Healthcare professionals often work long shifts, with rotating hours and on-call requirements that make it tough to get adequate rest. Long lists of responsibilities can lead to fatigue, stress and burnout.

A Mayo Clinic study recently concluded that physicians are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain work-life balance. In fact, the number of doctors who say they’re burned out rose from 45% in 2011 to 54% in 2014.

Researchers study these issues because of the ramifications on patient care and have highlighted a connection between burnout and a decline in care. Some are recommending a shift from managing time to managing energy to ensure healthcare workers are able to meet the needs of patients while minimizing fatigue and burnout.

Energy management is not a new concept. Decades ago, researchers discovered that our daytime cycles of alertness and fatigue relate to our nighttime sleep cycles. While we sleep, we switch from deep sleep to lighter sleep about every 90 minutes – a similar pattern seen in daytime alertness cycles. Energy management is based on the idea that taking a short break every 90 minutes during the workday can boost energy and productivity, according to a Becker’s Hospital Review article.

But only 49% of employees actually take more than one break per day, according to a 2014 Quality of Life @ Work study from The Energy Project and the Harvard Business Review. Those who took a breather every 90 minutes reported that they focused at a 28% higher level than those who skipped downtime or just took one break.

Pausing every 90 minutes may seem counterintuitive when it comes to increasing productivity, but frequent breakers reported a greater capacity for creative thinking (40% higher) and increased well-being (30% higher), the study found.

5 Ways to Maintain Energy

Consider these tips for maintaining a higher level of energy throughout the day:

  • Think about your long-term goals – Focus on long-term objectives, rather than short-term gratification. Dedicating part of each day to activities that contribute to your long-term goals may give you more energy to maintain focus.
  • Monitor your energy cycles – Note the times of day during which you get the most accomplished. Some of us feel great first thing in the morning; others feel energized after lunch or in the evening.
  • Block out your most energetic hours – Once you know when you are most productive, block out time for tasks that require you to be creative or sharp, as well as less-exciting tasks that progress your long-term goals.
  • Avoid energy drains – If your to-do list saps your energy before you even get started, change it. Set reasonable expectations and create boundaries on your time.
  • Recharge with exercise – Get away from your desk or workstation and go outside for a short walk to relieve stress and improve your well-being. 

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