Cbaoth

Keeping your energy levels up when working long hours?

20 posts in this topic

Hi,

I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

Just wondering if I could solicit some advice from members here who have been in similar positions?

- David

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David,

Whether the daily demands/stressors on your body are physical or mental does not matter, they are limited and they draw from the same pool of daily resources.

Lets say that you have a hundred units of energy to give on a daily basis, it does not matter where you spend those units. Once you have spent those units in a mental task they are gone and not reusable for a physical task. Some people have a larger unit size than others, so what you cannot chage that, what you can do is change what you are using those units on.

Whether you are conscious of it or not you are expending those energy units all day long. Even something so small as an air-condidtioner blowing on you all day long puts a demand on your resources as your body uses resources to heat you up if you get to cold. Carrying around excess fat can also put a demand on the body that will draw resources from one's pool also.

Becoming more efficient in all areas of your life and regulating what it is that you allow to put stress on you will eleviate the total demand that you fell. But, when you are spending a huge amount of your resources in one area (just like your money), do not expect to have much left for other areas.

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I am in a similar position to you, as my job has been demanding much more of my time than usual for the past several weeks.

One thing I would suggest is that you make time for daily (or at least 5 days/week) physical exercise. I always find that when I don't do this, I start to feel sluggish all the time, while if I do manage to get in some physical activity every day, I have a higher energy level even if I am using much of what used to be my free time to do my job.

You may have to be creative to squeeze in exercise time if you need to be at work for long hours. If you're a morning person (I'm not!), you can try doing it before you go to work, or maybe at lunchtime if you prefer it that way. What has worked for me (since I generally prefer to work out around happy-hour time) is to leave the office at 6 or 7, work out for an hour, and come back if I need to be there for a late night.

It seems counterintuitive that expending energy will make you feel more energetic, but it does.

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Hi,

I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

Just wondering if I could solicit some advice from members here who have been in similar positions?

I see from your profile that you are 24 years old, so I take it you are at the beginning stages of your career. It is not unusal for a conscientious active-minded person to be so consumed with work, to the exclusion of most everything else. In fact, you are fortunate that early in your career you can get the level of work that is deserving of being so consumed. Assuming you are properly motivated and self-aware, just continue to enjoy yourself and devour your work at will. When you are ready for some refueling, as in art or entertainment, or for even more sustained involvement, like romance, you will probably know.

(Note that this advice is, as I mentioned, based on one being properly motivated and self-aware. Being consumed with work, or other endeavors, can sometimes be just a way of avoiding aspects of one's life which really needs and deserves attention. However, unless there is evidence of just that, I always assume the more positive motivation.)

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Hi,

I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

Just wondering if I could solicit some advice from members here who have been in similar positions?

- David

If you want to look for ways to boost your energy level across a wider range, I highly recommend The Biology of Success by Dr. Bob Arnott.

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I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

That was me for a long time, for some years after I discovered computer programming. (Shoot, it's *still* me a lot of the time :D:) I can't program for 48-72 hours in a row without sleep anymore though.) I'm not sure offhand what to suggest, except that you should definitely make time to get a little exercise (walking is low stress and enjoyable and gets you some sunlight) and you shouldn't just eat junk food, particularly sugar water such as Coke and Mountain Dew. Make time to do something different, sometimes. One good way to take a break within your interests is to look for conferences in another city. If you haven't attended an Objectivist conference, you should give it a try. There are plenty of technical conferences as well. If you're in to computer graphics, few are better than SIGGRAPH. For the programming and business side of computer games, nothing beats the annual Game Development Conference. The goal is to get away from the computer a bit while still doing something interesting, and even to meet people (perhaps even interesting women :) )

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You might try early 20th century music, a lot of is available at dismuke.org for free. That helps me relax alot.

Also you might spend your time planning for your future. That too shouldn't take too much energy.

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I used to work crazy hours and I still do sometimes, and it definitely has an impact on my short term health, and over time on my long term health. At your age, unless you have a condition, you can probably handle it.

What I would advise you though is that you make sure you're adequately rewarded for your work. That is not always the case.

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Hi,

I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

Just wondering if I could solicit some advice from members here who have been in similar positions?

- David

Having been in this situation before, the best advice I can give is to say that if this is work you enjoy, then more power to you: keep doing it and enjoying it. Working hard and then having your efforts succeed is one of the most satisfying things in life. And doing good computer programming work can be quite satisfying; I know many people in this field who have worked long hours too.

I'll also second stellavision's comments about getting a little physical activity being good. Computer programming is fun and satisfying, but it probably doesn't do me any good to be sitting indoors all day. In some programming jobs I've had, some of the little exercise things I've done are....

