How often do we hear leaders say ‘I just don’t have time’? Better yet, how often do you say it?
I used to, all the time.
It’s only natural. We live in environments where we are constantly bombarded with external stimuli, whether we are at work or home. There are so many demands on our time we must juggle various aspects of our lives. Working long hours has become a norm, especially in Asia, and we treat ourselves as if we have bottomless supply of focus and energy. This issue becomes more critical as you progress towards senior leadership.
The issue is that we don’t take the time to replenish our energy. We are so focused on achievements and outcomes that we lose focus on the ways we are working, and the ways we are working are not sustainable. Many of the leaders I coach reach a breaking point where they struggle to maintain their usual levels of drive, commitment or achievement and cannot understand how they got there.
Even though we rely on it every day, we take energy for granted. In this blogpost, I identify the sources of energy so that you can start to think about your own ways of living. There are four sources of energy – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. We draw on each every day and they need to be continually replenished. In order to move forward, we need to learn to actively manage our energy by recognising when we are running low and look for opportunities for renewal. What is truly important is to be able to establish a way – your own way – of being able to renew your energy.
Our brainpower, or cognitive energy, is the source of our ability to pay attention and concentrate. We have so many areas to focus on, often simultaneously, that it is only natural that our energy is draining without us realizing. A question for you: do you get alerts on your mobile when you get emails? How do you react? Distractions are becoming the norm, but at a cost to our cognitive energy.
Our emotions consume energy: negative emotions more so. It is not realistic to banish our negative emotions: rather, we must recognize what we are feeling and seek to respond, not to react. Here is an example. You are at a work function when a colleague makes a joke at your expense. Your instant reaction to lash out but to avoid making a scene you say nothing and seek to bury your feelings. Over the next few days, you do not speak to your colleague about it, but a feeling of resentment starts to build. That resentment consumes energy. Being aware of our emotions is the first step to understanding your emotional energy.
Physical energy comes from taking care of your body: being healthy through eating properly, sleeping enough and exercising. We all know that it is important to do these things, but often our health takes a backseat to our work, our families and our busy lives. Have you had a day where you were so busy you forgot to eat lunch until late in the afternoon? Or a solid day of meetings after only sleeping for a few hours? How did you perform? We may be able to manage a lack of physical energy occasionally, but not long term.
Our reason for being, or our ability to trust our intuitive knowing, is what we call our spiritual energy. Our spiritual energy comes from having values or purposes that drive and motivate us, that encourage us to get up in the morning. It is often hard to identify our purpose, especially when we are caught in the day to day. But when we are able to articulate our vision, purpose and values it can become an untapped source of energy that gives you the confidence, resilience and motivation to overcome the smaller challenges and hurdles.
Now that you know more about the four sources of energy, I encourage you to take this Energy Audit by The Energy Project. Use this audit as an opportunity to reflect and recognize areas you can work on. Start managing your energy today.