October 16, 2013
It’s a fast-paced world and women work hard. We have homes to maintain, families to care for and demanding jobs. All this takes mountains of energy yet we continue to spend time on things that don’t really interest or support us. By carrying on with unrewarding projects we literally drag ourselves into energy bankruptcy. It’s time for women to cut to the chase and do the things that give us energy while getting rid of the rest.
When things energize you it is like stepping outside of time and space. You are in the flow. Hungarian psychology professor and author Mihály Csíkszentmihályi developed this concept. He concluded that those who transcended time when working at an activity were more productive and satisfied than those who did not. It energized rather than drained them.
Each of us are different. What gives me energy might zap you. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware which things give us energy or take it away. We follow convention and persist with endeavours until they are complete.
Drop the drainers!
Arianna Huffington says you can complete a project just by dropping it. Most of us have things on our mental ‘list of things to do’ that don’t serve our purposes. Just having them on a list in the back of your mind is a real energy drainer. I followed her advice last week and stopped reading a book that wasn’t resonating with me. In the past I would have dutifully read to the end but making the decision not to continue gave me a huge energy boost. Even better, I then had time to read something that really stimulated me and my energy soared.
Additionally, most of us discount our strengths. We view them as unimportant and take them for granted. Then we spend time trying to be good at things where we’re not naturally gifted which is a huge draw on our energy. It is pretty simple: we get energy from going with who we are and we are depleted by trying to be someone else.
You may have heard of Pareto's Principle for business. It says that you will get 80 percent of your business from 20 percent of your customers. I believe that it is exactly the same with energy. You’ll get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your energy by being who you are. If you insist on focusing on the areas others think are important, rather than those that serve you, it will take 80 percent of your energy to get 20 percent of your results. Who has that much energy to squander?
Create Energy Checkpoints
Each of us needs to take the time to stop and check in with ourselves frequently throughout the day to determine if things, people or activities give us energy or take it away. Gravitate to the people who fill you with energy and supplement your reserves when you are down. I remember a woman who hung out with our group at sporting events because her husband liked to be there but she was always tired, asking to leave early. One day I discovered that when out with her friends from the symphony she would arrive home in the wee hours of the morning. Obviously, the other group and activities energized her while ours didn’t.
Part of the problem is that we must be aware of who we are and what makes us feel like a bigger, fuller human being. When something or someone filling us with energy, we should aim for more. But it’s hard to feel it when we spend most of our time in our heads and completely ignore our bodies. Unfortunately, I’ve often been guilty of doing just that.
I remember going to the massage therapist who’d say, “How did you get that nasty bruise on your hip?” I had no idea! I was always in my head, often three months ahead making plans and not in the present at all. So how was I to know what gave me energy? I never stopped to monitor it, and just like the gas gauge on the car, eventually I hit empty.
The more you listen to your body, the more signals it gives to point you in the right direction. At first you might need to schedule times to check on your energy in the same way you’d plan a lunch break. Eventually you’ll naturally notice how certain hobbies, parts of your job or people affect your energy. You’ll be able to space out your energy-sapping tasks and deliberately incorporate elements to restore your energy throughout the day. Think of it like taking a vitamin pill. For example, you can restore your physical energy by closing your office door, turning off your phone, closing your eyes and taking some deep cleansing breaths.
Each of us is an individual and our energy sources are different. The key is finding the people, places and things that get you in the flow and give you energy. When you are doing things and don’t notice the passage of time, add more of these things to your schedule. As for the rest- complete those projects by dropping them!