Are you burned out or just struggling to manage your energy?
Burnout is a big issue. Energy management is also a big issue. These two are certainly related but can be confused. Poor energy management can lead to burnout. The World Health Organisation now recognises burnout as a diagnosable medical condition. Burnout takes time and usually professional help to overcome. In this article I want to address some of the keys to more effective energy management. If followed these tips can help you make sure you always have energy when you need it. The tips will also help you avoid burnout.
Do you have a plan for managing your energy?
I’m surprised how many people do not have any kind of plan to manage their energy. Sometimes there is little awareness of the energy required to do all the things in a schedule. Some people just assume they will have energy. Others book things in and then find they must make changes because they feel unwell, or clashes have emerged. Most just ‘soldier on’.
It seems that there are a lot of people who do not do much planning across their life. And even with those who do plan well, they don’t always factor in the energy component. ‘Do I have energy to do all these things that seem to be in my life this week?’ is a question that does not get asked as often as it should.
How I learned to manage my energy
After suffering a traumatic burnout experience 15 years ago, I did some work on myself with a psychologist and a personal coach. One of the life skills I learned was to map my energy levels throughout a week. Interestingly, making regular time in my calendar to replenish was completely missing up until that point. It was just not something I thought about. Like many passionate people, I focused on my goals and the tasks required to implement my plans. I had to learn how to relax.
When I was younger, team sports were a big part of my recreation and relaxation. After marriage and children and securing a busy job which I loved, I had no time for team sports. I got out of the habit of being fully focussed in playing a game. I did not have any other built-in habits for disengaging from work. In my late 40’s I had to re-learn how to disengage from work and fully relax.
In my book INTEGRATE I have a whole section on effective self-care. There is a chapter devoted to mapping your energy, and another in which I discuss what I call Rhythm of Life (ROL). This is a structure I developed to make sure I always have energy for when I need it. It took a couple of years of trial and error, but now in my 12th year it is the key for me to ensure I always have energy. Now this ROL is the first thing that goes on my planner each year and I still monitor my energy regularly as my business life evolves.
The basic ROL framework my wife and I have found helpful is:
- 2 days off per week (one completely disengaged – no emails or work-related activity),
- 1 long weekend per month – either a Friday or Monday as a slow day, get away if we can. With Australian public holidays, and a little forward planning, it is relatively easy to make this work even if you are on salary and not a business owner.
- 1 week off every quarter – try to get away or complete something non-work related like a home garden project and day trips.
- 3 weeks off at Christmas (makes 6 weeks off per year which as business owners we can make happen).
10 tips for effective energy management
- Good sleep is crucial. Sleep is the foundation for effective energy management. Nothing is more important than finding the best way for you to enjoy regular sleep. With approximately 30% of people suffering from insomnia this is an issue that many have to deal with at some point int heir lives.
- Get to bed by 10pm. Though I was once a night owl, I made the decision to change, and now wake without an alarm and with energy most mornings. The key to a great daily routine is what you do the night before.
- Use a similar ‘going to bed routine’ each night – g. turn off screens 30 mins before bed, take a shower (a form of mindfulness that helps you get out of your head and more in touch with your body), read a paper book, non-work related, to wind down your brain.)
- Map your energy levels. If you do this exercise over several weeks, you will discover when you are at your best each week. It may take time to learn to listen to your body especially if you have ignored it all your working life. Then analyse the reasons why your energy rises and falls (because it does). Adjust any activities that are sapping your energy e.g., unwinding late at night with a glass of wine watching Netflix.
- Schedule your key meetings accordingly. Do not schedule high impact activities, where you need to be sharp and decisive, in those times when your energy tends to be lowest.
- Develop an effective early morning routine. The two things you must do is to move your body and stimulate your mind. The ideal way to do this is to exercise (can be a walk, run or gym) and listen to something that inspires. Podcasts work well.
- Eat a nutritionally sound diet and moderate alcohol. What you put in your body matters. Find regular healthy foods that you enjoy and that work for you. Moderate your alcohol consumption as the aftereffects of over consumption are an energy killer.
- Make sure there is variety in your day. We need variety. Our brains function best in short bursts. We are most productive working in 45 – 90-minute bursts. If you spend a whole day at your desk researching a project, you will be drained and less productive by end of day. You need some time with people. You need some time out breathing fresh air. Create a daily schedule that works for lifting your energy levels.
- Make sure there are margins in your day. Do not schedule every 15 minutes in your day. Leave some gaps. Things do come up every day. And if not, you can get up and go outside and move your body. Have a walk at lunch time instead of working at your desk. You will have more energy into the afternoon if you do.
- Finish your workday well. Take 5 minutes at the end of your day to cross off the things you have completed and to prepare your tomorrow. This will give you a bookend to your day. A sense of completion that helps you to close out your workday and prepare to head home. The most dangerous time for arguments between couples is the first 30 minutes after returning home after work. Use your commute (or a walk around the block if you are working from home) to process your day and seek to renew your focus back to your home life
Most of us need help to manage our energy well
I worked with a mentor for a couple of years until I could manage my energy well on my own. It takes time and someone to ask questions and help you process to listen to your body and understand yourself. There is a HUGE difference between my energy levels 20 years ago when I did not understand any of these things and my energy now. Even though I am older, I am managing my energy so much better, and my days are far more productive. And my emotional and mental health is so much stronger.
If you would like to have a conversation about your situation with an experienced business mentor, who has lived this stuff and thought it through so he can help others, please book a free no obligation call with me here. I would love to help set you up to succeed and to become someone who always has energy for when you need it.
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