The simplest definition of energy is “the capacity for doing work,” (Britannica). Our most critical resource is our energy, yet most people neglect to manage their energy effectively. Accustomed to multitasking and opting for longer hours to achieve more in our days, we are adopting survival methods that are neither effective, nor healthy. Tiredness and risk for burnout are a common theme in modern-day life because of us trying to do it all. This approach is not one that is sustainable, and more and more companies that are recognizing this are gaining the competitive edge by making well-being a priority.
Faced with unprecedented uncertainty and change, especially in this ongoing global pandemic, every individual is being challenged to adapt. And change, by definition, requires a lot of energy from us. So how to spend this energy effectively?
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz described in their bestselling book the power of full engagement1 a 4-dimensional energy model that consists of:
Placing higher value on one or two of these areas is detrimental to your capability as these dimensions are all interconnected. Failure to take care of even one element directly impacts the others, much like kicking a leg off a stool – balance and function become a huge challenge and you will drop eventually. Think of when you are feeling hangry (hungry and angry) – your ability to mentally focus or be patient with a loved one goes out the window. Or when you have spent the whole day sitting at your computer, completely Zoom fatigued and mentally drained and then collapse on the couch at the end of the day (remember that collapsing each night is not relaxing — something we can often confuse!).
Managing your energy, balancing stress, and incorporating necessary recovery time into your daily routine is important. In our own lives and in our training groups we see over and over that when we fail to do this, we struggle to keep up performance, health, and happiness. (We have originally been trained by the institute of Jim Loehr to use this simple but still highly effective model to help people better manage their energy and support others in doing so too). This simple approach combined with introducing sustainable micro-habits has impacted our personal and professional lives tremendously and is something we love to passionately share with others. There is no doubt that there are days where you feel tired and depleted of energy but it should not be every day. When you are physically tired, mentally drained, emotionally down, and you start asking yourself what you are doing it all for, your performance is affected, no matter how much time you allocate to any given task. If you have not eaten and have been sitting all morning, you will find that it is hard to focus or feel perky and motivated. Instead, you most likely feel hungry, grumpy and sluggish, and are at risk of making more mistakes and becoming more distracted and emotional. Having something to eat and taking a walk or standing for a bit will help you to recenter and feel renewed energy for the afternoon.
Organization’s are waking up to the resounding fact that when you focus on sustaining your employee’s energy, everyone will win. If your talent is on the brink of burnout, it renders your Learning & Development, Upskilling Programmes, and Employee Engagement initiatives futile. The high demands will always be there, so it is vital that companies empower their people with knowledge of how to overcome the capacity conundrum – and that inevitably starts with putting yourself and your energy first.
Physical energy is an area where most people have an awareness of what needs to be done to feel energized, but it is still an area where most fall short due to the design of our busy lives where the first ball we drop is often the one where you take care of your physical selves. If you are not getting enough sleep, are not moving, and are not eating well, we all know we will feel sluggish, and this will have a knock-on effect on your emotional mood and ability to concentrate. Managing your physical energy is about moving from knowing what you should do to making your physical self a top priority/radical self-care. Start small:
The above activities provide you with recovery time. Whether you are walking to put the kettle on, are going to eat lunch, or are getting some fresh air outside to stretch your legs, these activities provide you with time to recover mentally and emotionally from that last meeting or zoom call and return feeling focused and recharged.
Our brains allow us to pay attention, be focused, think, and make decisions. And guess what, all of that cost’s energy. Your brain is like a muscle too and after 45 minutes the fuel to operate your brain is depleted and needs to be recharged. We come across a lot of employees that believe their brain can just continue to operate without a break and in today’s world, where information is available to you always through your smartphone and at increasingly exponential rates, our minds are under pressure, and we are easily overwhelmed and suffering information overload. It has become difficult to cut through all the noise and really focus your attention and thoughts. Some small and helpful tips are:
It is easy to feel motivated and perform well when you are feeling positive emotions. How you are feeling can result from many factors – constant daily challenges, interruptions, other people and their emotions, feeling hungry, feeling tired, etc. It is difficult to be productive or have a clear mind to deliver good work if your emotions are all over the show. Being able to tap into how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way is an important first step. Your emotions never lie and provide you a good insight in how you are doing – think of them as data. Recognizing your emotions allows you to identify what could be causing them and helps you to be better positioned to choose your reaction or select a recovery behavior.
A person who has found a purpose in life can overcome any obstacle in their path. This last dimension is often overlooked as a source of energy, but it is one of the biggest contributing factors to how you feel. “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how2”. If you know why your life is important, and you know that your goal is a positive one, you can suffer through almost any defeat without giving up or quitting. It is valuable to spend time reflecting about who and what matters to you most and what and when are you feeling inspired, motivated, and energized, and when not. And while you may not be able to have your passion be your profession yet, it is important to unpack what elements of your job bring you value and satisfaction and how you can incorporate more of that into your work life. It is also imperative that you view your life with a holistic view of everything that makes you, you, and a life worth living. How you spend your time at home, with family, with friends, with your community, and with yourself needs to align with your core values and what brings you purpose and joy. We are all driven to have meaning in life and those that can tap into that are proven to be more resilient (1).
The power of Full Engagement. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
Man search for meaning – Victor Frankl
Based on the original Corporate Athlete training (Human Performance Institute, HPI), using over 30 years of performance science this training helps individuals to actively manage their own energy, become more resilient and bring their best self to work every day.
While often seen as an expense, an investment in your people’s Greater employee wellbeing leads to workplace engagement, which increases productivity, resulting in better business outcomes and profit
Balancing stress and recovery. Don’t go in the red zone! We teach employees and managers how to recognize early stress signals, and how to respond effectively to them.