1) When I'm waiting for the computer to finish doing something, I get up and walk around the building.

2) Instead of waiting to run errands on the way home, when it's dark outside, I'll take a break in the middle of the day and walk to the grocery store, etc. This can also be a good thing to do if I'm temporarily stuck on a problem, or I need to "think things over."

3) Keep healthy "snacks" around - like a bowl of fruit perhaps.

Finally, I like to maximize my contact with competent people and avoid as much as I can those people who are going to, for no good reason, just make my work harder. Having to deal with incompetent people is more draining for me than simply working long hours.

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Finally, I like to maximize my contact with competent people and avoid as much as I can those people who are going to, for no good reason, just make my work harder. Having to deal with incompetent people is more draining for me than simply working long hours.

I'll very strongly second that.

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I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, I am doing something I really enjoy (computer programming) but have found I have lost energy to do much else, my life consists of breakfast, work, dinner, sleep and repeat that process.

Just wondering if I could solicit some advice from members here who have been in similar positions?

My fiancee falls into this sort of pattern often, and she gets out of it sometimes with caffeine. It gives her about four hours of energy-filed wakefulness before bed that she wouldn't have otherwise had. Granted she only uses this option every once in a while, but it's something that really seems to work for her when she opts for it. (Not that caffeine is any kind of new remedy here, but just thought I'd mention it.)

Also, you may be interested in a somewhat related question that Betsy posed to Jonathan Rosman, our Psychology Expert: Click here

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My fiancee falls into this sort of pattern often, and she gets out of it sometimes with caffeine. It gives her about four hours of energy-filed wakefulness before bed that she wouldn't have otherwise had. Granted she only uses this option every once in a while, but it's something that really seems to work for her when she opts for it. (Not that caffeine is any kind of new remedy here, but just thought I'd mention it.)

To be even more precise, I use caffeine pills (1 pill is 200 mg - which is equivalent to a 16 oz cup of coffee). I have been using them infrequently since high school, and like Alex said, they give me 4 very energy-filled hours. One thing you have to be careful of is not using other caffeinated products when you take the pills. If you are a healthy person, with no heart problems, then I recommend caffeine pills. I myself prefer "Pep-Back," as well as "Vivarin."

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I find myself working longer and longer hours lately, [...]

Why? You said that you enjoy the work, but is that the reason you are working longer and longer hours?

Also, what are your highest personal values -- that is, those values you would like to accomplish to some extent on most days of your life?

My three highest values are: my work; my friendships; and my favorite leisure activity. I try to take some steps toward achieving those three highest values every day.

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One thing I would mention is sleep. A good nights sleep can make the world of difference - and a bad nights sleep can leave you irritable, with low energy reserves for the next day - particularly if its a habit.

For this I would recommend darkening your room as much as possible, not eating anything sugary immediately before bed, take measures to reduce ambient noise and perhaps even take some herbal sleeping aid such as Valerian Root. The latter is supposed to bring on sleep quicker, deepen it and allow you to wake up without grogginess the following day in a way prescribed medication doesn't. Perhaps invent some sort of a wind down ritual at the end of the day.

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Wow so many good replies, thank you all,

Ray:

I have a long drive to and from work, so add that onto the high level of mental focus I need for programming and I guess that would account for a large chunk of my energy being drawn into these tasks.

Stephen:

I have been in some form of employment for 10 years, this is my first really mentally taxing job. I am given a fair degree of freedom in the job, this allows me to put all my powers into finding great solutions to difficult problems and I really love being able to do that, hence the desire to put more time and effort into this job. As for my job being an avoidance mechanism for other areas in my life that may be lacking, I would say at the moment that while my living situation outside of work is not ideal (a situation I may not be able to move away from for 6 months or so), I don't use work as some sort of escape from this reality.

KMorrill:

That book looks very interesting, I will definately look at purchasing it.

Oliver:

Being in Western Australia my opportunities are more limited for attending conferences as you mentioned (most of them go to the East, few are held here).

Tommy:

Thanks for link, I love music and it is one area I like to re-charge my batteries so to speak..

Joss:

Financially I am not being rewarded as well as I could be, but the experience I am gaining is more than enough reward.

Jay/stella:

I like to lift weights, but they are usually short sharp sessions twice a week, I will look into more everyday type exercise I can engage in.

Sarah/Alex:

I try to keep my caffeine levels down, I have a coffee or two per day. I have found some negative side-effects when taking elevated levels of caffeine.

Burgess:

Why the longer hours?

