07 Aug Maximise your energy, not just your time
Many of us believe that the key to getting it all done is solely in good time management. What if I told you we must also pay attention to managing our energy alongside the ticking clock? Time is limited, finite, 24 hours in a day. Energy is rechargeable. We can renew and create it as the hours tick by. There’s a recipe though, which is simple enough to follow, but most of us miss it because “we don’t have the time”.
What tends to happen more often than not is that as the demands for our time and commitment increase, as external pressures mount, we work harder, for longer hours. We start neglecting exercise and nutrition, skipping a run for a meeting, grabbing lunch on the go between calls, with little to no real down time. This eventually leads to some form of exhaustion, leaving us relying on too many coffees and too little sleep to get through. Our human connections start unravelling and our sense of belonging becomes cloudy. We become increasingly dissatisfied, discontent and unhappy. In some cases, this spiral could even lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, or all three.
We forget that what really fuels our work is not another double shot cappuccino, but our energy. Our energy comes in four main areas – physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy. Managing our energy in all four of these areas has been proven to increase overall energy levels, which consequently improves productivity at work, relational connection, contentment and purpose. We’re all exposed to energy drainers throughout our day. What we should be more intentionally aware of are energy creators.
Physical energy drainers include lack of sleep, foods that don’t nourish our bodies, inadequate rest and excessive stress. To replenish our physical energy we should move our bodies regularly. Studies suggest 150 active minutes a week are what we should be aiming for. Even a short walk in the afternoon sunshine will improve energy levels and reduce that afternoon “slump” we sometimes feel mid-afternoon. Another physical energy creator is to eat nutritious foods which fuel our bodies sustainably throughout the day. Sleep is a big one, one that is too often neglected to try fit more into the day. Adequate and sufficient sleep improves moods, cognitive capability and overall energy levels. Quality down time is another great physical energy restorer. This doesn’t mean five minutes scrolling social media. Try a short period outside, a chapter of a good book or meditation. Rest is about quality over quantity. It doesn’t have to be a long time, it just has to be quality rest time.
Emotional energy comes from spending time with people who are encouraging and optimistic. Emotional energy comes from adopting a growth mindset, so when we face challenges or stumbling blocks in our path, we are able to see them as learning opportunities rather than failures or mistakes. Emotional energy comes from reframing our thoughts away from negative thought spirals, thinking through situations with a positive rather than critical lens. There are also a few breathing techniques that can help create emotional energy when we’re feeling emotionally drained. Deep, consistent breaths calm our nervous systems and reduce stress. Gratitude and appreciation also renew our emotional energy levels. Showing appreciation for others not only encourages that person, but is good for us too.
Mental energy is drained through things like overuse of technology without breaks, excessive stress and multi-tasking. When you’re feeling mentally tired, try doing something creative for a few minutes. Draw, write, sing, listen to music, cook. All these will renew your mental energy to tackle the next task. Mental energy is also managed when we can successfully prioritise urgent and important tasks first and delegate or delete tasks that don’t actually require your attention. We waste a lot of our mental energy on tasks that we shouldn’t be doing, or doing them at the wrong time. Tackle high focus tasks when your energy levels are at their peak, then throw in some energy renewal techniques before switching to the next thing on your to-do list. Avoid multi-tasking by batching, which is intentionally scheduling buckets of time to attend to similar tasks. Emails, for example. Schedule two or three slots during your day to attend to emails and close your mailbox for all the rest of the time. This will avoid you skipping backwards and forwards between what you’re trying to focus on and the new email that has just popped up at the bottom of your screen. If something is that urgent, the sender should call you, not email you.
Spiritual energy is generated when we spend time doing the things that make us feel connected to our purpose and create a sense of belonging within us. Spiritual energy comes when we live our lives in accordance with our values. Excessive stress is a big energy drainer, as well as work that lacks purpose or enjoyment. If you’re feeling low on spiritual energy, spend some quality time with your family or volunteering. Identify the activities that make you feel connected to your purpose and do more of those things to generate more spiritual energy in your life.
As I said before, the recipe is pretty simple. Following the recipe becomes difficult when we keep putting time management ahead of energy management, foregoing a moment of quality time with a loved one to respond to emails that can be answered tomorrow. We all have the same amount of hours in a day and our to-do lists all have a number of unchecked items on them. Managing our energy is what we need to do more of to be more engaged, productive and satisfied in all areas of our lives.