Sometimes it can feel like your daily life has become habitual. You can enter a phase where things feel monotonous, you feel disconnected from everything, or, as Tom Rath would phrase it, you are far from being fully charged. Being fully charged means you are getting more done. You are putting meaning into everything you do and you feel engaged with life. You have positive interactions with those around you, and you take care of yourself. But how do you get to a point where you feel fully charged? Below are some tips from Tom Rath’s latest book, ‘Are You Fully Charged?’
Improve Your Motivation Towards Work
Make Work a Purpose
If you change your mentality of looking at how you view work, you can change your life tremendously. It is important to think of work not only as a place you go to, but as a purpose you have in life. If you focus on the meaning in your job, you will feel better about your job.
As Rath says, “the future of work lies in redefining it as doing something that makes a difference each day. Work is a purpose, not a place.” By focusing on the purpose of your work, you will improve your sense of meaning and enjoyment with your work.
Focus on Intrinsic Motivations
One of the most important things to note when changing your mindset is to focus on internal motivators, instead of external motivators, such as money. Rath advises trying to “find activities outside of work that appeal to your intrinsic motivation. One study found that employees who were encouraged to engage in creative activities unrelated to work, such as creative writing or other artistic endeavors, subsequently performed better on the job.”
Focusing on money as the external motivator is even worse because of the negative effects on your work. Studies have shown that even the very act of thinking about money can cause you to value your own interests above the collective good, and a University of Minnesota study found that when people think about money, they were three times as likely to want to work alone as opposed to in a group.
Moral of the story? Find your meaning within, whether it’s through remembering how you are able to help the community through your job, or how much joy you get from the work you do. Not only will this help you find meaning, but you are likely to perform better at your job.
Busy ≠ Meaningful
Another tip I took from ‘Are You Fully Charged?’ and potentially the most important was the notion that being busy does not mean you are making meaningful progress. As the analogy Rath gives says, “if a mouse runs on a wheel for 12 hours in a row, it will have been ‘very busy’ the entire day, yet it will have gone nowhere and achieved nothing.” Work smarter, not harder.
Equally important is taking breaks, something I personally struggle with. The advice Rath gives based on multiple studies is that for every 45 minutes of work, you should take 15 minutes off to give your brain time to recharge. Even better is if for the 15 minutes you have no screen time, and do something like take a walk instead.
Network and Maintain Meaningful Relationships
Talk to New People
Whenever possible, get to know new people. Whether at work or waiting in line for coffee, make an effort to talk to those around you. While it can seem scary at first, talking to someone you’ve never met before is one of the best ways to get to know people and make friends you might of not had otherwise.
If you aren’t sure how to approach someone, or strike up a conversation, Rath recommends asking them questions, especially those of a positive nature. And when in doubt, ask them to talk about themselves. Approximately 40% of daily speech consists of people telling others what they think and feel, and people tend to favor those that let them talk about themselves.
Put Your Time In
An important note Rath makes about interactions is that while talking to new people is important, putting time and effort into existing relationships is equally important. While building new interactions and relationships is important, if you don’t focus on improving the relationships you already have, you are missing out.
Relationships are very important, especially in the work environment. Studies have shown that people who have ‘best friend’-caliber relationships at work are up to seven times as likely to be engaged with their jobs. While it can take up to a year to shift a working relationship into a true friendship, whenever possible make the effort to get close to colleagues.
Stay Active in Life and Work
The Importance of Movement
Rath spends an entire section of his book talking about the importance of energy, and putting your health first. Much like the oxygen masks on airplanes that drop down in case of an emergency, the reality of life is that you can’t help others to your fullest potential if you don’t help yourself first.
One of the most important aspects of personal health Rath talks about is the importance of exercise. As Rath says, “being active throughout the day is the key to staying energized.” You think better when you move. And while it is important to work out as a regular and consistent basis, it is also important to incorporate movement in your day. So when you are taking your 15 minute breaks every 45 minutes, consider going on a short walk, even if it is just around your office. By getting your blood moving, you will get your brain pumping.
Put Experiences First
A point Rath makes that I couldn’t agree with more was the importance of valuing experiences over objects when it comes to spending money. As Rath says, “there is no better use of your financial resources than to spend them on meaningful experiences with other people. This may be the single most important discovery about how to use money effectively.”
A potential reason why? When you purchase an experience you get more than just the time spent doing the particular activity. Studies show that the anticipation adds to the value of the experience, as do the memories you have from experiences. Both of these add to the happiness of the spender, making the happiness delivered from experiences far outweigh the happiness people get from materialistic goods.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Get Your Zzz’s
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of health is the importance of sleep. And while influential figures like Arianna Huffington are trying to bring more awareness to the necessity of getting a good amount of sleep, the average American gets only 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep. By contrast, a study tracking elite performers found that those most successful got an average of 8 hours and 36 minutes of sleep.
There are serious dangers around not getting enough sleep. Rath points out that “one study suggests that losing 90 minutes of sleep can reduce daytime alertness by nearly one-third,” and another says that four hours of sleep loss causes as much impairment as drinking an entire six-pack of beer.
Another issue? Using electronics before bed. While this might not impact the amount of hours you sleep, it will negatively impact the quality of the sleep you get. The light from electronic devices suppresses your melatonin levels up to 20%, so to get the best night’s sleep turn off to put aside your devices an hour or more before heading to bed.
Stop the Stress
Stress can also have negative effects. While some stress is good for your body, experiencing it in excess is not. To combat situations where you get frustrated quickly and want to lash out, force yourself to take a breath. Even a couple of seconds can help you get yourself under control, and respond to a situation in a more calm way. Practicing techniques like meditation can also come in handy here!
Another trick to dealing with stress is to force yourself to smile. In a study that all but proves faking it until you make it works, participants were asked to hold a pencil in their mouths, forcing them to smile. Even though not all participants reported feeling happy before, holding a smile for a minute led to real returns – people reported feeling happier, and felt more apt to deal with stressful situations.
An important way to be fully charged is to not focus solely on yourself though. When possible, give back. Studies have shown that donating to charity increases well-being across the board – even with people who reported having trouble securing food for their own family.
And on an economic standpoint, giving back ends up helping yourself. In certain studies an interesting phenomenon occurred. For every dollar given away, it was associated with an additional income of $3.75 in the future. And for people that volunteer their time or donate blood, they too were likely to make more income in the future. So if you don’t want to give back for others, at the very least give back for your own well being.
Are You Fully Charged?
Make sure to ask yourself how charged you feel on a regular basis? Are you feeling like your life is full of meaning, like you have great interacts with people, and like you have energy? By focusing on these three aspects of life, you can set yourself up to approach the day a bit better, feeling more fully charged.