Your Key To Growth In 2022 Is Not Time Management – It’s Energy Management
Posted on 15th February 2022 at 01:10
Are you an accomplished, goal-setting individual? Perhaps you are fully aware of working productively. You prioritise the tasks and projects that are most important over those that are less critical. At the forefront of your schedule are your most important tasks (MIT) or most valuable tasks (MVT). But what if you suddenly need to cover a colleague’s workload or manage new responsibilities on top of your own? Working harder and longer hours when faced with rising demands can negatively impact your mental, physical, and emotional health. Ongoing juggling of workloads amongst already busy employees can create disengagement, higher turnover rates, and lower productivity. This is even more true during the current global changes. The good news is that there are solutions, as an increasing number of individuals are investing in personal energy management strategies.
Consider the scenario of an impending work deadline. You’re already committed to the project, but now, due to changes you cannot control, it will require more than the average hours to complete it. One scenario is that you finish the project, but experience increased levels of stress from things like sleep disturbances and regrettable arguments. In a second scenario, you successfully complete the project but with great calm, balance, and even new insights and leaps in creativity. Both scenarios took the same amount of time. How are they different? The latter involved a switch-up from time management to energy management skills.
Global changes, role adjustments, and increased responsibilities that come with promotions can create heavy work demands and eat up time. Employees working on priority productive tasks are reporting less free time than ever. They are feeling overwhelmed, unable to focus and annoyed – all symptoms of suboptimal performance and disengagement among employees. Aside from having these problems at work, they might also find their daily energy low and have difficulty fully engaging with their families. One executive shared with me that finely-tuned time management allowed him to manage his workload. However, as soon as he went home, he and his partner fought more often than not, and he felt exhausted. After working all day, he had little energy left. We set out to understand his working patterns, as well as what amplified or deleted his energy, and developed a strategy so that he could monitor his energy levels at work while managing his time. He began spending 5 minutes accessing one of three techniques in his parked car before entering his home – a short energy renewal period. Within a few days, he reported that his relationship was flourishing and his child was noting that "daddy was happier and more fun". A regular energy replenishment period supports your ability to thrive at work and beyond.
With energy management, you can also take time management to the next level. Time is limited, but your energy can be expanded with considerable benefits. I recently mentored a senior executive who has outstanding time management skills. Despite juggling a demanding job role with family and outside needs, this accomplished manager consistently achieved all of her work goals. However, even while she met and exceeded her targets, she admitted to feeling a lack of passion and being unhappy. She wanted to feel better and accomplish more without extending her work day. Her personal energy was another type of self-management I helped her focus on. First, we worked to understand her energy consumption. We determined which activities depleted and sustained her energy. Proactive choices were made to access more energy at regular intervals with fast, effective techniques. Her energy levels increased and after five weeks, she reported having greater creativity and feeling "very hopeful and positive". She revised her work plans with the support of her manager and her outlook on the future was more optimistic. She glowed with positivity.
Businesses succeed because they grow, and one thing that is vital to all growth is energy. The personal energy of your employees is essential, but where does it come from? Klijn et al. (2021) definition includes four parts: “Personal energy at work is an affective and dynamic state that is reflected through interconnected physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy dimensions.”
Physical energy is generated from food and water intake, as well as breathing patterns, sleep and movement. The benefits of exercise include reduced anxiety, stress, depression, and negative mood. Physical energy can make you enjoy your job more, which in turn leads to more effective strategies and greater innovation. By maintaining a balance between focused work and deliberate rest, you will gain more focus, creativity, and success. Physical strength complements mental strength. When you feel energetic, you are likely to experience reduced stress hormones, lower blood pressure, better sleep, a stronger immune system, improved digestion, and reduced pain. Your physical energy also affects how well you age.
Emotional energy is a reflection of how we feel about our work, our relationships, ourselves, and our general situation. It's essential to understand your emotions and develop your emotional regulation skills, since the way we feel directly impacts our wellbeing and connections with others. Your energy, whether positive or negative, is seen and felt by those around you, and it has a restorative or draining effect on them even when you don’t intend or want them to detect it. As you build up awareness of your emotions and feelings, you become more open to new ideas and alternative opinions. As a result, you can feel more comfortable receiving outside feedback and communicating with others. The building of relationships depends on having a balanced emotional energy, and good human connections are essential to our wellbeing.
