Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Written by on February 26, 2015

We are heading toward an energy crisis. Not the one that involves fracking and higher gas prices, this one that is much more important. It is a crisis concerning our own personal energy. There is a ton of research being done about how stress and poor eating affect our bodies, yet too few of us are paying close enough attention.

How often do you feel like you’ve had enough sleep? Or felt truly energized? When was the last time someone told you how rested you looked? Unfortunately, it’s been a long time for me too.

I love all of the advanced technology, and I hate all of the advanced technology. More access, people demanding things from us, needing immediate answers, conference calls…It’s no wonder we are tired all of the time!

I know it’s probably not practical in today’s business climate, but I miss the days when I was not 100% available 24/7. I realize some of you already have this figured out and don’t look at emails on the weekend and turn your phones off at 5 (or 6 or 7), but the truth is that most of us don’t. Most have probably attempted to set boundaries about our time and availability only to fail to cite the “but my job demands it.”

I come from a competitive background. I always pride myself on giving it 100% all the time. You should give 100% to be successful, but as Marla Sanchez likes to say….you should give only 100% of what is appropriate to give. No one should be given kudos for giving 100% at work only to look a little deeper to find them burned out, divorced, irritable, and exhausted all the time. Look, this blog is not about saving marriages, but the truth is that we all have to get better at balance. We have to be able to maintain a great quality of life that will enable us to give 100% at our job. No one gets a medal for working 12-hour days only to find out the personal toll is too great, and his or her family has suffered an immeasurable expense. I’m not saying work should suffer so family can thrive either. I’m simply advocating for balance. After all, having enough energy to be a loving partner, parent, or friend at the end of the day is equally…or more…important than being a great employee or boss.

One strategy to consider is to pay attention to what gives or takes away your energy. What is your interaction style? Are you more introverted or extroverted? Most people mistake these terms as someone who is quiet or someone who is talking all the time. Though there are clues in that, the real test comes in 2 questions:

1. Is your thought process internal or external?
2. From where do you get your energy?

You are actually born with either an introverted or extroverted dominance. Few parents pay attention to this, as we are socialized to “get involved”. I immediately think of the introverted child that the parents force to join the debate club or engage in extracurricular activities because they are worried their child needs to be “more outgoing” or wants them to “fit in”. Perhaps you found yourself as a kid wanting to read, work puzzles, or just be left alone and were made to feel odd. I’m not commenting on which is right or wrong for the parent. It would be easy to argue both sides of the issue. I’m merely pointing out that not understanding this predisposition early on will take its toll later in life. Not knowing leads to children doing things just to please others and making compromises their own personal awareness.

Let’s go a little deeper. Extroverts have an external thought process and get energy from outside stimulation. You can sometimes tell if someone is an introvert or extrovert by how they answer a question. Do they listen and pause for a bit before responding or do they just launch into the many thoughts the question gave them? Someone that is extroverted will take you through their entire thought process where the introvert will likely process internally and give you their well thought out answer.

Why is this even important? If you are an extrovert and your job involves sitting behind a desk with very little interaction, doing your job would take more energy than someone that is introverted and is actually energized by the solitude. On the other hand, if you are an introvert, non-stop interaction will be draining and exhausting.

Taking time during the day to re-energize is essential. Depending on your interaction style, you might need to go to lunch on your own or perhaps go with a group of people. Maybe read a book in your car or get on the phone and talk to someone.

For one week, take a few minutes to take inventory of the things that give you energy and the things that take your energy. Most people don’t even know this about themselves, and it can be quite enlightening. They are too busy filling a role and meeting the demands of others that they aren’t able to quantify the emotional toll it’s taking.

The bottom line? Make the time to do more of the things that energize you and minimize the things that can suck the life out of you. If you keep thinking, “but my job demands it,” maybe you should re-think ways to be effective in your position or perhaps…. update your resume!

Excerpt from the Best Selling Book….”What Exceptional Leaders Know,” co-authored with Wally Schmader.