How to consciously manage energy levels?
Do you too often find yourself feeling as if you have too much to do with too little time to do it in? Have you wondered why?
It is taken as a given that we live in busy fast paced world. It is taken as a given that we likely have a lot to do.
However surely there has to be strategies that offer hope to those us struggling with fatigue?
Strategies that will help us better manage our energy levels and reduce the risk of fatigue?
This is exactly what I was asked recently by Huffington Post Lifestyle Editor Leigh Campbell?
For my reply please read on.
1. Can people approach their day in a different way to better manage energy?
Yes. The focus needs to shift to be on sustainable energy management.
I recommend approaching your day, week or month as if it is a long distance run. To do it in such a way so that you are still able to call on energy reserves that allow you to sprint on occasion when it is essential.
The key to improved and sustained energy management is in knowing what and how to apply the combined approach so you can reduce the risk of fatigue or at worst exhaustion and feeling (being) overwhelmed.
2. Why do you encourage clients to approach their day as a long distance run?
Think of it like running. The analogy will help you better visualise what I mean.
A long distance run is focussed on a medium to longer term time frame. You are using low to medium intensity energy. Your goal is sustained energy, to leverage endurance and stamina to get through your day-week-month.
A sprint is focussed on the immediate short time frame, it is a burst of high intensity energy that is limited and cannot be sustained.
If you approach your day as a sprint, you risk reaching mid-morning or lunch time fatigued, or at worst if a sprint is the norm for you, beginning your day fatigued.
Once fatigued or possibly exhausted your reactivity to what is going on in your day increases. It then undermines your ability for the rest of the day to manage your day the way you had intended.
The risks of ongoing fatigue include reduced ability to concentrate, poor memory or distracted thinking, feeling more irritable, impatient or anxious.
You can develop what I call ‘in the bones tiredness’ that is difficult to shake off, that has the potential to leave you feeling caught in the headlights, unable to see the forest for the trees.
3. What are some ways/tools they can use to do so?
Prepare & plan your to do list to actively allocate energy:
- Categorise your to do list, create four categories 1. Do Today. 2. Do This Week. 3. Do Next Week. And 4. Do Next Month.
- In allocating activities consider their importance and urgency.
- Identify items of low importance and low urgency; remove them from your list as they are likely distractions of little value.
- Aim to keep the Do Today category to at most 6 items.
- Finally identify the 2-3 items on your Today List that are essential to do today. Treat all remaining items as optional for today.
Organise and structure your day:
- To help manage the pace of your day take schedule breaks during your day:
- Create standing recurring appointment times in your calendar. It will allow you to block out pre-scheduled breaks and set up automatic break reminders.
- At the break, check in on energy levels. Give yourself a score out of 10. Ask yourself if you need to take action. Use energy levels below 5/10, to trigger action to change your pace.
- Aim for at least 3-4 daily breaks; including mid-morning and afternoon plus lunch. If you sit a lot I also recommend you get up and move for 5minutes every hour.
Re-fill your energy tank throughout your day:
- Aim to eat every 4-5hrs to better support even and sustained energy levels.
- Be aware energy is used for doing as well as thinking and relating/interacting with others.
- Trying to power through for your day without re-energising is like asking your car to run on no petrol or electricity.
Choose foods required by the body to produce and release energy:
- Limit foods high in added sugar or poor quality simple carbs and fats that play havoc with your ability to produce and sustain even energy levels.
- Include foods essential to the body for producing and releasing energy such as quality carbs (e.g. brown rice, oats, quinoa, sweet potato, legumes) and foods rich in the micronutrients magnesium and B vitamins (e.g. chicken, cold water oily fish, almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus, green beans, bananas, whole grains, eggs, avocados and dairy).
Remember to Breathe:
- Your energy systems need oxygen to work.
- Good posture, taking breaks and moving regularly helps your body to breathe more deeply.
- Breathing more deeply will enable your body to get the oxygen it needs to create and sustain energy.
Complete a Day End Debrief:
- At the end of the day acknowledge what you have achieved. Give yourself a score out of 10.
- Reflect on the quality of your day-end energy. Give yourself a score out of 10.
- Compare the scores to understand the energy cost required to achieve your to do list.
- Ask yourself? Is my approach more akin to a sprint than a medium-long distance run?
Remember change takes time:
- Do not give up.
- Change happens over time, it is a process.
- It may involve 3 steps forward, 1 sideways, possibly a ½ step backward.
- If you persist you will move forward again to improve your approach to energy management.
Good luck with the strategies.
Wishing you boundless energy, take care.