TIME & ENERGY, FINDING ENOUGH
Guest Article by Danielle Dobson, Founder of Code Conversations
How’s your energy-level today? Are you reading this slumped exhausted over your laptop, or are you full of beans and ready to take on a new challenge?
As busy modern women, there’s just so much we want to and need to accomplish in our day and understandably, it’s all too common to hear complaints about lack of time. How often have you heard your friends and colleagues – and yourself - complain there just aren’t ‘enough hours in the day’?
If you think about it though, we all have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do some high achieving women seem to fit so much in?
How do they do it?
I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s not about time, it’s about energy.
While I was interviewing high performing women leading at work and who are lead parents, for my research project, The Wonders of Women Leaders, I noticed a number of reasons why these incredible women stood out from the crowd.
In addition to being empathetic, intelligent, strategic people who authentically cared about others, part of the secret to their success was not how they were managing their time but more about how they were managing their energy.
Researching further and reflecting on my own experiences, it occurred to me that actually, energy is our most precious resource. So, understanding more about how to create it, harness it and make better choices about how we use it – or misuse it - can help you kick all those goals without feeling burnt out and exhausted.
Let’s unpack energy
Energy comes from different sources and it’s important to focus on all the different elements.
Physical sources, such as deep breathing, quality nutrition, sleep, fitness and rhythmic balance are all part of a healthy foundation, but they aren’t the only way of sourcing energy. Having a purpose, positive emotions and mental focus can also help fuel you throughout your day.
Myth bust the energy equation
We’re all taught that fuel in = energy out, but it’s not as simple as that.
I used to think this way and it was reinforced when I became a personal trainer ten years ago (one of the many hats I have worn). If we eat and drink well and balance our calories, we have lots of energy.
However, after living in Beijing for a year and observing how my high performing ex-pat personal training clients were able to function without the sticking to the equation got me thinking.
There was something else driving them to achieve.
What is the key ingredient?
What I found was that they all had a strong sense of purpose and knew what drove them.
If you think about it yourself, when do you have that feeling of being focused and energised? Do you feel it most when you’re spending time doing the things which are connected to your sense of purpose?
When you have a strong sense of purpose, and know who you are and what you stand for, you have the foundation to build a full and complete life. The kind that gets you leaping out of the bed in the morning and keeps you energised throughout the day - yes, even without multiple cups of coffee!
So often we’re so caught up in the busyness of tackling everything on our to-do list, and hefting around that mental load, that we don’t step back to think about what it’s all for.
Tip: Identify your energy sources and drains
A great way to improve your energy is to pay attention to what you are doing right now.
Have you ever stopped to think about your energy sources and drains? These are unique to each of us - an energy drain for you might be a source of energy for your best friend, and vice versa.
The habits, people, places, words and language which give you energy or drain it away are yours alone.
In my research, the women I interviewed identified energy sources as things like:
- Love and connection
- Healthy food
- Sense of purpose
- Strong sense of self
- Collective experiences
And energy drains were things like:
- Unmet expectations
- Lack of meaning and purpose
- Externally imposed expectations
- Shame and guilt
- Loss of control
- Low energy language - “I’m stressed/busy/depressed”
Write your own list. What are the things which give you energy, and what are the things which deplete it?
Then, try to eliminate the things that take your energy and do more of the things that give you energy.
Internal vs external motivations – why it matters
If your motivations are external - pleasing others, gaining attention or fear of rejection - it can be depleting. A bit like a sugar hit - a temporary sense of excitement and energy, followed by a low.
On the flipside, internal motivations - based on your values and a deep sense of what is authentic to you - can be a source of fuel and create longer-lasting energy.
As women, the gender code within our society programs us to look for external approval as the sign of our success. From a very young age, we’re praised for looking after others and taking a caring role, but this seeking of external approval can be an exhausting hamster wheel.
What are your motivations for the tasks on your to-do list today?
What you can do each day - positive rituals
Exercising willpower and discipline throughout the day is a big energy suck, which is why having routines and rituals throughout the day will free you up to focus your energy on where you need it to be creative and sustainable.
What are the routines and rituals in your life? Are they adding to your energy or depleting it?
One of the women I spoke to as part of my research, Deb, told me about her ‘three things’ ritual. She was in the habit of trying to tick all 50 tasks off her daily list of personal and professional jobs, and it meant she finished each day feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. It also meant she wasn’t focused on the big picture, with so many small things vying for her attention.
The solution? Now, as soon as Deb wakes up, she writes three key things she would like to achieve that day.
- One people – something for others
- One professional – something for her work
- One personal – something for her
Being goal-driven, it means she can focus on achieving the three things and feeling productive at the end of the day when she does.
“It’s changed my life because I’m in a really busy area; it’s very reactive, and I found that I wasn’t dealing with some of the big things,” says Deb.
“I was letting my team down because I wasn’t spending enough time with my people. I’m a better leader and it makes me feel better.”
I’ve tried it myself and it’s life-changing. Instead of lying in bed at night thinking of all the things you haven’t managed to do throughout the day, you’re able to reflect on the three things you did do, and feel a sense of achievement.
Why you need recovery and renewal
While it might be bottom of your to-do list, recovery is crucial. Expending energy without making time for recovery leads to depletion, burnout and depression.
By factoring time for recovery and renewal into our daily and weekly rituals, you’ll enjoy more energy capacity, and everyone around you will benefit.
What does recovery look like for you? It might be meditation or taking a walk at lunchtime. It could be going offline for a period in the day, or even as simple as sitting by yourself and having a coffee.
Think about what works for you and gives you time to rest, recover and launch into your next project with higher levels of energy and enthusiasm.
About Danielle Dobson
Danielle Dobson is author of Breaking the Gender Code - a book about how women can use what they already have, to get what they actually want. In her book, Danielle gives practical and informed tips on how to rewrite the gender code which creates pressures and limits our potential as women, and provides tools and strategies to create individual solutions for your unique context.
Find out more at www.codeconversations.com.au