Energy is your most crucial asset. What makes it especially important for leaders is that it dictates how you can deploy your other leadership assets. Your intellect, your attention, your sensitivity, your ability to listen and understand, your patience… these are all subject to your energy level. It could be said that personal energy is what fuels exceptional leadership. Low energy leaders, even very skilled ones, have trouble sustaining their influence.
The other consideration is your home life. Many leaders go home to their partners and families 100% spent. They have used up all of their patience, enthusiasm, and sensitivity at work, and now there is nothing left for the people who really love them. With this in mind, energy management is a crucial quality of life issue. Bottom line: it’s important.
An energy audit is a great way to look at this critical asset objectively. In most cases, taking a closer look at how your energy is accumulated and spent will inspire a progressive leader to make some adjustments. Activity, interaction and schedule adjustments can really pay off. We’ll look at both of our energy opportunities: adding more energy to our lives; and, managing some of the big energy stealers we are dealing with.
There are five steps to an effective energy audit. Let’s gets started:
Step One Make a list of things that give you energy. Anything can go on this list: for some people, it is exercise or a hobby. For others, it is solitude or social time. It may be a good night’s sleep or getting up early. It can be a diversion like a book, going to the movies, going “screen-less” for a while or changing your daily routine. It may be time with a certain person or group. Lots of things can energize a person. Think deeply and make a list.
Step Two Make a list of things that reduce your energy level. This can be anything where there is a definite subtraction of your personal energy. For some people, this may be travel or their commute. It can be certain people, tasks or recurring meetings. Lot’s of things use up energy. List the things that eat up the most personal energy for you.
Step Three Now it’s time to start looking critically at the things that may be stealing your energy. Leaders need to think about return on investment when it comes to their personal energy. We all have activities, routines, and relationships where the ROI is very poor. These are unsustainable if we want to continue growing our capability as leaders.
We recommend categorizing your big energy spends in a way that will surface opportunities to preserve energy. There are four categories that you can remember with the acronym “REDS”. The categories are: Reduce, Eliminate, Delegate and Structure. Leaders can preserve a considerable amount of energy by being deliberate in how they spend it. Energy is just like money, you have to be careful about how it’s being spent or it will affect your lifestyle and general happiness. Go back to your list in Step Two and see if you can apply one of the REDS categories to some of your big energy spends.
- Can you Reduce the amount of time you spend doing something?
- Can you Eliminate one of your big energy spends?
- Is there anything you can Delegate?
- Do you have anything listed that you can Structure differently?
Add an R, E, D or S where you see an opportunity on your Step Two list.
Step Four Now, we’re going to revisit your list of things that give you energy from your list in Step One. Look closely at your list and circle or highlight the things that you could easily do more of. It may be an activity or routine. It may be more time with a certain person or more time alone. It may be an exercise or dietary change. You can’t do more of everything, just choose a few items that you definitely can increase to add more energy to your life.
Step Five Now it’s time to make our short-term energy enhancement plan. It may turn out to be a long-term plan, but some of these changes won’t be easy, so we’ll take baby steps to ensure success. You want a simple energy growth and enhancement plan that is easy to start and possible to maintain. You will have setbacks, just like with any other important change, but the payoff can be huge.
The plan is a potent combination of energy-increasers and energy-savers that will combine to produce results that can increase your overall energy on day one. Here are my recommendations:
Take three of your energy increasers from the first list and knit them into your schedule. If possible, work all of your top three into your weekly schedule, either during the workweek or the weekend. Important: they need to actually be scheduled, and not just be a to-do list. Add them to your planner or Outlook calendar. They are appointments.
Next, we’ll leverage your energy-reducer list. You should consider everything on this list to be an “energy risk.”. This means that those activities, routines, and people are making energy withdrawals that may be affecting other parts of your personal or professional life.
Using the REDS categories, pick one thing from your Energy Reducers list that you can manage in each way. It’s important to pick just one from each category so you can experience immediate success managing low-ROI activities.
Congratulations! You have completed the leadership energy audit and organized a plan to add more energy to your life while reducing low-ROI activities and interactions. Work your plan for a few weeks and then make any needed adjustments. You are now actively managing your most valuable asset, your energy.