Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time: Ways to Avoid Burnout and Stay Energized
This is a post under the personal well-being series. The well-being series is focused on helping you grow in non-business areas of your life that have an equal effect on the progress in business as your technical skills.
Last week was a pretty awesome week for me. I went to a meditation camp and then participated in a business course by my mentor. Two peculiar things happened to me during that week that brought me the insights to write this article about energy and burnout.
The first thing was that I felt my mind calm down the moment I got to the meditation camp. All the tasks and the emotional anxiety that I felt just disappeared. I suddenly had the clarity to make priorities and see the steps I needed to do to achieve them.
The second thing was that although I had averaged a four hours of sleep every day for three days during the business course, I was totally energized, not sleepy. I woke up fresh and was fully engaged throughout the three days.
So what happened?
Running a Business on Low Energy
Let me start by sharing a story about a time when I felt much less energetic – a time when I was managing an enterprise for over five years.
I was often physically exhausted, mentally blur, emotionally jumpy, and at times felt very lost in why I was doing what I did.
As a result, my health and business were affected. As one of the managing partners in the business, my own inconsistent energy affected our staff and day to day-to-day operations.
Looking back now, I realize that a deep part of this struggle came from not knowing how to manage my energy. I also did not have a good understanding of my own values and those of my partners.
I’ve since moved into another venture. Since then, my energy and engagement has taken a 180 degree turn. I now train and coach to uplift and heal people committed to improving their lives and amazingly every time I train, I am at a high level of energy and can really connect to my participants.
Nowadays I am almost always in a good state of mind and emotion thus I usually motivate and inspire those around me.
In the next section I want to show you how I managed to make this switch and what you can do to get here.
7 Ways to Keep Yourself In High-Energy Mode
1. Start with awareness
Deep change starts with awareness. Being aware of how your energy fluctuates throughout the day and week will give you insights into how it feels when your energy levels are high or low.
But how do you become aware?
One way to do this is to take a short break every hour throughout your working day and record down, on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being physically exhausted, mentally confused, and emotionally burntburnt-out while 10 would be relaxed, alert, and resourceful), what you feel your energy level is at.
By noting your energy level, you will become more aware of how you are affected by what you think, do and say, and what others do. You’ll find that often times your feelings of tiredness of being down are not necessarily due to physical exertion or mental stress. These feelings, you’ll find, are likely due to a thought that snowballed or an emotional event that you suppressed.
Noticing these events, says Chade Meng Tan, a Google motivator and author of athe book on mindfulness, Search Inside Yourself, will help you reduce or even remove the impact that they might have on you.
2. Learn to rest effectively
Secondly, I also started resting more effectively in that I took deliberate steps to sleep better and took more mental breaks, more on this later. Most importantly, I started to be true to my values, I wasn’t a business operations person but a people connector whose values were mainly on connection, growth, intimacy, and learning, hence the shift to training.
When you truly use your strengths and live your values, the amount of energy and clarity that you have, increases amazingly!
As popularised by Tony Schwartz in his book entitled “Be Excellent at Anything”, to be more productive we should manage our energy and not our time for he argues, while time is limited, energy is not.
When we are at our best energy, we can perform easily and at our highest level. So what’s energy all about? We all have 4 levels of energy, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and one of the key ideas is recognizing that we need to alternate between using, building, and rejuvenating each of the levels.
When you’re at high energy you will be operating in high levels of engagement you really experience a whole different level of existence.
Your physical energy is controlled by how strong your body is and how well it functions to generate and utilize energy. One key idea that Tony Schwartz shares is that we work best in pulses as we are not machines that are able to work constantly.
Our energy rises, peaks, and drops in every activity we do. Usually when our energy drops we redouble our efforts to focus but on the long run we only burnout faster and need a longer period to recover.
Instead, you can stop after your energy begins to drop and take a break, a real break, not fiddling with your phone or computer. I like to take walks around the office block near the big trees behind my office, how about you?
3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day
Apart from sleep and a healthy diet, one key habit that can truly change your physical energy levels is to exercise daily in the morning, it has multiple benefits from increasing your willpower to improving and reducing your sleep.
All you need is as little as 10 minutes of exercise as simple as doing some stretching and running in place.
4. Be mindful of your thoughts
Your mental energy, to a large extent, is determined by how you use your mind. A key point in managing your mental energy is to recognize that everything you unconsciously expose your mind to goes in and affects your energy levels.
Just take a moment right now as you read this article to stop, and pay attention to the background of thoughts in your mind.
Do you notice how many thoughts repeat themselves? Are your thoughts mostly negative and anxious or positive and confident?
If you’ve been around someone who talks about her problems all the time you’ll notice how draining it can be. But what if that person is actually you?
What if you’re the one being negative to yourself? You might not believe that you talk to yourself negatively but it may be because you haven’t really paid enough attention to hear your own voice in your head!
So what can you do about it? How can you reduce or even stop yourself from being negative?
One way is by reading meaningful positive articles (like this one). Another way is by keeping your mind engaged by learning and applying yourself in new areas.
The mind, if properly engaged, is highly focused and energized. Only when we have no clear intention does our energy dissipate and we start feeling exhausted, bored or restless.
5. Focus on what you want
Try this: think of something you want to get done. Imagine how it would look, sound and feel like. Now think of what you need to do to get it done.
Now, do you feel more clarity and motivation? Such is the power of focus and it’s simpler that we think.
6. Allow your emotions to guide you
Your emotional energy is one of the strongest drivers of energy. When you have passion, clarity, enthusiasm and joy, work becomes play. Yet we often mistakenly place emotions in second place, as something to enjoy when we have time, something to suppress on our path to success.
If managed well, emotions can inspire us to higher, more meaningful actions. I often joke with the people I coach that they don’t have to schedule time to kiss their spouses or hug their kids. Kissing and hugging your loved ones is the most natural thing to do, and comes from a place of deep emotion, care and love.
Similar to managing the mind, your emotions respond to what you give them. Whenever an incident occurs, it is often the story you tell yourself about what happened that shapes and drives your emotions.
7. Share your emotions with people who care about you
Another key is simple human connection. Have you ever noticed how your emotions shift positively when you connect with someone? Yet we often choose to hide in our corner when we’re facing emotional challenges rather than connect with a loved one.
One of the biggest emotional power sources you have in your life is the people who care about you.
Your spiritual energy is your connection to your source of inspiration, regardless of your faith or spiritual practice. To me, just knowing and living your personal values is living spiritually. In a world run by targets, expectations and desires, living a meaningful life is challenging as giving ourselves time to discover and clarifty our values is uncommon.
Yet, when we do cultivate ourselves to discover and live our values, we will have high energy all the time, for we know why we do what we do, and bring deep value to where we go.
Till I speak to you again, may you have an energetic and empowering month ahead filled with love and blessings.
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