I guess the main reason would be, as I have gained more confidence in my abilities in this job, I see more opportunities for me to have a positive impact on the organization I work for. With more opportunities come more work.

My highest personal values?

I would say productive work and personal development.

Charles:

I am generally out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow and I don't wake very often during the night.

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Why the longer hours?

I guess the main reason would be, as I have gained more confidence in my abilities in this job, I see more opportunities for me to have a positive impact on the organization I work for. With more opportunities come more work.

My highest personal values?

I would say productive work and personal development.

I have two more questions that might help, long-term:

1. What do you do for "refueling"? The fictional character Howard Roark spent time with his many friends, and he loved to swim. Ayn Rand spent time with a variety of friends, "worked" on her stamp collection, and listened to her favorite music. (See Facets of Ayn Rand by Mary Ann and Charles Sures, at The Ayn Rand Bookstore.) I spend time with my few, but very rewarding friends, and I "rove" -- either physically by walking or bicycling, or mentally by reading adventure stories. All these activities are refueling. Everyone needs refueling. Petrol tanks run empty unless refueled.

2. Do you have a healthy diet? What gives me the highest sustainable level of energy is a "gatherer's" diet: mostly vegetables, fruit, and wholesome starches, but also including very small amounts of certain kinds of meat. When I say "sustainable," I am referring to a period of years, not just hours.

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If you will allow me to slip from the main subject a bit.

I would not recommend more exercise, at least not exercise as I define it. Exercise as I define it is activity of a demanding, intense nature to cause a positive physical adaptation. Because of the nature of intense activity it cannot be done for long or oftern. To stimulate this positive adaptation means using a large amount of resources to get to the level where one can actually create a catalyst for change. This does not happen from doing activities that are well within one's resources of obtaining.

Unstead, I would recommend recreational activities in line with what Burgess recommends, spending time with friends, seeing a movie, reading a book or walking. Walking is not very physiclly demanding for most but can create a large mental benefit or refueling. Recreational activities allow a person to relax the mind and think in different areas other than their primary career thoughts. When a person comes back to their career work, I have found, they are remotivated or refueled.

Exercise has a specific nature to it, that being the catalyst to cause change. Once you have stimulated the change stay out of the gym until the process of systematic adaptation ends, it takes longer than most think. Exercise is a means to an end, that end being an enhanced body so that it can enhance one's life.

Unlike so many people think exercise does not create energy it takes energy in the form of your adaptative energy that can never be replaced. There are hormonal reasons why people might feel better when doing exercise but that does not mean it is always physically beneficial.

(I will not answer questions on this thread about exercise and energy, this is Cbaoth's thread. For anyone that cares they can send me a PM, start a new thread or check into a lot of my other writings on stress or exercise.)

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Burgess:

To refuel I like to play guitar and piano and listen to music. I play Golf on weekends and some hobbyist out of work programming is also on the list. I'm not much of a socializer and find that more draining that uplifting.

As far as diet goes, I eat a reasonable amount of meat, but it is usually accomponied by a fair portion of vegetables. I try to stay away from too many simple carbs.

Ray:

I am very interested in hearing more on exercise and energy.

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Cbaoth,

I would recommend that you first read these two threads;

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=330

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=555

If after reading these two threads you have any further questions, feel free to ask. I have also learned more in both areas over the last year since I originally wrote those two threads, so there is more information when you are ready.

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I would recommend going to a doctor, perhaps specifically a psychiatrist, and seeing what they might recommend. Of course, diet, excercise, and sleep habits are essential-- and spiritual "re-fueling" is important too. But there really are some great drugs out there which are much less addictive and more specific than caffine, and which might have less adverse side effects. I've been on adderol (an amphetimine for ADD) and effexor (an anti-depressant) off and on for a while. Besides helping me stay awake, these drugs tend to help me stay motivated/organized so that I'm more efficient while awake, and stay happy so that I'm more active during the day and can therefore sleep better at night. Neither are terribly addictive, and they don't make me jittery.

But everyone's body chemistry and situation is different. If it can improve your life, and especially if you have medical insurance, I think it's definitely worth a trip see what a qualified Doctor might have to say-- for anyone in a situation like this.

To be even more precise, I use caffeine pills (1 pill is 200 mg - which is equivalent to a 16 oz cup of coffee). I have been using them infrequently since high school, and like Alex said, they give me 4 very energy-filled hours. One thing you have to be careful of is not using other caffeinated products when you take the pills. If you are a healthy person, with no heart problems, then I recommend caffeine pills. I myself prefer "Pep-Back," as well as "Vivarin."

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