How to Boost Your Energy on the Job

How to Boost Your Energy on the Job

By Carmine Gallo / BusinessWeek
Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:24 AM ET


The leaders featured in this weekly column are typically those who have
the ability to energize their employees, customers, and colleagues by
the way they communicate. But in addition to the specific language they
use, the most inspiring leaders have an unusually high level of energy.
Where do they find the energy to work 12 hours a day, travel around the
globe, and still knock a one-hour presentation out of the park? Here
are the three common factors that they share.

Energized leaders get sleep. On the eve of his Presidential
inauguration, Ronald Reagan gave explicit instructions to his staff
that he not be awakened before a certain time. President Jimmy Carter
called at 7 a.m. to discuss some issues prior to handing over power and
was told Reagan was sleeping and could not be disturbed. Carter was
incredulous, but Reagan had a point. He wanted to be fully rested for
the most important speech — or presentation — of his life.

The right amount of sleep for your body (whether it’s four hours or
eight hours; not everyone’s the same) can make the difference in how
you come across. Be honest with yourself, find out how many hours are
ideal for you and guard that time as best you can. Don’t compare
yourself to others. If you hear that Oprah only needs four hours of
sleep, don’t think you’ll be successful by getting by on less just like
her. You’ll probably get the opposite result.

It’s critical in a presentation to exceed the audience’s energy
level slightly. It might be fine for the guy across the conference
table to be dragging a bit because he stayed up later than usual, but
it’s not fine for the presenter. You owe it yourself to avoid sleep
deprivation. According to brain research scientist, John Medina: "Loss
of sleep hurts attention, working memory, mood, quantitative skills,
logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity." In his book Brain Rules,
Medina highlighted a NASA study that showed a 26-minute nap improved a
pilot’s performance by 34%. Sleep on it.

Energized leaders get off their behinds. In 2003, CBS hired me to
cover the first one hundred days of the Schwarzenegger administration
in California. I had a front row seat to many of the Governor’s
speeches and presentations. Schwarzenegger had more energy than many on
his staff half his age. I learned that, despite putting his
bodybuilding days long behind him, Schwarzenegger still worked out 90
minutes a day, six days a week, combining aerobic activity and strength
training. It was a turning point for me. Although I have always been
committed to physical fitness, I found excuses for skipping a jog or
workout — like many people. The observation forced me to ask myself,
if Schwarzenegger could work out for 90 minutes a day and still find
time to run the world’s fifth largest economy, what excuse do I have?

I soon found that most of the successful leaders I interviewed were
fanatical about exercise. When I spoke to Google (NasdaqGS:GOOG – News)
Vice-President Marissa Mayer, I learned that she hits the Google gym
after a very long day, usually after 8 p.m. Starbucks (NasdaqGS:SBUX –
News) CEO Howard Schultz takes a bike ride before getting into the
office at 6 a.m., and Cisco CEO John Chambers is an avid jogger,
usually getting in a long run while rehearsing a presentation in his
mind. Exercise sends oxygen rich blood to the brain, promoting clarity
and energy. Inspiring leaders cannot afford not to work out.

Energized leaders have a relentlessly positive outlook. When Norman
Vincent Peal wrote The Power of Positive Thinking, he couldn’t have
known that a sports marvel by the name of Tiger Woods would take a
positive mental attitude to the nth degree. "The road to failure is
paved with negativity," Woods wrote in How I Play Golf. "If you think
you can’t do something, chances are you won’t be able to. Conversely,
the power of positive thinking can turn an adverse situation into a
prime opportunity for heroism."

Find me a successful and energetic leader in any field and I’ll show
you a person who is relentlessly positive. Emotional stress — which is
often self-imposed — takes a toll on your energy, filling your mind
with clutter that interferes with your pitch or presentation.

The positive psychology movement has taught us that thinking
optimistically has a dramatic effect on our moods. A positive mood will
raise your energy, give power to your words, and boost your
professional presence. Using positive language when talking to yourself
releases powerful endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, in your brain.
These are same type of chemicals released during exercise. Do you see
the connection? By getting more sleep, more exercise, and thinking more
uplifting thoughts, your energy will soar. Your colleagues and
customers will notice.

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