“There aren’t enough hours in a day”, a common reference in our culture to the constant chase for more time. There is and always will be 24 hours in a day, so how is it that there are some people who have figured out how to be more productive than others, reaching greater levels of achievement and fulfillment? What do they know? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Time is fixed, a finite resource, however, our energy with the time we have can be greatly influenced. I don’t believe the struggle is about needing more time but rather how to optimize our energy in the time we have available to us. Three major influences impact our level of energy each day, our physical state, our mental condition, and distraction management.
Our physical state includes rest, exercise, nutrition and a daily energizing practice. Are you consistently getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night? Our body and mind is dependent on consistent sleep at night to recharge and renew. Are you moving for at least 30 minutes a day? Depending on physical limitations, a combination of cardio activity and weight training, consistently over time, can provide your body with what it needs to optimize higher levels of energy. We are what we eat. We’ve heard this time and time again, the food we put in our bodies directly impacts how we feel. Fueling your body with organic vegetables, lean meat, water and a daily multivitamin will contribute to improved overall physical well being. Lastly, one of the greatest influences of physical state, which has impacted my life the greatest, is integration of a daily energizing practice. A mindfulness practice of checking in with your physical state, taking an intentional time-out, away from what you are doing. At least once an hour, walk away from your computer and move. A short walk or stretch to reset, a few deep breaths before returning to your next project or meeting. Too often we have no physical awareness of how we are presenting ourselves to others. Pay attention to your physicality, presence and posture when you stand, sit, and engage with people. Your physical presence influences the energy you are projecting. We send a message with our posture, facial expression and tonality, a bit of mindfulness and intention can go a long way.
Our mental condition greatly influences the energy we keep. Does your internal dialogue add energy or take it away? When we spend time focusing on what we want rather than what we don’t want, we fuel our energy to keep going in spite of any unforeseen obstacles we experience along the way. Are your thoughts contributing or taking away from being fully present and engaged? While it takes energy to be fully present, when we are present we are also able to extract energy when it is offered around us. Our community, our tribe greatly influence these opportunities to maximize energy. Spend more time with people who bring positive energy to everything they do, mindsets are contagious!
Learning to manage distraction is a secret weapon in managing our energy. What‘s the first thing you do after you open your eyes in the morning? Our thoughts dictate how we feel and what we act on, jeopardizing our energy if we aren’t careful. Avoid the distraction of social media, email, other people’s agenda first thing in the morning. The social media vortex is not only a distraction but a huge energy suck as well. Begin each day according to your plan, your thoughts, that which serves your energy. Committing to a consistent morning routine of gratitude, movement, meditation and healthy breakfast starts the day off with physical and mental energy a priority, your energy at the highest level. As you move through your day, be intentional with your time, avoid toggling back and forth from email, social media and what you are working on to preserve your energy. When we constantly switch from one thing to another, we lose focus, get less done and deplete our energy reserves. This takes discipline. Discipline is choosing what you want now vs what you want most. Our discipline must be greater than the distraction around us in order to optimize energy and stay focused.
Sounds idyllic, right? I know first hand it’s easier said than done. There are many seasons in life and depending on which season you find yourself, maximizing energy can be a challenge. It takes work, it takes intention and your attention. Start somewhere. If sleep is a rarity because you have small children, focus on getting more sleep. If you are going through some physical challenges or illness, focus on your physical well-being. If you are exhausted from supporting a loved one dealing with struggle, focus on self-care and mental well-being. Regardless of the season there’s always a next level, start now even if taking one small step. Life is messy, we will never find a place of perfect balance, make boundaries your goal. Set boundaries in your life, make decisions regarding how and with whom you will choose to expend your energy and time. When we are intentional about managing our energy, we are able to impact how we spend our time and more positive, confident and resilient as a result.