Mental energy is the energy that drives your mental processes like thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. When you are mentally fatigued, you cannot think clearly or make good decisions. Feeling energetic promotes mental wellbeing and reduces stress and anxiety. You will be able to stay focused, make better decisions, and meet deadlines when your mental energy is strengthened. An increase in optimism and motivation also boosts creativity, cultivates curiosity, improves innovation and makes you more productive.
Spiritual energy gives your life purpose and passion. The depletion of your spiritual energy may cause you to feel overwhelmed, empty, and hopeless. If you are aware of your purpose and dedicated to making a meaningful impact on others, spiritual energy can be a powerful driving force for your life. Your spiritual energy remains healthy when you balance self-care and give from the overflow rather than a partially-full cup. A tendency to grow and progress is aligned with this sort of spiritual energy, which is enhanced by believing in yourself and knowing what you value.
Currently, there is no single method available that measures all dimensions of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. However, tools such as questionnaires have been created to measure vigour and thriving, and looking at these aspects together has been said to address the four energy dimensions.
Vigour has been described by Shirom (2004), as “the positive affective response to people’s ongoing interactions with significant elements in their job and work environment that comprises the interconnected feelings of physical strength, emotional energy, and cognitive liveliness”. Thriving at work has been described as involving vitality and learning. When individuals are thriving, they have the experience of growing and learning while at the same time feeling energised and alive. Thriving has been linked to job performance, creativity, wellbeing and health. Thriving at work can be measured by questionnaires that increase employees’ understanding of vitality and learning. One such tool (Na-nan et al, 2020) contains the following questionnaire items: “I am ready to put my mental energy to work,” “‘I am ready to put my physical energy to work,” “I am alert and ready to work, “and “I feel active when working.”
You can boost your personal energy in a number of ways. As you tackle your planner and projects, use these three proven strategies to stay energised and productive:
1. Hydration for concentration
Are you aware that drinking too little water causes your energy levels to drop, making you feel more fatigued? About 70% of the human body is made up of water, including approximately 85% of our brains. Knowing this allows us to begin to comprehend the effects of water on our minds. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, and even seizures. When you are dehydrated, you also become more stressed due to the chemical composition of your body. Cortisol is the main stress hormone in humans, and your cortisol levels rise whenever you are even mildly dehydrated. By focusing your brain's energy solely on surviving, stress leaves the other parts of your brain linked with learning and memory feeling tired and weak.
How do you energise the brain and reduce energy-sapping stress? Think of water as a liquid nutrient that your brain requires. Keep hydrated, for example, by drinking a few sips of water every 15 minutes. Note that drinking too much can lead to water intoxication and serious health consequences, though this is rare. Some sources recommend drinking no more than 0.8 to 1.0 litres of water per hour to avoid water intoxication.
2. Close your eyes and re-energise for creativity
Imagine a fast, easy way to energise yourself, explore ideas and gain inspiration. Are you aware that you are likely to close your eyes when recalling details or trying to focus your thoughts? But why does this happen? Your brain uses a certain amount of energy, and of that, your vision uses the greatest amount (far more than what is used by touch and taste). When you close your eyes, you free up a large amount of brainpower, which means more energy available for the brain to retrieve details. Resting your eyes by closing them briefly is a form of reset for your working brain, as it allows your neurons (nerve cells that send and receive signals from your brain) to take a break, which reduces stress. Closing your eyes is often referred to as “quiet wakefulness”. Your body feels safer and can take a pause from thinking, leading to a better mood.
The science also shows that original thinking happens more naturally when your eyes are closed. When you are looking for inspiration, ideas and answers, purposely close your eyes for a few minutes. You will access more alertness and stimulate your creativity and mental clarity. Doing this periodically frees up energy, calms your brain and body, and helps you to access creativity and generate productivity.
3. The H.A.L.T. strategy
H.A.L.T. has its roots in the recovery community, and it is a great check-in method for personal energy and self-care. The acronym H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Low personal energy and negative behaviour are most likely to occur when you are suffering from these four things. H.A.L.T. is a valuable strategy to monitor your personal energy levels and provides you with a way to do a quick scan of your wellness. The combination of emotions, thoughts, and low energy levels that can lead to stress can be reduced by using H.A.L.T.
