On a scale of one to ten … how much energy do you have? After a good night’s rest, do wake up without your alarm, jump out of bed, and go about your day like a badass? Or … do you hit the snooze button a few times before you stumble out of bed to take on the day like a sloth on tranquilizers?
If you’re in sloth territory, you might need to take a closer look at how you’re managing your energy. Energy is the physical and mental power to perform work. You require energy to support every thought, word, action, and interaction in your life. The cruel joke relative to energy is that you’re only given a finite portion of it each day.
Let’s imagine you’re allotted 100 units of energy every morning. Whether you do it consciously or unconsciously, you invest those units as you go about your daily activities. Waking up in the morning, under ideal circumstances, might require 10 units. Dropping the kids off at school could require 10 more. Checking your texts, emails, and social media feeds might cost you 20 more units, and so on.
As you engage in the many responsibilities of your life and work, your 100 units of energy are allocated. This formula works beautifully under ideal circumstances, but those are rare. Multiple factors impact your daily experience, and you have no control over most of them.
Life’s little annoyances increase the “cost” of your normal daily activities. If you can’t find your keys because your house is a mess, getting your kiddos to school might cost you 20 units instead of 10. If your email in-box is clogged with unanswered messages or you follow negative people on social media, diving into the day’s communication might cost you 40 units instead of 20. Allocating your energy to these cost increases can push you right into an energy deficit.
If you feel like your get-up-an-go … got-up-and-went … this blog’s for you. We’ll assess your physical, mental, and emotional energy, and I’ll help you take your mojo back from all the places you’ve been giving it away. Even better? We’ll do it in three simple steps.
Step 1 – Reclaim Your Physical Energy.
The way you take care of your physical world directly impacts your energy. This includes your physical body and your material environment. In last month’s blog we covered the basics of how to take care of your physical body. Check out Self-Care Is Not Selfish – It’s Science for a detailed how-to on taking care of you. In this step we’re going to take control of your space.
When you proactively commit to managing your environment, you not only reduce the energy cost of routine tasks, you also increase your personal comfort and satisfaction. Whether you realize it or not, your surroundings have a strong impact on you. A chaotic, disorganized setting is energetically expensive. While it may require some elbow grease up front, creating a well-ordered environment will improve your daily experience and increase your vitality. I use four strategies when I embark on this process with my clients. Let’s take control of your space.
Take Control of Your Space Strategy #1: Clean It Up.
It may seem counterproductive to invest energy into cleaning up your environment. After all, you want to increase your vitality, not engage in the drudgery of cleaning closets or sorting files. However, a clean, orderly environment is imperative if your goal is to maintain high levels of energy.
Cliff notes? You need to clean up your space.
My Beautiful Friend … It’s time to spring clean your world.
You can approach this task in a number of ways. It may make sense for you to set a weekend aside and move through your home room by room, discarding damaged items, donating things you no longer need or use, and sorting items you’d like to keep. Once you’ve moved through each item in a room, clean the space thoroughly.
Use this same approach in your office, moving drawer to drawer instead of room to room. Discard files you no longer need, delegate projects that have been collecting dust, and thoroughly clean your workspace. You may even want to add a plant or photo to remind you of your commitment to increase your vitality.
While initially daunting, this process can be very satisfying because it provides you with almost immediate gratification. After just a few days of focused action, your home and work environments will embrace you with their cleanliness and order, and you’ll feel a surge of newfound energy.
Take Control of Your Space Strategy #2: Find a Home for Every Item.
It’s much easier to maintain order in your environment when every item has a place where it belongs. As you move through the room-to-room sweep of your home and drawer-to-drawer sweep of your office, make sure to decide where you will keep each of the things you’re hanging on to.
It’s helpful to group similar items together, placing things close to where you’re likely to use them. For example, healthy snacks can be kept in a specific kitchen cabinet, and books or magazines you want to read can be grouped in a basket by your favorite chair.
Once you’ve selected a home for your possessions, keep them where they belong. After you’re through using something, make sure you place it back in its home. This way, you’ll always know where to find what you’re looking for, and the order you’ve so painstakingly restored will be maintained.
Take Control of Your Space Strategy #3: Ownership Is Everything.
