Why You Feel Tired After Work — and Other Men Don’t

hippo sprawled face down on sand

You want to do more in life.

A fact that becomes painfully obvious when your coworker Erik talks about all his adventures outside of work.

He gets out to the mountains, makes it to his girls’ games and recitals, volunteers at a local animal shelter, runs marathons, plays classical guitar…

You can’t help but feel a mix of curiosity and jealousy at how much this guy does.

That’s because there’s usually not enough gas left in the tank to pursue your personal aspirations. Sometimes all you can do is come home, watch Netflix, and eat cheese — making up lame excuses why you can’t meet up with the guys for a bike ride.

Here’s the thing…

You manage your energy like an adult. Taking vitamins, eating veggies, getting enough sleep, keeping a positive attitude, exercising… putting butter in your coffee (and if that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is).

Why isn’t that enough? Why do you still feel tired after work?

Shouldn’t you have the energy to take your boys down to the park or go with your wife to that art opening in the city? To hit the gym, wash the car, and do some reading?

How do guys like Erik do it? Are they genetic freaks, sent to Earth to make mortal men feel inadequate?

Or maybe they’ve discovered a secret…

The Illusion of Doing All The Right Things

blurry man in a field
Photo by Fares Hamouche

You need to know something before we move on.

There’s a deeper reason you’re hitting the wall that has nothing to do with a lack of effort or ability on your part.

You’re trying. All that stuff you’re doing matters. You have what it takes.

But, here’s the thing…

There’s an important truth they didn’t teach you in school or tell you about on your first day at the job. No, it’s not a conspiracy to keep you in the dark. They probably didn’t know either.

In fact, most people don’t.

What I’m talking about is the collective illusion we operate under. A cognitive bias specific to our modern, Western, analytical mind that keeps us from seeing the subtle, interconnected dynamics of life.

We see the waves on the ocean’s surface, but don’t grasp the movement of the waters below.

This lens we see the world through—one that we unknowingly inherited from our family, friends, and society — causes us to act out of harmony with natural laws (more on this in the next section).

As a result, we make errors like:

  • Working harder than necessary
  • Focusing on the parts at the expense of the big picture
  • Seeking short term gains while undermining long term sustainability
  • Taking the wrong actions at the wrong times

These fallacies scatter and sap our energy (even though we feel like we’re doing all the right things).

It seems so mysterious and unpredictable when you can’t see what’s really happening — one day you’re focused, clear, and unstoppable, the next day it feels like someone put horse tranquilizers in your Starbucks.

And yet, some men manage to free themselves from this invisible cage.

In the next section you’ll learn a simple framework that will help you to pierce this veil.

What Surfing Taught Me About Working Smarter

surfer riding a big wave
Photo by Marvin Meyer

Modern living gives us the feeling that we’ve somehow transcended the rule of nature.

Of course, this simply is not true.

Your body has natural cycles that affect your focus, immunity, sleep, strength, mood, and energy.

In fact, there are many factors (internal and external) that affect our daily energy levels, including:

  1. The Natural Order: Season, climate, geography, age, time of day…
  2. Man Made Elements: Noise, pollution, light, crowds, traffic, office layout, workload…
  3. Personal Factors: Thoughts, feelings, words, actions, breathing, posture, nutrition, timing, attitude, effort, rest…

We have little control over categories 1 and 2.

But, like a surfer, we can adjust ourselves to align with these greater forces. Instead of being thrashed by rough waters, we can harness their energy to propel us forward.

Conversely, if we fail to harmonize with nature’s rhythms, there’s no surfing (you’re just a guy bobbing in the ocean on a piece of fiberglass).

So, how do we learn to tap into these greater forces?

The 3 Laws of Energy Mastery

sky full of purple lightening and clouds over water
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

There are 3 interconnected principles that we can observe to skillfully navigate the waters of our lives:

  1. The Law of The Whole
  2. The Law of Ebb & Flow
  3. The Law of Strategic Effort

Understanding these laws will give you an energy advantage. Let’s explore each, along with some examples.

The Law of The Whole

Our world is interconnected and complex.

Think: ecosystems, the economy, and your immune system.

Conversely, most of us desire easy to understand, black and white explanations (a fact regularly exploited by politicians and the media).

Fortunately, like the wise old surfer, we can learn to see beyond the froth and tumult of the surf. To understand that the waves are not isolated phenomena, but situated in a larger system of weather patterns, seafloor topography, climate, season, and the cycles of the moon (affecting the tides).

In our own lives we can apply this principle by looking deeply into daily events.

The key is to go beyond linear cause and effect explanations. Stretch your mind to see the dynamic, interconnected chain of events that brought about your current circumstances.

Let’s look at a practical example…

It’s a cool, wet November.

The plague is making its rounds — you hear sniffles and sneezes at work and in the gym.

Last Saturday you met up with the guys for your buddy’s birthday. On Sunday you hit the gym extra hard as penance for the previous night’s debauchery.

You’re really tired.

Monday has a gift for you: Major, last-minute changes are needed (by tomorrow) for a project you thought was done and ready to ship. Not shocking, actually. This client often makes last minute requests.

Two long, stressful days later and you feel totally sacked.

You catch a nasty cold (also not surprising) — ruining your plans for the coming weekend. And it’s a good 2 weeks before your life is back on track.

There were signs.

It’s that time of the year. Your client has a pattern. Your friend’s birthday is certainly a predictable occurrence.

You could have gotten extra sleep before the party, taken it easy at the gym, preemptively prepared for your client’s changes.

But operating this way requires a change in mindset and habit.

It necessitates regular consideration of the bigger picture. Like a surfer surveying the sea from a high cliff, we must look beyond the immediate and obvious.

