Updated: Apr 9
James Loehr is a world renowned performance psychologist, co founder of the John & Johnson Performance Institute as well as the author of 16 books. www.jim-loehr.com
All of us at Shared Inspiration have noticed a strong theme during our work and conversations with education and business professionals throughout lockdown. It's a theme that links all of the challenges that we have faced over the past 12 months, and that theme has been personal energy. Now, as we begin to transition into a post lockdown world, the ability to manage our personal energy is even more important.
Why could we consider Managing our Energy?
We can be better for ourselves and others
We can make better use of the energy we have
We can be healthier both physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually
Do any of these statements ring true for you?
I often wake up feeling tired, skip breakfast and grab anything quick later
I rarely exercise, I don’t take regular breaks and eat at my desk (if at all)
I get irritable, anxious and impatient when work is demanding and when I am with family I am not really there
I don’t have time to do the things I enjoy and don’t show appreciation for myself or others
I am easily distracted and lack focus, spending too much time on fixing immediate problems rather than long term strategies
I rarely get time to reflect and be creative or even take an email vacation
I don’t get to do what I enjoy the most or even have a sense of my own purpose
I don’t take time to make a real difference and there are big gaps in what is important to me and what I actually do.
Then now is the time for you to manage your energy better….
What is Managing your Energy about?
When we look at this question it starts with realising that the energy we have is not infinite, it comes and goes in waves, and understanding how our own personal energy works means that we can use it smarter. In the same way that we manage other types of energy, such as electricity, it is important to know where we get our energy from, what uses our energy, when we have the most energy and how to renew our energy.
If we think about the electricity supply that we all rely on to power or homes there are times in the day when we will use it more than at other times – for example first thing in the morning as it powers the kitchen appliances for breakfast, the shower, hairdryers etc. The electricity supplier knows this and makes sure that there is enough electricity being generated to meet the waves of demand that have peaks and troughs. When the demand is lower the supplier will reduce the amount being generated and maybe store some for back up and restock on the fuel that is being used. The supplier is very aware of the demand, what is driving it and how to make sure the right amount of the right energy is available when we need it.
In the book The Power of Full Engagement by James Loehr and Tony Schwartz, they put forward the concept of managing our energy, not your time, in the same way.
They create a compelling case for the huge benefits that come from recognising where we get our energy from, how to renew it and how to become efficient in its use without running the risk of burn out.
Whether you are running all of the time to meet the demands of your life or finding it hard to find the energy in the first place, Managing your Energy using the principles we will cover in this article will give you the tools to make sure you have the energy you need when you want it.
In these times of lockdown our usual patterns of energy use have changed. Also, our usual sources and drains of energy have changed. And as we transition to a post lockdown world, it will change again. Whether you are working from home, being away from family, friends, home-schooling, caring for others, isolated or thinking of how to manage the transition, now is the time to understand how you can manage your energy in the best way for yourself and others.
Managing your Energy - not your time, is about coming through and out the other side with a way of being that will support and sustain you, whatever comes your way.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about Managing your Energy:
1. What challenges to your energy do you face post lockdown?
2. What are you already doing that helps your energy right now?
3. What are you doing now that you will want to keep as you move into post lockdown?
Managing your Energy - What it is:
A skill that can be learned
A useful tool for moving forward
A way of thriving and avoiding burn out
A way of being that serves both us and others
Managing your Energy - What it is not:
About doing more with less
Making us into efficient machines
The core elements of Managing your Energy
The fascinating thing about our energy is that is affected by how we think about it, what we believe about it and how we mythologise it. There are many myths about our personal energy that in reality actively work against us.
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to how we manage our energy as long as there is balance. It takes an internal village of resources to run our lives and those resources must be balanced. Go too far one way and you have burn out, go to far the other way and you have lethargy. The balance is achieved by managing the intervals between spending energy and renewing energy using the sources available.
There are four sources of our personal energy and each has a myth, a reality and way of renewal, so let’s quickly explore these.
Physical energy: The Quantity
This is the foundation of all of our energy and is a measure of how much you have. The myth about our physical energy is that we can work continuously without stopping for long periods of time – that effort + time = efficient output. That is actually a quick recipe for burn out!
