What do you do when you find your energy lagging at work? If you’re like most of us, you reach for a snack or a cup of coffee, check your email or social media, take a few minutes to shop for something you need online, or get up and chat with a colleague about yesterday’s game. It turns out that NONE of those strategies are effective ways to restore vitality. Nor does listening to music, venting to a colleague about a problem, or taking a smoking break. When I share this list in my workshops, audience members often want to know, “what else is there to do?”

Charlotte Fritz, Chak Fu Lam, and Gretchen Spreitzer had interesting results when they studied which work related strategies and micro breaks are most effective for restoring the energy of knowledge workers during the workday. The strategies above, that I refer to as “the bad list,” all involve attempts to change our inner state by ingesting something, whether it be food or drink, media, or even conversation.IMG_2549.JPG

Strategies that brought a sense of greater vitality (“the good list” included the following:

  1. Learn something new
  2. Focus on what gives me joy
  3. Set a new goal
  4. Do something to make a colleague happy
  5. Make time to show gratitude
  6. Seek feedback
  7. Reflect on how a make a difference at work
  8. Reflect on the meaning of work
  9. Meditate

The successful strategies work in a quieter way, helping to refocus our attention and shift our inner state. So the next time you start to run out of gas, rather than reaching into the candy jar or going out into the hall to chat, try jotting down a list of ten things for which you are grateful, thinking about who might be helped by your research, setting a goal for what you’d love to accomplish in the next half-hour, or taking a few minutes to meditate. You’ll be more productive, and likely happier to boot.