If you are overly hungry, you are more likely to have low energy, which will negatively impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. This can affect your ability to focus and your reaction to others. Stress can cause you to work through lunch, eat snacks instead of meals, or skip meals altogether, but the resulting lack of balanced nutrition can cause mood swings. Plan to stop work and have a meal. Socialising with colleagues or friends while eating can additionally contribute to your wellbeing.
Although anger has a normal and healthy function, if we don't acknowledge it and have a safe way to express it, it can build up and negatively impact our health and relationships. Stress can cause irritability and anger in people. The body uses valuable energy associated with anger: to accelerate the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and increase the breathing rate. To avoid this, consider what is causing your anger and what you can do to express it in a way that doesn't harm you or others. Let someone know how you feel. Exercising and even cleaning can help to deflate anger. For ongoing anger issues, seek professional help.
The effects of loneliness include stress, sleep disruption, and health problems – all of which drain your personal energy. The feeling of loneliness can also worsen depression and anxiety. Sometimes you may feel lonely when surrounded by people who don't understand you, and routines can lead to you retreating into yourself. Consider taking a lunch break somewhere new where you can interact with others. Reach out to your friends, even if you haven't spoken for a while. If you are feeling lonely, let your supervisor know, as they may be able to get you involved in projects or activities that make it easier for you to meet people.
Tiredness can lead to zero motivation and the lack of energy to learn, interact with others and even access self-care. Pay attention to your body, as the most common strategies to combat tiredness involve addressing your diet, exercise levels, and sleep. Schedule both focused work time and adequate time away from work to rest and recharge.
Do a short H.A.L.T. check-in with yourself every hour: "Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?" Make the necessary adjustments to keep yourself balanced and energised. Keeping a positive bank of energy makes others more likely to want to work and interact with you. High energy makes you more approachable, so you are more likely to gain the trust and support of colleagues and clients.
It is more likely for employees to feel energised when they are able to examine how they feel, what they can do, and who they are. A manager and/or the work environment can reduce or increase energy at work. The employer can support workers and keep their personal energy high by exploring both areas. In doing so, an organisation gains more motivated and confident employees, leading to higher productivity and profitability. The training of employees on how to maximise their personal energy is also beneficial to organisations. Effectively engaging employees and executives fully depends on their energy levels. The changing climate is negatively impacting many people's energy and perseverance, but effective action can be achieved through personal energy management.
Personal energy management is not about feeling full of energy and striving to be happy all the time. All emotions are valid. A feeling is a powerful indicator that alerts us to what is happening and what changes are being presented to us, so we can help our minds, bodies, and relationships by making good and useful decisions. Chaos and unpredictability are inherent in the world, but a balance can be maintained when we chart our own energy and observe when it wanes and how we can replenish it. Consider the actions you can take to recharge, so you can live a balanced and thriving life. For me, one sign that I am using my personal energy well is that I am fully engaged in and enjoying whatever I am doing at that time, whether it is a meaningful conversation, responding to an email or soaking in a warm bath. Anything less is a sure sign that I need to reassess my personal energy barometer.
As humans, we are resilient and filled with energy. Here is a wonderful demonstration... How strong is your heart? Do you know how hard your heart has to work to pump blood throughout your body? Pick up a tennis ball with your strongest hand (usually your writing hand). Squeeze the ball as hard as you can, then release the pressure without dropping it. Imagine squeezing the tennis ball all day long without stopping. One pump of the heart's muscle generates a similar force, but the heart does not tire. If your heart has to work harder than usual (for example, under stress), it must still be able to produce strong enough force to transport blood to all parts of your body.
Personal energy management enhances stress management and keeps your heart and body healthy. By using energy-supporting strategies, you can strengthen your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies, allowing you to respond more resourcefully to any situation. The past years have brought many changes to the workforce – for example, there has been an increase in working from home with flexible hours. Some employees thrive under the new working conditions, whereas others experience increased stress or burnout. But no matter what changes may come, accessing personal energy management strategies can help individuals to make healthy decisions so personal energy is available at work. Keep your personal energy up to maintain optimal health and performance. With the energy left over, you can work longer hours when there is a need and you choose to do so...with a personal energy management protocol in place so that your health is kept supported, creativity increased, and relationships intact.
Note: Fatigue is usually caused by shortfalls in your habits and routines, such as a lack of exercise. Depression is another common cause. Several medical conditions can also lead to tiredness and fatigue, so if you are concerned or experience other symptoms, always contact a healthcare provider.
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