Running a home is a monumental task, especially if there are other people (especially little people) in your family. It’s much easier to maintain order in your home if you clearly establish and communicate standards that help your family work as a team.
Your kids are extremely capable. If they can carry a plate to the table – they can carry it back to the dishwasher too. When they take out a toy or book, they can definitely learn to put that item back when they’re finished with it, and as early as grade school they can clean up their room and help with age appropriate chores.
Not only is it acceptable to ask each member of your household to pick up after themselves, it’s also plausible to delegate routine tasks such as loading the dishwasher, gathering the laundry, and running the vacuum. Make sure you ask for – and allow yourself to receive – help in the management of your home.
Your roles may include mother and wife, but they don’t need to include maid. Call a family meeting, and let everyone know that you need help to take care of your home. Arrive at some standards you all agree with, and work together to condition your new approach.
Take Control of Your Space Strategy #4: Outsource It.
In business, outsourcing involves hiring an outside party to manage an operational process on your behalf. This principle can support you in managing the many tasks associated with your life as well.
If the prospect of organizing every room in your home or each space in your office is too distasteful to contemplate, hire a professional organizer to take over the task. If cooking dinner after a full workday feels cumbersome, embrace the concept of take-out.
This strategy need not require a huge financial investment. Many times, support professionals work at moderate hourly rates. If you don’t have the wiggle room in your budget to hire someone, it’s possible to establish a trade relationship with a friend or neighbor. The point is to get clear about the things you don’t want to do (and those things you’re confident you will successfully avoid doing) and find someone to help you accomplish those things.
There is no shame in asking for help.
We all need it.
Delegate tasks you’d prefer not to invest your time in, and embrace those that bring you joy.
Step 2 – Mind Your Mental Energy
Your energy is impacted by what goes on in your head. You can liken the available space in your mind to that of a computer’s hard drive. The more items you save in your memory bank, the less space you have available to support your vitality. While factors in this area are slightly less tangible than those impacting your physical energy, they are no less profound.
Mental energy revolves around your commitments. When you maintain an inventory of projects you’ve started but not finished, a never-finished to-do list, or a series of cumbersome promises you set yourself up for energetic depletion, because each of these items takes up valuable space in your mind. Let’s handle your headspace TODAY.
Handle Your Headspace Strategy #1: Tame Your To-Do List.
I’m convinced that all women will reach the end of their lives with a to-do list. You juggle so many roles and responsibilities in your daily life, how could you function without one? Used proactively, lists can be great tools for supporting you in tracking the actions you need to take. Used destructively, lists can create feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and defeat.
The most common mistake I’ve encountered with the use of the “to-do list” involves overestimating what can actually be accomplished in one day. Attempting to complete twenty tasks in a day, in and around the other responsibilities of your life and work, is a sure recipe for feeling like a failure.
In many instances, Superwoman couldn’t complete the lists some of my clients have shared with me. Structure your tasks by investing a few moments to write down every to-do you currently have floating around in your head. Once you’ve completed this step, review each item on your list and ask yourself if the item in question really needs to be completed.
I’ve worked with many clients who took such satisfaction in crossing things off their list or who got such a charge from having a full list of things to do that they put items on their lists that really didn’t need to be addressed. Evaluate your inventory, and make sure that each task you’ve noted really needs to be handled.
Once you’ve cleared any tasks that don’t need addressing, group related activities into categories. For example, all tasks that involve running errands could be organized into one category, items that require phone calls another, and so on. Once you’ve created your categories, you may want to identify those things that are repetitive, such as going to the grocery store or the bank, and those that are occasional, such as buying an item at the hardware store.
An effective way to manage repetitive activities is to establish a routine around their completion. Is it possible for you to create a standard list of groceries and have them delivered to your home on a schedule that suits you? If you live in an urban or suburban area, there are many Internet grocers who now provide this type of service. Is it possible for you to have your dry cleaner deliver to your home, instead of you having to make the trip to their store each week? Investing a small amount of time to set up a system that supports your repetitive errands can simplify your process.
Handle Your Headspace Strategy #2: Handle Your Business.
The most certain way to free your mental energy from the burden of to-dos is to take effective action. Commit to acting on a set number of items each day and you will create a momentum that supports you in addressing the tasks currently on your list as well as new ones that arise each day.
