Updated: Feb 1
When workloads increase, longer hours can seem like a good option but if you're feeling stress longer hours can lead to burnout which can have hefty cost on organisations and employees every year. Time is a man made construct to bookmark experiences and is a finite resource being limited to so many hours within each day, month and year. Energy is different in that it is vast and renewable; it can be replenished if we know how. As we use our energy resource up throughout the day it is important we don't deplete it completely. When we develop chronic stress, we can become reactive to the organisations demands and people and get into harmful habits of completely draining our own battery. From this place it's really hard to catch a moment and after a while you'll just feel like your on automatic pilot and just going through the motions. You might feel numb inside, disassociated and not really present for the people you love or the work that you are doing. This is unhealthy and unsustainable, it can lead to mental and physical illness not to mention an overall decline in your life expectancy. If this is where you're currently at in your leadership or career you might consider getting some support to turn things around and create healthier boundaries and habits.
It you're are willing to do better for yourself you can replenish your energy through micro rituals throughout our day, targeting each of your specific energy dimensions. When we do these often enough, they become automatic and habitual. Micro rituals are relatively easy to do because they don't involve big changes but the results ripple throughout your whole life. For example if you give up screen time and get to bed to earlier you will most likely sleep better and wake up fresher with more energy to exercise which in turns builds resilience. The science says if you approach things with a positive mental attitude rather than drudgery, you're more likely going to feel enjoyment and in turn have more energy and connections with people. Make no mistake your energy is contagious and while you may appear to not show how you're feeling people can pick up on it. If you make time for replenishing your energy throughout your work day you're more likely to come home to your family and be present and engaged, your work colleagues will feel uplifted by your presence and generally people will gravitate toward you. The ways you replenish your energy need to be nourishing and sustaining so you need to be real with yourself what that looks like. While beers or a glass of wine at lunch might seem like a relaxing pause throughout your day, in the long run it might not be a sustainable solution.
What do the energy experts say about energy and renewal?
Tony Scwartz and Catherine McCarthy are two leading experts at the Energy Project who have done research on individuals, teams and organisations to understand how to optimise engagement in work and sustain energy through focussing on renewal of physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy and spiritual energy. Let's look more closely at the dimensions.
Sleep better by practicing good sleep hygiene with a sleep ritual (meditation), no screen time and wind down period.
Reduce stress through cardio exercise
Eat small amounts regularly
Become more aware of when energy is becoming low
Take small breaks from your desk every hour and half, stretch and walk around outside in nature.
Reduce distractions by doing high concentration tasks away from email and messaging apps.
Respond to emails and messages at specific times of the day when you choose.
Every night identify the biggest challenge for the next day. Make it a priority for the next morning when you arrive at work.
Diffuse unhelpful emotions like anxiety, irritability, irritation and insecurity but doing deep abdominal breathing.
Fuel positive emotions by expressing gratitude to others in emails, phone calls, text messages and conversations.
Try to look at upsetting situations with a wider lens by zooming out and wondering how you will feel in 6 months time or wondering how the other person might be feeling.
Identify the activities that give you a feeling of flow and do these activities as often as possible.
Live your core values and stay close to what is most important to you. Find meaning and a sense of purpose from what you contribute.
Allocate time and energy for what you consider most important. Like your 20 minute commute home might be relax time so you can be present for your family.
These strategies will help renew your energy throughout your day and before long you will feel much better and a sense of balance will begin to emerge. This approach is also accumulative and builds on itself. When you continuously use and renew energy your system works more optimally and you don't get so exhausted and depleted and can avoid burn out and overwhelm in the long run. Being balanced in a present centred mindfulness state you need to work at and engage in everyday. You feel less focussed on the time of day and more in the natural flow of life.