The myth busting news is that we are not computers and cannot run continuously. Nor can we run multiple programs at the same time – there is no such thing as multi-tasking.
In reality we are designed to ‘pulse’ between spending energy and renewing energy in approximately 90-minute segments, creating a natural swing in our spending energy and renewing energy routine. To athletes, this is known as the Work/Rest rate ratio. 90 minutes on and 15 minutes off is a good general template.
The renewal of energy is key to all of our creative processes and the more we move freely between expending and renewing energy the healthier and more effective we become. You can work this into your day by setting reminders to move away from the task, take a breather and do something that re-energises you every 90 minutes. This could be going for a quick walk, or running briskly upstairs, just a quick uplift in heart rate and breathing is enough – no need to get all hot and tired!
Emotional Energy: The Quality
How you feel affects how you perform. The myth that hinders this energy is that ‘certainty is power, and vulnerability is weakness’. False confidence gives rise to arrogance and this is a net drain on personal energy as well as the energy of those affected around it. The balance to confidence is humility. By exercising humility alongside confidence balance is restored.
The reality is that a strength (in this example confidence) overused is a weakness and that a weakness acknowledged is a strength.
The renewal of energy for this element can be achieved by creating anticipation and excitement so arrange to spend time with someone you really enjoy on a regular basis, it will serve to renew your emotional energy.
Mental Energy: The Focus
This is all about being able to do one thing at a time. The myth that hinders this energy is that to be creative you have to be born creative. That somehow it is not possible to learn how to be creative. Somehow it is magical and cannot be taught.
The reality is that because we already use both sides of our brain so we can learn how to combine the visual and the verbal parts and be truly creative – this is the basis of focus. Creativity emerges from whole brain thinking and can be taught. Our blog about 'Getting In Flow' is great way to create a state of creative focus.
Renewing the energy that fuels our ability to focus and be creative and can be done by letting the work go completely. Go for a walk or listen to music – just let it all go. When you come back you will be ready to focus again.
Spiritual Energy: The Purpose
What you do really matters. Although this is headed as spiritual it relates to our own higher purpose. The myth that hinders our spiritual energy is that serving others is the greatest good and that this can only truly be achieved at the expense of ourselves. This leads to all kinds of problems and to persistently follow this myth will only serve to destroy you.
The reality is that balance comes when we care for ourselves as well as serve others. Just like the airline mantra ‘put on your own mask before helping others’ we cannot be the best for others unless we pay attention to being our best selves. This includes learning to love everything about ourselves, including the things we do not like.
The way to renew this energy is to understand who you want to help and understand your core values. What is your bigger purpose? How do you want to be remembered? Make time for self-care in your daily routines. Our blog about recreating your commute gives some great tips on bringing back opportunities for self care routines that you may have lost by not commuting to work everyday.
Benefits of managing your energy during continued lockdown:
As you emerge from lockdown and transition into a post lockdown era, it is useful to increase your ability to use your energy in a smart and sustainable way. When you do this, you experience some or all of these benefits :-
Managing your energy more skillfully – ending the day tired but not exhausted
Having an energy renewing routine – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual
Finding focus and creativity by letting go and doing something else
Knowing your purpose and taking time for self-care increases your overall wellness
What if you could manage your energy during continuing lockdown?
Here are some tips for implementing each of the Manage your Energy strategies:
Go to bed a little earlier and reduce alcohol
Do a little exercise several times a day
Eat small and light every three hours
Pay attention and notice when you are flagging
Work in 90 minute intervals with 15 minute breaks
Promote calm with deep breathing
Regularly express appreciation
Spend time with people you enjoy
Get focussed by switching off distractions – phones, emails etc.
Respond to messages at set times of the day
Make your first task of the day the most challenging
Find the activities that make you feel great and do them more often
Allocate time to thinking about what is important in your life
Live your core values by doing them
Here’s a thought for the day:
Get more time by managing your energy – not your time!!
Managing yourself by Harvard Business Review 2007
The way we are working isn’t working – Tony Schwartz
The Power of Full Engagement – James Loehr and Tony Schwartz
Summary of The Power of Full Engagement - YouTube (9 minutes)
Don't delay - Manage your Energy!
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