I advise my clients to commit to no more than five tasks a day. At the beginning of each day, identify the three most critical things that need to be addressed. Get started with those and methodically move through the other items on your list as the day progresses. If you’re not able to get to everything, just transfer the pending activities to your calendar in the next few days.
The most important factors in taming your to-do list involve getting your tasks out of your head and deciding that you will act on the list you’ve created in a consistent and achievable manner. When you employ these strategies, you will experience a positive shift in your energy and a sense of satisfaction related to your progress.
Handle Your Headspace Strategy #3: Take a Project Inventory.
Management of projects is very similar to that of to-dos. It’s quite common to have an inventory of uncompleted plans in your mind. A project is something you’d like to create or accomplish that requires multiple steps. For example, drafting a financial plan or redecorating a room are projects.
Take inventory of the unfinished projects in your mind. Get them on paper and evaluate them to determine if they’re still meaningful to you. If they’re not, give yourself permission to put them to rest. You have a right to change your mind!
If they remain important, get clear about what you want the outcome of each project to be—for example, a completed financial plan—and decide why this end result is important to you. Meaning creates momentum, so the process of connecting with why you’d like to accomplish the goal at hand will energize your actions.
Once you’ve identified the projects you’re committed to, prioritize them. Decide which you’ll do first, which second, and so on. Then, begin working through the steps you’ll need to take to act on your first priority. Decide to commit a specific amount of time to the completion of your enterprise each week and follow through on that commitment. Work on one project at a time, giving yourself permission to move slowly and steadily.
The simple act of getting your projects out of your head, sorting through those you are committed to versus those that no longer make sense for you, and prioritizing what remains can be incredibly liberating. Couple that with committed, consistent action and your energy level will begin to soar.
Handle Your Headspace Strategy #4: Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve worked with a client who was managing a list of commitments she’d made as a resul t of feeling that she “should” make them. This is a sure way to diminish your energy levels and undermine your ability to enjoy life.
When you commit yourself to an activity out of a sense of obligation, you are setting yourself up to feel overwhelmed, resentful, and possibly even angry. Living your life according to someone else’s expectations will put you on a path to unhappiness and regret.
Make sure that you only lend your time and energy to tasks and projects that are meaningful to you. If you’re asked to participate in something you’d rather not be involved in, say no. While this may be uncomfortable in the moment, it will save you many hours of frustration and regret in the future. It will also free up a wellspring of energy!
Take a moment to list every commitment you’re currently involved in. Evaluate the quality of each obligation. Did you agree to participate in the endeavor because it was meaningful to you, or did you agree because you felt you should?
If you agreed to a commitment out of a sense of obligation, consider the possibility of withdrawing from that undertaking. Clearing the “shoulds” from your life will very likely lift a weight off your shoulders and infuse you with newfound vitality.
Step 3 – Ace Your Emotional Energy
The emotional factors of energy are usually the most challenging to deal with. These have to do with life experiences that are unresolved and are directly linked to your interactions with other people. They can be charged with angst—such as feelings of guilt, shame, fear, embarrassment, frustration, anger, and regret.
There are four primary situations that impact your emotional energy. Invariably, you will identify with each scenario to some degree. Inevitably, each of us has experienced distressful and dissatisfying interactions with others, and most of us have been disappointed in our own behavior at one time or another.
Experiences that impact your emotions only diminish your energy when they’re left unresolved. The best way to determine if a situation is unresolved is to connect with the charge of feeling you have associated with that experience.
If you can recall the scenario with a level of neutrality and calm, it’s probable that you’ve reached a level of closure related to that event. It’s even possible you’ve pulled valuable lessons from your encounter.
If, however, you feel a jolt of emotion, such as anger, fear, shame, embarrassment, or regret when recalling the event, it’s likely you have some unresolved feelings to contend with. These experiences use precious units of your energy.
Increase Your Emotional Energy Strategy #1: Own Your Actions.
If you have done something that violates your sense of right and wrong, you may feel incomplete. If this action caused harm to another person, you will almost certainly feel incomplete.
The actions in this area vary from person to person, as everyone has a different set of rules that govern his or her behavior. Examples of these actions can range in seriousness from something as seemingly harmless as failing to keep a commitment, to more serious offenses such as telling a lie or gossiping about a friend or family member.
