Your Energy: Your Most Renewable Resource
Summer has come and gone. If you’re like me, that final Summer vacation already seems like a distant memory. I’ve had more than a few conversations in the last few weeks that start with something like, “…back to the grind.” Psychologically, the months after Labor Day can feel like a push to the winter holidays. Practically, the fall is a time of increased workload and stress – particularly for the many organizations that have December 31 fiscal-year ends – and, if you’re not conscientious about it, waning energy.
Leaders must be resilient and energized to meet the multifaceted demands they face. This creates a seeming paradox – with no vacation in sight and increased demands, how do you stay fresh and renew your energy? Unfortunately, many people put their heads down and hope for the best. Leaders need a better strategy.
Here are a few ideas to keep renewal happening throughout the year.
1. Think about ‘cycle time’
Big breaks like vacations are important, but not sufficient. In part, they don’t match up with human physiology. Our bodies and minds were not designed to run at full capacity for long periods of time. This seems common-sense, but is often ignored. A helpful practice is to design your renewal routines with time periods in mind.
Several times per year
These are your big breaks: Vacations, retreats, reunions, road-trips. They are important because they allow you to disconnect from your routines, provide a change of pace, and can offer perspective. They don’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t all be) purely recreational. A visioning/planning retreat or a course you’ve been wanting to take can be as refreshing and energizing as a good lounge on the beach.
Monthly or more
Every month I try to schedule a massage, or get out on the lake with my family. These are events in the month to look forward to. They help break up the weeks and provide time to switch focus.
Weekly or more
These are your regular energy management routines. These activities are building blocks of renewal. You know you have these in place if you miss them a couple of times and feel worse than you would when you did them (even if one of yours is a hard workout). These are habits that sustain you: your exercise routine, meditation, playing an instrument, making time to talk to a loved-one. Most importantly, these are activities that become habits over time.
This is one that often gets missed. What are the things you do within the course of each day to help you renew your energy and stay fresh? Most people experience periods of higher energy and troughs of lower energy about every 90 minutes. If you are fidgeting in your seat, getting impatient, having hunger pangs, or getting thirsty, it may be a sign that you are in need of some renewal. This doesn’t mean taking a 15-minute break every hour. Pausing for a few deep breaths, standing up to stretch, getting up and walking across the office for a refill of your water bottle, taking a quick stroll around the building (or block), looking at pictures of people or places you love, can all be quick and easy refreshers.
Thinking about renewal in cycle time is all about making sure you are supporting your energy throughout the year and finding ways to renew in the moment.
2. Change up your practices
We rely on different types of energy to sustain us. Different practices or activities support different dimensions of energy. Physical energy is the most obvious. It is made up of the nutrition we consume, the exercise we undertake and the rest/sleep we get. Others include emotional energy (quality of emotions or state of mind), mental energy (our ability to focus), and the energy that comes from tapping into our passions and purpose. These are interconnected and support each other. And, if you think about these dimensions as legs on a stool, each leg must be strong to adequately support weight.
Think about your own renewal routines. For each, identify which dimension you are supporting. Are you focusing primarily on one dimension of energy or do you have some balance across? There is leverage here. One practice may nourish your body and your soul.
3. Find What’s Right for You… and Keep It Fresh
I should do more yoga. I keep telling myself that, and occasionally I actually do it. Then I don’t. The key word here is ‘should.’ Should is the language of obligation. Who needs more obligations? Remember, this is about renewing energy not sapping it. Find things that you want to do. These practices will be different for everyone. Be creative. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else until you find the right concoction.
And, keep things fresh. Routines are great because they create clarity, accountability and become habitual. And routines can become… well, routine. I find it helpful to occasionally switch things up to renew my renewal and try new things.
Many leaders I work with have great practices to renew their energy. It’s becoming recognized as a core competency to sustain effectiveness over time. And, no one is perfect. As you look forward towards cooler weather and striking colors of fall, keep your most important renewable resource front of mind – your own energy.
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