I read an interesting article with this title in an old Harvard Business Review (Oct 2007, article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy). And I can’t agree more with the writers! The point was that time is a limited resource (and non-renewable – we all have 24hours per day and when it is gone it is gone!) but our personal energy levels are something we can manage and renew!
There are four dimensions of our personal energy:
1. Physical Energy is the most obvious one. Sleeping, eating, exercising and having breaks during the day will enhance your energy levels.
2. Emotional Energy has a strong influence on your general energy level. How does your emotions impact your effectiveness during the day? I’ll tell you the impact is far bigger than you imagined!
3. Mental Energy is the energy you gain when you are able to focus on specific tasks without interruptions and when you are clear on your priorities. Most of the time we don’t get exhausted because of the amount of work but because we don’t arrange enough focus time for the high concentration tasks.
4. Spiritual Energy is the energy you gain when your work and activities give you sense of meaning and purpose.
Let’s briefly look at each of these energy sources and see what kind of energy renewal rituals you could create in order to enhance your energy levels throughout the day.
Enhancing physical energy is quite straight forward. You need to sleep, eat and exercise. The studies emphasize more and more the power of good sleep to our performance and wellbeing. Lack of sleep diminishes our ability to manage our emotions and focus our attention. Sleep is an active state for our brains and necessary for our memory and ability to learn. Find your sleeping rituals and rhythm and enjoy the benefits.
Having breaks throughout the day is also essential. Both our bodies and our brain needs breaks in order to keep focus, stay creative and be able to perform well. During your workday engage from what you are doing and have a short break. Walk up and down the stairs in your office building or even better, have a five minute walk outside. Have a chat with a colleague about something other than work. Listen to your favourite music and stretch a bit. I guarantee that the quality and speed of your work is much better compared to forcing yourself to finish your task by sitting on your desk. Worth trying!
Eating well is a big hit nowadays and my advice is just that find a way to eat that gives you energy! We are supposed (and programmed!) to feel energetic and with the wrong food you can empty your energy reserves. Don’t agree to that but seek for advice, or try different ways to eat yourself. There is plenty of information out there!
Our emotions and feelings affect our performance and behaviour whether you like it or not. So let’s just face the fact. Are you aware of your emotions and feelings during the day? Becoming aware of our emotions and feelings is the first step. When we are aware of them we can start to manage them. With managing I mean that there are many ways we can influence our emotions. Emotions come and go. We give them the power they have on us. Negative emotions drain our energy and get us easily to a fight-or-flight mode which makes it impossible to think clearly, logically and reflectively.
Breathing is one of the most powerful and easy tools to manage especially emotions you don’t really enjoy. Breathing slowly and calmly, for example, counting slowly into 5 when inhaling and slowly into 5 when exhaling, will calm your body and mind and you will gain more clarity. Practicing mindfulness or meditation on a regular basis is according to hundreds of academic studies a powerful way to boost your emotional energy (and it has a big bunch of other benefits for your physical health and for your brain health as well). Practicing this simple breathing exercise is a good start!
Most people perform best when they are feeling positive energy. Therefore increasing positive energy is worth considering. One powerful ritual that fuels positive emotions is expressing appreciation to others. It seems to be as beneficial to the giver as to the receiver. The more detailed and specific the higher the impact. Have your ever thought what are the strengths of your colleagues? Or your spouse? What about sharing those thoughts. You can experiment and see how it affects your energy level and maybe even your relationship.
When you are able to work focused on and important task, it generally gives you energy. Shifting your attention from one task to another consumes your energy. In order to renew your mental energy throughout the day, design rituals that allow you enough focus time. We easily think that the distractions during the day are caused by factors out of our control, but the study made by the 925 Design says that 70 % of the distractions are actually caused by ourselves. We cannot resist to check that one e-mail or text message that just popped up. In order to boost our mental energy we need to enhance our ability to focus and pay attention. And that includes planning our work days and work weeks so that we know what is the top one priority for the following day. And remember, it is unlikely that the world will collapse if you shut down your e-mail and phone for some hours every week.
Some companies have developed routines in order to boost their employees mental energy. For example, there are no meeting zones from 8 am to 9am each morning, so that people can focus on their own priorities at that time, or there is no laptop/phone policies during meetings in order to have more focused and efficient meetings.
Spiritual energy sounds a bit spooky but it is far from it! Personally I think this gives most of my energy! If you do work that really matters for you, you feel positive energy, there is effortless absorption to the tasks in hand and you feel fulfilled.
People tap into the spiritual energy when their everyday work and activities are consistent with what they value most and with what gives them sense of meaning and purpose.
Discover what are your strengths and values. What is important for you? Who you want to be? What do you want to be remembered for? What are your priorities in life?
When you have answers to these. Devote your time and energy to what is important to you. And try to close the gap between what you say is important to you and what you actually do!
Pay attention to all of these four energy sources and you start to thrive! If you temporarily get zero energy from one of the areas, pay extra attention to others. But remember that no super food will help you to thrive if you thoughts are constantly taking you down or if multitasking is the only way to do your work! It is also good to realize that physical energy is the foundation for all the other energy sources. So the first thing to check is your sleeping, eating and exercise habits!