Staying at your best physically plays a large role in your ability to maintain your energy and retain the focus you need to accomplish any given day’s tasks and activities.

In your role as an instructor, you’ve probably come to recognize the times that your energy is most likely to flag. It may be that the urge to visit the vending machine strikes mid-morning; or, perhaps you regularly sense a desire for a nap around 2 PM. Just as you need to develop strategies for managing these dips and lulls in your energy level, so do your students. To help guide them towards the healthy habits that support their desire to succeed, offer these suggestions summarized from Dr. Constance C. Staley’s FOCUS on College Success, Third Edition:

1. Work with your biological clock. In the days ahead, take note of the times of day when you’re the most and least alert, energized, and ready to participate in activities. Use these personal observations to make the most of your time. Use your “peak hours” for the activities that require your greatest concentration of energy, and save your less-taxing tasks (like washing dishes, folding clothes, or running simple errands) for the times of day that you generally have the least amount of energy.

2. Do your best to go to bed and wake up at a consistent time each day. Try to avoid making extra-late nights a habit, as this behavior can have an impact on your ability to wake up on time (and maintain your morning commitments). However, if you truly struggle to be alert and engaged at 8 AM even on a full night’s sleep, choose the later-start classes when you have the option to do so.

3. Study during the day, and get adequate rest at night. You may think an all-hours cram session will serve you well, but it may ultimately hinder your performance. A good night’s sleep of seven to eight hours leaves you rested and refreshed, and gives your body what it needs to direct your energy and attention to your important daytime activities.

4. Eat healthy foods. No, your occasional enjoyment of pizza, cookies, and ice cream will not ruin your academic career. However, if your diet primarily consists of fast food, candy, and highly caloric snacks grabbed on the go, your body likely isn’t gaining the nutritional support it needs to keep you going for sustained periods of time. Pay special attention to what you’re eating during periods of intense work and concentration (for example, around paper due dates or finals week). (Staley, pp. 77-78)

Reference: Content adapted from Staley, Constance. 2013. FOCUS on College Success, Third Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What suggestions do you offer to students who need help staying energized and focused throughout the day? Share your tips below.