I have written plenty of articles on productivity and I have read thousands.

I’ve read articles, books, guides…pretty much anything you can think of, but I’ve noticed there’s something that gets skipped over a lot.

This is probably the most important part of productivity, yet it’s usually mentioned in a sentence or two and then forgotten.

What is this mysterious piece of the puzzle? I’m glad you asked, let me tell you…

Your Energy

That’s it. The most important element of your productivity is your energy level. Without energy, nothing gets done.

Most of the time this gets dismissed by a simple “of course, you need to eat right and exercise” or something along those lines. That’s not enough. This is a vital aspect. Seriously.

How can you utilize the latest productivity hack or advice if you don’t even have the energy to get off the couch?

Now I didn’t write this to only tell you what the problem is; I’m going to give you the solution too…

Chris Bailey conducted a year of productivity experiments.

In his findings he realized that all of the productivity advice he consumed and wrote about over the course of that year could be categorized into three areas:

  • Time
  • Attention
  • Energy
Productivity energy

Of course we have to have the time to do what needs to be done. And your level of attention is directly related to your level of energy.

Now that I have your time and attention (see what I did there)…I’d like to dive straight in and tell you what you need to know about increasing your energy levels, because without energy, productivity advice is useless.

Energy is Not All About Sleep

Energy has less to do with sleep than you may think. Sure, you need to get enough sleep and try to plan your sleep around your sleep cycles (about 90 minutes each), which means sleeping in multiples of 90 minutes (ex: 6 hours, 7.5 hours, 9 hours). You’ll also want to limit your caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before bed and make sure you have a good mattress.

Other than that, your energy is about how you live your day.

New research suggests that exercise can fight fatigue better than taking naps and sleeping more. Exercise boosts your energy levels. If you wake up feeling tired, try going for a walk or doing some jumping jacks, then see how you feel. Trust me, it works.

In studies where groups have tried exercising vs. not exercising when tired, the first group was shown to have more energy. I think this sums up the typical thought process against exercising when tired:

“Too often we believe that a quick workout will leave us worn out — especially when we are already feeling fatigued,” said researcher Tim Puetz, in a news release. Dr. Puetz recently completed his doctorate at the university and is the lead author of the study. “However, we have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy — particularly in sedentary individuals.”

There you have it. Exercise is key to more energy. But that’s not all. Your diet is equally, if not more important. Enough with the studies, research and quotes from the docs…here are several ways to increase your energy:

  1. Strategize your caffeine consumption, instead of overdoing it
  2. Exercise first thing in the morning, even if only for a few minutes
  3. Drink lots of water, especially right after you wake up
  4. Keep early morning meals light; think smoothies, fruit and vegetables
  5. Consume less heavy carbs (ex: white bread/flour, simple sugars, etc.)
  6. Don’t hit the snooze button, it will only make you feel more groggy
  7. When all else fails, take a nap or tie this in with #1 and take a coffee nap

If you really want to take your productivity seriously and get stuff done, you need to work on increasing your energy levels. Sleep right, eat right and exercise. That’s really what it’s all about. Even if you work a desk job, you can still get up and take a walk every couple hours. That will bring some energy back to your day.

As far as eating right goes, I personally know that I feel better than ever when I am eating a Paleo based diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and meat. No heavy grains, heavy starches or simple sugars. That works for me; find what works for you. Likewise, a green smoothie can give you the same boost as a cup of coffee. And remember to plan your meals around your productivity.

If you want to be productive, focus on your energy.