These practical strategies for managing energy and productivity are based on a few assumptions.
1. We each have chosen to spend our time living instead of dying. From birth until our inevitable death we have a choice to either go through the motions and let other forces guide us (biology, society, superstitions) or we can choose to live, take control, actively take responsibility and create our life experiences.
2. We each are aware of our core values – those things that drive our behaviors and our decisions in our life of work. If you haven’t identified your single driving value or even your top three, I suggest doing so now. [Your Core Driving Values List].
3. We want to make a change. Though we may know our values, we may struggle to live them. And we know that change is difficult and many of us are comfortable with our stress and wear it like a badge of honor. This approach is not for the badge wearer. It’s for those of us who truly want to change and are willing to do the work, hard or uncomfortable as it may be (learn more about change here.)
It’s now time for part 3 of the series:
Energy Management and Engagement of the AnywhereWORKER
In Part 1 ( Your energy: more valuable than time) you took the challenge to honestly observe your energy levels and productivity for a week. In Part 2 (Energy thieves, productivity pilferers) you took an honest look at what you observed and identified the trends to discover your energy thieves. Now in part 3 it’s time to take action and stop the thieves!
Very simply put there are two things to consider regarding your energy supply: Input (how you replenish your energy) and Output (how you use it.)
1. INPUT: Increasing Your Energy Supply
– Fill your tank.
Think of your energy supply the way you think of fuel for your vehicle. You fill the tank. You drive it around using that fuel. When you need more, you fill it again. It becomes a bit of a routine.
When I first started to drive, my dad taught me to not let the tank get below one quarter. Why? Two reasons, first it’s less of a risk of running out of fuel, and second it reduces the chance of sloshing up that sediment in the bottom of the tank (I learned to drive in the late 70’s.)
That stuck with me not only for my car but for my life! Think about it. If you run yourself down to your last bit of energy every single day over and over again, you’ll do more damage to yourself physically, emotionally, and intellectually and risk not being able to refill again or worse, damaging yourself beyond repair (ulcers, heart attack, mental breakdown – to name a few.)
There have been a number of studies on how important it is to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and manage stress. We don’t need to go into detail here about those, but that’s really what we are talking about when we want increase your supply of energy. The difference here is that it impacts not only your physical energy, but also your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy. So even if you think you can live on coffee and junk food alone, both your physical and intellectual abilities are diminishing with every day.
Take a look the observations you made of your own actives. What did you observe in your habits that is limiting your energy supply? Do you rely on caffeine and sugar to get you going? Do you sit all day long without moving or using your muscles (including your heart)? Do you go for long stretches without a break physically or mentally? Do you schedule every minute of your day leaving no time for healthy meals, exercise, or meditation?
Your willingness to look at your own habits truthfully will impact how much you can change and manage your energy. Remember, it’s the most valuable asset you have in your life of work.
– Get a bigger tank.
Another way to increase your supply of energy is to build up your capacity over time – or to use the fuel tank analogy – get a bigger tank!
It’s similar to an athlete training to build muscle
Physical energy – the healthier you are the more you can handle in the other areas of energy, so it’s important to look at improving those habits we listed above (diet, exercise, rest.)
Mental energy – the ability to focus is a perfect example of a skill that can be improved for most of us. Trying to build your ability to focus in small increments is best. Start with focusing on one task for 15 minutes and slowing increase over time.
Emotional energy – managing stress and more importantly building resilience. This is as difficult as it sounds. Emotions are slippery things and often unpredictable. However, just like building your physical and mental energy you can strengthen your ability to manage stress and most importantly – move on after the event!
Spiritual energy – being clear on why you are doing what you do. This too takes some time and effort but very much worth the investment.
2. OUTPUT: Optimize How You Use Your Energy
I didn’t mean for this to be a car analogy here as well, but somehow it came out that way. Just as you will get more mileage from your car and tires if everything is in alignment, you’ll get more mileage from your energy if your work energy is in alignment.
Whether it’s how your car pulls to one side or it’s that annoying shopping cart that always wants to go right, if you are out of alignment you will always be expending more energy than necessary. You have to move the cart forward AND you have to keep it from straying off course. Twice the energy is expended.
Match the task to the time – The first alignment is to make sure you match the type of task to the right energy moment in your workday. This is why it’s important to know your own energy levels and why I asked you to observe yourself over time.
Are you the type of person that likes to handle those big complex problems early in the morning? Those problems take more energy and you realize you have more energy in the morning. Match the task to the time.
Some of us can’t handle mornings and need to ease into bigger tasks. Knowing that you can do the smaller decision making tasks – those things that are more routine and take less mental or emotional energy – and do those when you energy is lower.
You’ll need to experiment with the timing and task matching to find your own personal sweet spot. It is truly unique to everyone. And even here you will need to be flexible to recognize where your energy is in each area to match the energy area with the task. If your emotional energy is low, you may not want to have that difficult conversation just now. Replenish your energy first.
Behavior matches values – another alignment is making sure that what you are doing does not conflict with your core values. This is a huge energy drain as it taps all energy sources but most specifically the spiritual energy level.
The difficult thing here is recognizing that it’s a values conflict. Sometimes we just get that gut feeling that this is wrong and other times it’s very obvious. If you find yourself continually working against your core values, it’s time to seriously consider a change.
Balance energy expenditure with renewal – aligning the right about of refilling with usage is another personal and important way to make sure you are in alignment. Many people need a daily renewal and others can work with only a weekly renewal. The important thing here is to not judge or compare yourself to others. I know that often I need a quick 15 minute renewal after a rather difficult interaction and can’t even wait for my normal daily renewal period. Everyone is different. Know your limits and use that knowledge of your needs and limits as a strength – knowledge is power.
There are always exceptions to these guides. Occasionally you’ll need to tap into your reserves. When a critical project comes up and everyone is pitching in with extra hours and energy, or a crisis hits – you’ll need more energy. But you are only able to build up those reserves and tap into that extra energy if you increase your capacity (get a bigger tank) as we mentioned above.
– Close Energy Gaps
The most difficult type of energy gap is the one you don’t know about. That drip drip drip of energy that over time drains you of your fuel.
One gap is not recognizing that you are not getting good quality fuel or enough fuel on a regular basis. If your input is regularly lower than you output that’s an energy gap. If it happens slowly over time you may not recognize it. Most of us are in this category. Low quality diet, little or no exercise, and my favorite – lack of good quality rest (a good night’s sleep) to name a few. Over time these things break you down and leave you tired, worn out, and much less productive.
One of the biggest wastes of energy is worrying. It’s great to be concerned about something, but when that concern becomes all consuming it becomes anxiety and it not only drains you of your energy (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) but it also can drain others around you.
Just one small change can help you plug the energy gaps and build more capacity. The key is just like everything else – consistency and time. You need to make small habit changes and over time you will improve your energy input, optimize your energy usage, and manage your most valuable asset.
Choose one thing to change in one area and make a commitment to do something TODAY and every day for one month.
Need help identifying jus that to change or how to change it? Reach out to me and let’s see what we can do to help you hold on to your most valuable resource – your energy.