Take inventory of your personal behavior. Do you have regrets about anything you’ve said or done that you may need to address? Do you owe anyone an apology? If so, consider the situation. What part of your actions do you regret? How would you act differently if given a second chance? Would it make sense for you to communicate with the person who was affected by your behavior?
In some instances, offering a clear apology can support you in reaching a place of energetic closure, even if the other person involved doesn’t accept your attempt to make amends. In other situations, the simple act of recognizing that your behavior was not acceptable and committing to make a change can bring you to neutrality.
Increase Your Emotional Energy Strategy #2: Own Your Inaction.
If you failed to follow through on something you now wish you would have, you may need to resolve your lack of action in order to avoid an insidious circle of thought, which I’ve coined “The Inaction Cycle.” Inaction results in missed opportunities.
Missed opportunities fuel fantasies about what could have been. Focusing on what could have been causes you to live in the neverland of “what if,” instead of the reality of “what is.” Living in fantasies of “what if” guarantees that you will never take the actions necessary to have a fabulous “what is.” I’ve worked with countless people living in this cycle of fantasy and projection. Not only is this energetically expensive, it’s a certain recipe for dissatisfaction with life.
Examples of inaction include failing to complete your degree, not following up on an interesting professional opportunity, failing to pursue a relationship with someone you were interested in, or putting off your study of a much-loved activity.
The important thing to identify specific to inaction is the reason you have regret. What do you think you would have gained had you acted on the opportunity you’re remembering? What do you fear you missed out on? You cannot change the past, but you can create a compelling future. Get clear about the essence of what you wish you would have created or accomplished.
Once you’ve connected with your true intention, brainstorm several ways you could pursue that outcome today. It’s been said that the longest journey begins with a single step. Your willingness to honestly assess what you regret, and embrace the possibility that you can create the essence of what you believe you missed out on can be a great source of drive and dynamic power.
Increase Your Emotional Energy Strategy #3: Recognize Where You Didn’t Speak Truth
When you fail to let someone know what your true feelings are, or you allow another person to speak to you in a way you find unacceptable, you undermine your self-respect. This is energetically depleting, not to mention personally demoralizing.
Many times, women have difficulty letting someone know when they’re angry or hurt. That’s generally because we aren’t comfortable with confrontation. We haven’t been taught to communicate with clarity and constructive feedback, so we repress our emotions.
When you consistently censor yourself, eventually one of three things will happen—you will numb out emotionally, you will make yourself physically sick, or you will explode at the most inopportune moment. (We have all had those explosive moments. While it may feel great to rage like a banshee, I’m here to tell you that there is a better way.)
Please understand that when you don’t speak up for yourself you begin to compile an inventory of experiences that cause you to feel frustrated, sad, despondent, or completely furious. It takes a great deal of energy to fuel these emotions! Examples of such situations include allowing your mate to use an unacceptable tone of voice with you or allowing others to tease or criticize you.
If you find yourself in this type of situation frequently, it will be important for you to get comfortable with confrontation. Your willingness to be momentarily uncomfortable and to communicate with assertive clarity will support you in increasing both your energy and your self-respect. I use a five-part formula when helping my clients learn to speak up for themselves.
· Step One – Clearly describe the problem, as you see it, to the person involved.
· Step Two – Specifically let the other party know what part of his or her behavior was unacceptable to you.
· Step Three – Let the other person know how the situation made you feel.
· Step Four – Ask the other person for the specific solution you seek. This may require that you ask the person to change his or her behavior in some way. If this is the case, be very clear about the behavioral change you require. If you want an apology, ask for it.
· Step Five – This other person has free will and may see the situation much differently than you do. It’s possible that he or she will not be willing to comply with your wishes. You must be ready and willing to let the other person know what you plan to do if he or she won’t comply with your request. This may mean that you let the other know you can’t have a relationship with him or her any longer, or that you’ll have to limit the time you spend with him or her. Understand what your alternatives are and be willing to follow them through.
The core issue in learning to communicate on your own behalf goes far beyond the management of your energy. Truly, this skill will allow you to build your reserves of self-confidence and self-respect. The increase you’ll experience in your level of vitality is simply an added bonus.
Until we meet again, remember that you can handle anything that comes your way.
You’ve Got This!