Don’t Get Stuck on the Job

Fourth Key: Nurture Our Energy

13 MinutesIn Change, Self Management

Manage our own battery life, as carefully as our phone’s. Charge it.

When I finished law school, I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for a six months internship at Franklin Covey’s headquarters.  I fell in love with the Rocky and Wasatch mountains; had a brief but intense relationship with a Mormon named Wayne; and started what has become a life long love affair with the Franklin Covey time management system. I was surrounded by advocates of the approach that being intentional about life, and then planning our days around it, was the key to happiness. I’ve tried to find more visually appealing or electronic systems but 25 years later, I still stick to this utilitarian approach.

I know though that as much as a time management system is a hallmark of those who are most content in life, what has emerged as I have reviewed my consulting and coaching practice of the last few years, is that energy management is more important.

[Latterly, I am referring to this as Kindness Management. In the 2020s it is physically and mentally impossible to do/be/consume/engage in all the things we would like to or feel we “should”. Every single day, we are faced with more of everything than we can possibly get through. This is a fact. So, the kind thing is to accept this and focus our energies on the things we intentionally want to do/be/consume. To do this though, we will want to nurture our energy directively, and in the face of many of the systems around us enticing us in their direction (I’m looking at you, work email, Netflix, social media, etc). How Kind have you been to yourself today?……Let me return to the energy topic:]

When someone said “I don’t/didn’t have time”, what was frequently a more accurate statement was “I don’t/didn’t have the energy”. Research suggests that energy management is the hallmark of high performing teams, and feedback from my consulting work supports this.

Lethargy is the hallmark of an underperforming team or a discontent person: meetings without clarity of roles and responsibilities, with too few actions; too little focus on accountability and responsibility generally; lack of follow through; it being ok to not deliver on time; a general sense of helplessness “oh, we can’t do that….it will never happen”; a lack of urgency or motivation, even to do things we like doing; cynicism about tasks…..

Still 24 hours in the day, but when lethargic, when the energy isn’t there, we could have 48 hours in the day and still “You will never have enough time to do all the things you don’t want to do”.

We all know that we operate closest to Peak Us when our energy is high.

Take a moment to reflect on what it feels like, mentally, physically and emotionally, when you are “high energy”, when you are closest to Peak You. **

What do you notice? Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What are the circumstances? How are you feeling?

For me, I have an internal hum; almost a physical tingling sensation. I am able to do things that I don’t want to do, that I have been putting off, and I feel a burst of satisfaction as I face each one of them down; I get through things, I don’t put things off. I am able to deal pragmatically and prosaically with things that come along to knock me off course, and I can get back on course afterwards. And, I am also mainly focused on doing things that create value, are satisfying, are useful to myself and others and are part of my overall purpose.

Why is it though that I am not Peak Me, high energy, every day?

Because unlike my discipline of charging my phone, I am not as disciplined at charging myself. And from my coaching and consulting practice, I know that I am not unique in this, regardless of whether I am a millennial or a high flying, “made it” executive.

The reality is that we are more conscious about checking our phone’s battery level, than  checking our own battery level. We are nowhere near enough disciplined or intentional about charging ourselves.

Part of the reason for that we are more intentional about charging our phone than charging ourselves may be because it is more complicated than simply plugging ourselves in. There are six elements that affect the level of charge of our battery:

1. Sleep charge: how much and the quality of it. The whole Fifth Key is dedicated to this topic

2. Food charge: what are we eating and when and how? What balance do we have between processed and natural foods? How much time are we taking to eat? How are we using sugar in our diet?

3. Drink charge: what and how much are we drinking and when? How are we using caffeine and alcohol? How much water are we drinking and how often?

4. Exercise charge: what type and how much? Are we getting 20 minutes cardio, stretching, core or weights activity in our day? How frequently are we standing up and walking around?

These top four elements are ones we have ‘known‘ about for a long time. We cannot be surprised if we are struggling to make the time to do challenging things if these four are off track for us. When we have a hangover, we will take the path of least resistance because all four of these things are likely to be off track. On a day to day basis, it is about being aware of where these things stand and not expecting ourselves to be Peak Us if these four charges aren’t optimal.

5. Emotional and spiritual charge: What is our emotional state? If we are escalated, whether for positive or negative reasons, this uses more energy than if we are in a calm state. The Stoics were all over this. As for the spiritual charge of prayer or meditation, if you feel this is something positive that you want in your life, then not making time for it will drain energy.

6. Mental utilisation: what is our brain consuming and how? This is the newest element in our battery charge because it relates most specifically to our use of screens, websites, apps and social media. Matt Haig’s new book “Notes on a Nervous Planet” has been the number one non-fiction seller across numerous countries recently and speaks to this issue. The question as far as your battery charge goes: do you feel your brain is being energised or drained by what it is consuming? How proactive and intentional are we being about managing this and its effects. What role is our phone playing in our lives, or certain websites or apps? What role is email playing in our lives and how are we managing that?

The research so far suggests not that any of these things are inherently good or bad – rather, that the extent to which we are addicted or controlled by them, as opposed to managing them ourselves, is what matters. Easier said than done of course, when all the technology companies are working round the clock to increase our dependence on them.

I have the time every day to do things, but it is my energy levels and state that will direct how I use this time.

Steps to take:

Manage our expectations: We are not always Peak Us. Recognise that our energy levels are not consistent and manage our expectations about the things we get done in a day as a result. If we are leading teams, note the same for our teams and use this positively – expect and encourage more when energy levels are up and manage expectations when they are down.

Take more control of being Peak Us: We have a level of control over the likelihood of Peak Us. Recognise that we have more control over our energy levels than we might want to accept. We can control the six elements above – but doing so takes effort and may mean breaking or changing habits. Pick these habits off, one by one and be kind to ourselves on progress. More “alcohol free” days are better than trying to go cold turkey and failing; turning our phone off if it is in our room at night, is better than trying not to have it in our bedroom if our anxiousness levels are too high to do this straight away.

Have a list of actions that charge our battery: We need to remind ourselves that we are a battery. It can help to think about our own charge levels when we charge our phone: what energy level do we have and how can we get more if we need it? I have a list of things that I can draw from that I know give me an energy boost, from an “energy” playlist I can pick a song from, to a walk around the block, yoga poses, going for a run, certain websites, certain people I can call, candles and baths if I’m at home, reading, making a cup of tea with a kettle (something about the ritual and the pause as well as the result – it doesn’t work for me as an energy boost with automatic hot water), etc. I keep this list growing and it is sometimes enough just to look at the list itself.

It is our energy levels that affect our ability to face down tasks, to thrive in our day and to motivate and support others in their day. Let’s be as concerned and intentional about managing our own battery as we are our phone’s.


**What “high energy” looks and feels like is not a uniform thing. We can sometimes confuse energy with being extrovert and it is not the same thing. What high energy looks like for my father, who is probably off the charts as an extrovert, is markedly different to high energy for my friend John.

If you would like to work with an executive coach on how you can more proactively manage these six elements in your working and home life, get in touch.

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