How to Have More Energy (Part 1) covered:
Here’s part 2:
Physical energy is boosted through diet and exercise.
For boosting physical energy, the quality of the food you eat isn’t too important. Most people have a reasonable idea of what’s good and bad for their health. Just follow your common sense.
The times and frequencies that you eat aren’t all that important either. Eat six small meals spread throughout the day, eat three square meals, it doesn’t matter which. The only important thing is that you don’t eat too much or too little because this will reduce your physical energy. Eat slowly and stop once you’re satisfied. Don’t feel the need to continue eating past this point just to finish everything in front of you. It’s better to throw the remaining food away or save it for later than to gorge yourself.
As for coffee, I recommend restricting yourself to 1-2 cups of coffee a day and to drink all of it before mid-day. More than this, you start getting diminishing returns. Drinking coffee past mid-day prevents your body from being able to adequately rest at the end of the day.
Refer to my “A Guide to Doing All-Nighters” blog post for how to use coffee when you need to do an all-nighter.
Exercise is the main method of expending physical energy. Push yourself hard during exercise sessions, and rest sufficiently between sessions to boost your physical energy.
I recommend weight lifting to accomplish this because of its simplicity and effectiveness. Bodyweight exercises are comparatively complex and tricky to increase difficulty, but they provide a convenient, cheaper, more time efficient physical training method.
(Blog post series on effective bodyweight training for engineers coming soon)
Competitive athletes can go through Central Nervous System (CNS) fatigue if they train too hard without enough rest. They feel weakness, muscle and joint soreness, headaches, exhaustion, and illness.
They also feel their mental and emotional energy suffer:
CNS fatigue is actually a good thing because you’ve accomplished the heavy use part of energy cultivation. Next step is to rest. Take about a week off from any training and follow the rest instructions I gave back in Part 1. You’re physical energy will build back up stronger than before, and you’re mental and emotional energy will be restored.
I consider intellect to be a measure of your mental energy. Naturally intelligent people have unintentionally learned the habits and lifestyle choices that generate high mental energy.
Mental energy is cultivated through regularly performing tasks requiring concentration, memorization, and the application of knowledge toward solving problems, then allowing for proper rest.
College students don’t have to do anything else other than study, do homework, complete projects, join clubs and organizations that can give them marketable credentials and skills, and look for internships/full time jobs. Refer to my “Working Hard vs. Working Smart” blog post for mental energy overuse prevention.
For non-students, reading books is one of the most effective ways of boosting mental energy. Articles on the internet, such as this one, are written with readability in mind. They have short sentences, short paragraphs, and heavily use of bolding and/or colored font. Books have little to none of these readability techniques, making them more mentally demanding to read.
If you own a smartphone, there are free jigsaw puzzle apps available for download. Solving jigsaw puzzles is a great way to exercise mental energy.
Read for 30-60 minutes and solve one jigsaw puzzle a day.
Now, you may not want to hear this, but using your phone, watching TV or YouTube videos, and browsing social media is NOT rest. Those activities still take a degree of mental effort, and it creates the illusion of work in your mind. You’re not adequately resting and regaining mental energy.
The best way to rest and regain mental energy specifically is to not use electronic devices and do very brief exercise. Unlike with physical energy, the purpose of exercise in this case is to boost mental energy. Human beings evolved to associate physical movement with a need for alertness and awareness. During prehistoric times, humans were idle and at rest whenever possible. They only moved when running away from a predatory animal, when hunting, or fighting someone. Movement = greater mental energy.
Brief, mildly intense exercise like jogging in place, some jumping jacks, and stretching will be enough movement to regain mental energy; there’s no need to physically push yourself beyond this. There are also free downloadable mobile apps for brief seven minute workouts that are great for restoring mental energy. Here’s the one I use:
The result of excessive mental energy use is burnout. If you’re an engineering student, you’ve likely felt burnout. You’re unable to concentrate, memorize, or effectively apply your knowledge to solving the problems in front of you. Burnout also reduces your physical, emotional and spiritual energy:
Just like CNS fatigue, burnout is a good thing since it accomplishes the heavy use stage of energy cultivation. All you need to do next is rest by following the rest instructions in part 1.