If you want to unlock the Law of The Whole, regularly contemplate the following questions:

  • What conditions, decisions, and events (directly and indirectly) made this situation likely to happen?
  • What happened yesterday, last week, or last month to set these events into motion? What future effects will result from these ripples?
  • What are some possible alternative (and unintended) outcomes of this decision? Who will it affect, directly and indirectly?

When you grasp this, it’s like having a super power. Your ability to anticipate outcomes will be impressive.

But this is only the first law. In the next section you’ll learn about timing…

The Law of Ebb & Flow

moon on horizon over beach with waves coming in
Photo by Anthony Cantin

There’s a rhythm to life.

Nature has it’s seasons. The sun rises and sets. We’re active and then we seek rest.

The surfer studies these patterns and harmonizes with them. He gains an intuitive sense of the timing of the sea. Watching the tides come in and out. Waiting for the waves to swell and break.

We too must learn to sense these patterns — in our days and weeks, in the workplace, and within ourselves. If timing is everything, then learning to read nature’s intricate clock is a good idea.

Begin by paying attention to these cycles:

  • Hectic and calm: There is a pattern to when things get really busy at work. Is it mid-morning? Tuesdays? The last week of the quarter? Spring?
  • Awake and tired: We experience varying levels of wakefulness throughout the day. Many people hit a wall somewhere between 2–4 in the afternoon. There is also a window of sleepiness that hits somewhere around 9 pm for most.
  • Focus and distraction: Some find it easiest to concentrate first thing in the morning. For others, it’s 11 pm.
  • Strong and weak: My workout sessions go much better in the afternoon. When are you strongest?

There are countless other cycles — many overlapping or related. Here are a few more:

  • Active and passive
  • Stimulated and sedated
  • Talkative and reserved
  • Engaged and disengaged
  • Heavy and light traffic
  • Optimistic and pessimistic

When you become aware of the fluctuations of these cycles, you can skillfully work with instead of against them.

How you act on this information is what we’ll discuss next…

The Law of Strategic Effort

black & white chess board with one piece knocked down
Photo by Felix Mittermeier

You’ve adjusted your gaze to see the patterns and interactions of the big picture.

You’re tuned into life’s rhythms.

Now you can make strategic choices to conserve energy and maximize your outcomes.

If there’s a time and a place for everything, then this is how you decide where and when. And it’s not just about timing, but also about the quantity and quality of effort.

Returning to our earlier example…

In surfing, there is a moment when the wave will crest and start to break. You have to paddle hard to get up to the right speed so you can catch the wave. Otherwise, it will pass right under you — wasting your energy.

The Law of Strategic Effort is about learning to effectively work with forces greater than yourself, instead of fighting all the time.

Let’s look at some examples of how this all works together:

  • Because of your sleep schedule (based on your work schedule), there is a convergence of favorable conditions every morning between 6 and 7 am. It’s quiet, your head is clear, and no one expects anything from you. If you focus deeply, you’ll make satisfying progress on a personal project.
  • By late morning you find it harder to focus. You’re not the only one — coworkers are more likely to drop by at this time. This could be a great time to schedule team meetings. Plus, they shouldn’t run too long because everyone wants to go to lunch!
  • Working on Fridays is a remnant of the Industrial Age, but here we are. Since everyone is just hanging out and daydreaming about the weekend anyway, why not schedule time to mentor your direct reports?

Here’s how to do the math:

  1. Consider the big picture. What’s coming down the road? What forces are converging on the hours, days, and weeks ahead?
  2. Consider the rhythms of nature, your workplace, and your own energy. When will things get busy or especially quiet? When will you have more or less energy?
  3. Based on those conditions, determine the best timing and quality of effort that will allow you to strategically align with and harness the energies around you.

Can you see the power in this?

They’ll Wonder, “How Does He Do It?”

Neon sign stating "DO SOMETHING GREAT"
Photo by Clark Tibbs

What happens when the 3 Laws of Energy Mastery become second nature?

Everything gets easier.

There will always be challenges, of course. But you won’t have to struggle and fight to get the same results you did in the past.

You’ll face less resistance — both internally and externally. Where others struggle, you will be at ease. Where there’s an opening, you‘ll be there ready to take it.

Observance of these laws brings a sense of calm.

Focusing on what we can control while working skillfully with what we cannot puts us at ease and raises our testosterone levels. That means sharper thinking, faster recovery, improved immunity, and more energy.

You heard that right.

When you stop beating your head against the wall and feeling powerless, you gain more energy.

Imagine the vitality and vigor you will enjoy when you learn how to catch those big waves life is sending your way. Not only will you find more time in your week, but you will have the energy to pursue life beyond work.

Now you have a choice… Which path will you take?

Will You Wake Up From The Dream?

father carrying young daughter in a field with both smiling
Photo by Caroline Hernandez

You’re smart. Ambitious. Hardworking.

And you know that you’re capable of doing more. But until now you just couldn’t seem to find the energy to make it happen.

Sleep hacks, diet changes, affirmations, exotic supplements — all useful to a degree, but ultimately just pieces of a bigger puzzle.

To master our energy, we must take a step back and see the big picture.

It’s not enough to look only at the parts, we must understand the relationships between those parts. That means looking deeply and seeing beyond the confusing and often contradictory surface level of life.

Like the surfer, you must learn to work with forces greater than yourself or become exhausted.

Harmonizing the ebb and flow of your natural energy cycles with the rhythms of your workweek will unlock the energy you desire — allowing you to get more done and steal back some precious hours each week.

But these hours must not be squandered!

No. These are bike rides with your daughter, personal bests at the gym, movie nights with your sweetheart, tennis matches with Dad, chapters in your book.

They are worth more than gold, but only if you use them to enrich your life.

Are you ready to claim your treasure?

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