If you were a marathon runner, you would train by starting small. You would set goals for yourself, but know your limits and never push beyond them in case of injury or burnout. You would know when to slow down, rest, and recover, and when to pick up speed. You would run in intervals based on the peaks and dips of your energy. You would listen to your mind, body, and spirit. If your energy faltered, you would back off and slow to a walk or stop completely to stretch, take breaks, and refuel. You would know how to manage your energy efficiently.
But you’re not running a marathon, you’re living your life and working hard. Dr. Phillip C. McGraw infamously (and smartly) wrote that “life’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Effective energy management can—and should—be applied to every aspect of your life, including, and perhaps most importantly, your work.
The Importance Of Energy Management At Work (And In Life)
Energy is defined as the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. Work often falls into one or both of those categories, depending on what you do for a living. If you look at it that way, then energy is the strength and vitality required for you to work.
So why do so many organizations and people focus on time and time management? If you were to meet every deadline, despite your body and mind begging for rest and recovery time, did you just run a sprint or a marathon? How often in your daily work life do you sprint, so to speak?
What if you and your organization focused on energy management, instead? Would you not, perhaps, meet those same deadlines with energy (and drive and spirit) to spare? Research suggests that you would.
In fact, one study focused on strengthening energy levels in four modules: mind, body, spirit, and emotions. They found that 68% of participants had a positive impact on their relationships with clients. Another 71% saw a noticeable or substantial positive impact on their productivity and performance. Many of them outperformed their colleagues in sales and revenues—and continued to do so for a year after completing the study.
They concluded that effective energy management allows for a greater capacity to get more done in less time and with higher engagement levels and sustainability in the long term. Sounds more like a marathon, than a sprint, doesn’t it?
Think Of Your Energy Levels Like Batteries
Your body, mind, and spirit are like batteries. They only last for so long before they need to rest, recover, and recharge back to their full potential. Battery life restored!
Some tasks, as you know, deplete your energy faster than others. Projects that your heart isn’t in or dull and repetitive tasks have the tendency to suck energy quickly. Things that you don’t love to do. But even those tasks that you do love still require you to take breaks.
There are also energy-depleting behaviors, like focusing on negative thoughts, resisting positive emotions, letting your ego and pride get in the way of your achievements, or a lack of self-control when it comes to maintaining a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Self-control is an operative word here. Your success isn’t based on starting your work or life marathon strong and fast right out of the gate, but sticking to it every day, every hour, and every minute. (As much as possible—give yourself a break!) If you find that your energy levels are dipping, listen! Take whatever action that your mind, body, spirit, or emotions want and need, and then get back to it when you’re ready.
How To Manage Your Energy Levels At Work
Depending on what you need, some simple changes to your daily routine can work wonders on recharging your energy. All of these activities are geared toward helping you manage your energy more effectively throughout your day (both at work and home).
Here are a few ideas to help recharge your energy levels:
- Get a healthy amount of sleep
- Incorporate movement into your day
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Take breaks throughout the day
- Turn your phone on silent
- Focus on one task at a time
- Get some fresh air
- Spend time with loved ones
- Write a gratitude list
- Do what you love more often
- Let in positivity
- Let go of negativity
Too often, you mean to take a break, but you get buried under piles of deadlines, pressing meetings, too many to-dos, and too much pressure to achieve and accomplish it all. Your life on overdrive doesn’t do anyone any good. Not you, not your family, your friends, not your colleagues, or your bosses, customers, or clients.
The secret is that you can get it all done. Plus, you don’t have to burn out. You can tick off your to-do list and take energy-nourishing breaks throughout the day. If you want to see results, make time for whenever your mind, body, emotions, and/or spirit tells you it needs.
Try adding a few of these activities into your daily work schedule. Try doggedly sticking to them.
Now, let’s dive into a few of these activities to see how and why they’re effective.
