitude journal is a good practice, not only making us more present to what we have but also creating a stronger spiritual connection to the universe. In spite of knowing the benefits, I never kept it up for more than 30 days—until someone else reframed “gratitude” to “appreciation.” For me to be grateful, it needs to be significant. But I can be appreciative of every little thing. Counting my appreciations everyday has been training my spirituality and making me feel more blessed every day.
25. Idea Journal
Like any other muscle, if you want your idea muscle to be stronger you’ll want to exercise it. On the flip side of my appreciation journal, I write some new ideas I come up with every day. This list could consist of new ideas of any kind—from headlines to recipes, products, businesses, etc. The more you work out your ideation muscle the better you’ll be at coming up with good ideas.
26. “What do you like about your life?”
We all see certain people all the time (for example, the woman who checks you into the gym) but we usually don’t have the curiosity to go further than “Hello” or “Have a nice day.” And if you ask the default question, “How are you?” you’ll get a predictable answer—“Good!” I have found that asking the simple question “What do you like about your life?” not only reminds people how good life really is but is also innocuous enough that people aren’t threatened by it and are willing to connect.
27. Set PERMA Goals
One idea I learned from “Flourish” is to set PERMA goals. Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, and Accomplishment. If every day you check off at least one to-do list task in each of those categories, it’s hard not to feel energized.
28. Use Trello to Manage Project Goals
I used to rely on my head to remember everything. And much like an echo chamber, the more I tried to remember, the noisier my head was. Now, I just brain-dump everything into Trello and organize all my tasks and projects there—and reserve my brain for things that require higher mental cycles.
29. Use nvALT to Take Daily Notes
I am constantly learning, and rather than keeping my thoughts and notes in random places. I use nvALT to keep them altogether—searchable and sortable by date. Some people use Evernote to do the same, but for my purposes nvALT is simpler.
30. Set a Bedtime Alarm
Since I have so much energy, if I don’t set an alarm, I’ll just screw around until 3AM doing a lot of nothing and ruin my next day. Setting an alarm for my bedtime reminds me to shut everything off and start my evening rituals.
31. Sleep in Absolute Darkness
If you want energy during the day, you need to pay attention to your sleep. Sleep time is recovery time for your body and your brain. The better quality sleep you get, the faster you’ll be able to recover. Since our body has light sensors on the skin, I prefer to sleep in absolute darkness. That means no blinking lights from electronic devices or carbon monoxide sensors or ambient light from the outside.
32. Sleep with Earplugs and an Eye Mask
I prefer to sleep in a pristine environment with absolutely no noise or light. With the added insulation from earplugs and an eye mask, I sleep like a baby—and often wake up without needing an alarm at all.
33. Use Sleep Cycle as My Alarm
Blaring noise, though effective, makes me wake up with in a bad mood and with a throbbing headache. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock is a godsend because it wakes you up when at the time when you are in the lightest sleep phase (based on your REM cycles). Waking up with soothing music during your lightest sleep will help you kickstart a beautiful day.
There you have it: 33 tools and rituals I use every day to optimize my physical, emotional, spiritual, and creative energy levels.
I’d love to know what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.
Write me at ck at cklin.org I’d love to hear from you.