Emotional energy consists of positive emotions (compassion, vigor, joy, motivation, enthusiasm) and negative emotions (rage, jealousy, depression). Positive emotions boost your emotional energy and negative emotions strain it. Negative emotions strain emotional energy, just like weight lifting strains physical energy and studying or reading strain mental energy. Emotional energy is boosted from enduring and overcoming negative emotions and intentionally bringing out positive emotions.
Emotional energy control is accomplished through:
You may not have absolute control over the first part. So, you should focus on the second and third parts as much as possible.
Fostering physical wellness (rigorous exercise, eating correctly), having mentally engaging hobbies (reading books, solving jigsaw puzzles), and proper rest can significantly improve your emotional energy by fostering positive emotions and diminishing negative ones. It especially strengthens your ability to overcome negative emotions and bring out positive ones.
You should also become friends with the right people. The people surrounding you can heavily influence whether you regain emotional energy or expend it. Would you rather be friends with Andy, or someone who doesn’t look and act like they’re suffering from lifetime constipation? Who’s more likely to make you feel better after a five minute conversation? Surround yourself with people who help foster positive emotions and motivation in you.
“But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
For boosting energy, spiritual energy is the overall direction, purpose and control you have over your life. A lack of direction, purpose and control lowers spiritual energy. A clearly defined purpose and control over your life boosts spiritual energy.
Victor Frankl is a renowned psychologist, neurologist and Holocaust survivor. Based on his experiences at the Nazi concentration camps, the survivors had a greater purpose and goal in their lives, like seeing their family and loved ones again. The prisoners who were weaker, sicklier, and more likely to die didn’t have a greater purpose.
I can’t tell you what your direction and purpose should be. This is something only you can decide for yourself, and it’ll be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. I can tell you that once you’ve found your direction, your overall energy will become much higher. You’ll feel stronger, you’re mind will sharpen, you’ll experience more positive emotions, you’ll be more motivated, and you’ll gain a greater sense of control over your life.
It could be a great father to your kids, lose 100 lbs of fat, become financially secure and never worry about money again in your life, become the next Elon Musk, etc.
I see willpower as reserve energy for emergencies when you’re drained but still need to keep going. When you’re burned out but need to continue studying for a final exam, you’re using willpower. When you’re running a marathon, nearly at the end and completely exhausted, you’re using willpower to finish.
Willpower is a finite source. Never be wholly rely on it. Most of the runners in a marathon could all be well-trained athletes, except one untrained, overweight man. His energy will only get him to a tenth of the way, and his willpower is only going to get him to finish maybe a quarter before it all runs out.
The best way to cultivate willpower is to rely on it as little as possible. The more often you rely on willpower, the less you’ll have overall. You should rely on your base energy 99% of the time, and use your willpower for those infrequent emergencies that occur every now and then.
You have access to one more source of energy. Even though it’s reliant on other people, you’ll almost always have abundant access to it. It’s not bound by the requirements of heavy use and rest; it’s limitless. It can lead to great creation and accomplishment, or destruction and failure. Either you control it or it controls you: sexual energy.
That may come as a surprise. You may not have ever thought of it in this way, but think about it: sex may be the biggest motivating factor to men, especially young men.
This is the reason why coaches and trainers forbid their athletes from sex in the days before a major game. If you can hold off on wasting your sexual energy, you can have access to a limitless well of motivation and inspiration.
My “21 Years Old or Older Guy, Never Had a Girlfriend, Why That’s Okay” blog post goes into greater detail on this topic.
If there’s one thing you get out of this blog post, make it this:
Don’t be like Andy. You’ll be happier, the people around you will be happier, you’ll be more likely to be successful, and you drastically reduce your chances of dying of a heart attack in your fifties.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you haven’t already, subscribe to my free newsletter.
All the best,