4 Ways To Manage Your Energy More Effectively Throughout The Workday
1. Get To Know How You Work
Are you a last-minute crunch-time kind of worker? Do you take on too much and have trouble saying no? Or do you plod away at a project at a steady, slow pace? Think about it for a moment. Get to know how you work, energy-wise.
For those high-energy folks, give yourself breaks often to avoid burnout and watch that you’re not exceeding your maximum energy limit. For lower energy expenders, set minimum expectations for yourself every day and make sure that you’re not hovering below them.
For those of you who oscillate between high and low energy throughout the day, watch out for both the bottom and top of your energy limits as they come and go. Take breaks, but power through tasks when you have drive.
2. Set Daily Minimums And Maximums For Yourself
If you take on too much and expend too much energy every day, find your maximum limit, set boundaries, and stick to them. For example, set a goal that you want to have no more than five meetings on any given day, and allow yourself one completely meeting-free day each week. This will help you to avoid burnout and set boundaries for yourself and others. Plus, it will probably make you happier and more present during each meeting.
Or, if you’re trying to meditate more, as an example, set goals that you’ll meditate no less than once a week and no more than once a day. Or, if you have a passion work project that you want to work on, set aside a minimum of one day per week for it and a maximum of two. Goal setting with realistic time constraints will help you to achieve your goals and set boundaries on your energy.
3. Take Breaks Based On Your Ultradian Rhythms
“Power hour” is aptly named after ultradian rhythms. These are the natural cycles that our bodies move from high to low energy states. These cycles of energy range from 90 to 120 minutes, depending on the person.
Focus On Your High Energy Interval “Power Hour”
During a time of high energy, focus solely on whatever it is that you’re working on. Avoid task-switching or checking your phone and emails during this time. This is an energy-depleting behavior that’s best to avoid while you’re powering through a task or being present in a meeting. You’ll be thrilled to discover just how much quality work that you can get done in a short amount of time.
Time To Take A Break To Rest And Recover
At the end of a cycle, your body will tell you to rest and recover. You might begin to yawn, get hungry or thirsty, struggle to concentrate, feel antsy or have the urge to get outside and take a break.
Most people “power through” and dismiss this message from your body (or mind) to get a task done. Don’t! That isn’t effective energy management. That’s how you burn out, disengage, tire yourself out, get grumpy, or produce low-quality work.
Instead, use that time (~20 minutes, but the time is less important than the actual break) between ultradian rhythms to do any of the activities listed above. In just a few minutes, you can disengage, recharge yourself, and get back at it with better results.
Then, as you’re ready to get back at it, check your emails and whatever else you need before jumping back into your next power hour.
Managing Your Energy Means Listening To Your Body
Your mind, body, spirit, and emotions are highly intelligent. They’ll tell you what they need and when. It’s up to you to listen. Mediation is a great way to get reacquainted with what your body is telling you, just in case you’ve forgotten or gotten good at ignoring the signs and stuffing down emotions. Gratitude diaries are also great ways to let in more positivity to your life, and let go of negativity.
Throughout your day, try to do a few things that make you truly happy. For example, if you were given one year to live, what would you want to do with your time? What inspires you? How would you live each day to its fullest? How would you manage your energy? Would you take more breaks? Go for more walks? Do more work that inspires you, ignites your creativity, and makes you more mindful?
The Lifesaving Power Of Managing Your Energy
Before you return to your day, have a think about how you would like to be remembered in your work life.
As the pessimistic, tired, and stressed-out employee, who always has too much to do to go on a long lunch break or take a yoga class in the middle of the day? Probably not. Most likely, you want to be remembered as the positive, happy, creative employee who always got tasks done on time and somehow still had the energy for mindful moments throughout the day.
Ask yourself: what’s holding you back from doing that—or from being that way—now?
You’ve gotten this far, which is a great first step because it means that you care and you’re ready to listen. Next, get to know your mind and body’s energy cycles. Honor them and take breaks with every dip in energy today and onward. You’ll thank yourself for it every day, every hour from now on.