How to stop feeling tired all the time

How to combat fatigue after a day of programming

A sleeping hippo that resembles a person who has fallen asleep on the floor after being too tired to go to bed.
Photo by Tim De Pauw on Unsplash

Are you always feeling tired after an entire day of programming? Would you like to do something besides your day work? You could try blogging, having a side project, or streaming live-coding sessions, but you are just too tired.

Am I talking about you? What happened? A lot of people seem full of energy, why not you? Can you do anything about it?

I was there too. I was coming home from the office, and I didn't want to do anything besides watch silly videos on YouTube. Even when I persuaded myself to watch conference talks instead of FailArmy, I wasn't listening to the speakers.

It is no longer the case. It doesn't happen to me anymore. What have I done?

Disclaimer: You may have low energy because of bad lifestyle habits. You may be tired all the time because you lack a good night's sleep. However, it is also possible you urgently need to see a doctor - please go to the doctor first (especially if a long time has passed since your last blood tests or general check-up)

The uncomfortable truth about productivity

You can clean up your calendar and have only one appointment. You can schedule the working hours to finally do what you have been postponing for the last three years. You can remove all distractions, turn off the phone, block some websites. You can do all of that preparations and still don't achieve anything. Why?

It's because productivity isn't about time management. You can have all day of free time and do nothing simply because you are too tired to start. You should be managing your energy levels.

How to have more energy?

First of all, you already know the answer. Second, you don't like it. You wish a magic pill existed or a life hack that gives you energy without putting any effort into the fundaments of energy management. What are the fundaments? What should you be doing?

Sleep. Exercise. Eat well.

You hate the answer, don't you?

Enough sleep

This should be obvious to anyone. Yet, we seem surprised that we can't sleep 5 hours a day and be productive.

I don't know how much sleep you need. It seems it can be any number of hours between 6 and 10. You have to figure it out yourself.

However, I can tell you that you don't sleep as much as you think. Assuming you need 8 hours of sleep, you probably sleep 7. How is that possible? You spend 8 hours in bed, but you aren't sleeping all that time, are you?

If you need one hour to fall asleep, I suggest including that in your planned sleep time and going to bed one hour earlier. No, you won't waste one hour. Think of it as an investment. If you sleep one hour longer today, you will work productively for two to three hours more tomorrow.

Also, sleeping longer during the weekends doesn't make up for the sleep deprivation during the rest of the week. The research (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324610) shows that sleeping longer on weekends is not enough to reverse the damage done by lack of sleep on workdays.

Regular exercise and diet

It is counterintuitive, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have.

When I was running in the morning, I could go for the run, then go to work, come back, and work on a side project for two hours in the afternoon. Strange because I was too tired to do anything after work on the days without runs.

Fortunately, if you run regularly, over time, the energy boost spreads out throughout the entire week, and you can work longer also on the days when you don't exercise.

Regarding the diet... we all know what we should be eating. At least most of the time. Do we eat it?

I won't tell you what to eat. I don't want to start a flamewar here. For some reason, people turn their dietary choices into their entire personalities and feel attacked when you suggest something else. Pick whatever works best for you, or ask a dietitian.

Making a change

We can talk all day long about what we should do, and that won't change anything. We know we shouldn't overdrink alcohol, yet millions of people drink until they are unconscious every weekend. On Monday, they will agree with people who preach drinking in moderation. On Friday, they drink until they drop again.

Only two things are causing a change in people's behavior—a shock combined with panic or a choice. You will probably stop doing partying hard every weekend if you hear from a doctor that you had a heart attack because of two decades of such a lifestyle.

The other method seems simple. You have to decide to be a different person. Be a different person, not be the same person but behave differently.

It sounds simple. Well, it sounds ridiculous. Yet, somehow, it works. If you consider yourself an athlete, choosing exercise over sitting on a couch will get way easier. If you think of yourself as a high-achiever, you will prefer to spend evenings learning or working than playing a video game.

I have no idea how it works. Maybe the secret is making the goal you want to achieve a part of your identity.

Does it even matter how it works? The point is, it works. Let's use it.

Rest and relax

Last but not least. You can't work all the time. You should put as much effort into relaxing and recharging as you do while working.

The time you spend reading books, playing sports for fun, playing video games, or watching movies will help you deal with stress. It is not wasting your time! You need it for your mental health.

However, don't make "You can't work all the time" your excuse when it is time to work again.

Also, if you feel sick, don't force yourself to work. The best decision you can make is to focus on recovery. You will achieve more if you spend three days recovering and still have four days to do the work than if you spend a week working while being sick.