Dawn walked into Alisha’s office and found her friend slumped back in her chair nursing a large coffee. Seeing the tiny lines of strain around her eyes, Dawn said, “You look beat! I thought you would be chomping at the bit after being at the training conference all week.”
Taking a swig of coffee and giving a rueful smile, Alisha said, “I was when I got back into town on Friday. It was a great conference, and everybody there was ready to take on the world. I was very intent to hit the ground running when I got to the office today. Then, something hit me between Friday and now: reality!”
Far too often, most of us tackle work or life in short bursts. Like a sprinter, we go all out in our efforts to do something or solve a problem. Sometimes it is necessary to apply that tactic to urgent issues, but it shouldn’t be how we address everything. We have to approach what we do like a marathoner. We need to prepare ourselves to use our energy over the long-haul, not in a matter that burns us out or causes us to lose interest.
The scenario above is a typical dilemma everyone faces. Think of New Year’s resolutions, which are so common among many people. The timing is ideal. The new year seems fresh and perfect to move forward with positive changes. The concept of the newness of the year infuses many with a burst of energy.
However, statistics show that, on average, only 8% of resolutions ever come to fruition. The underlying reason is that it is difficult to keep up that enthusiasm over a long period of time to meet one resolution. It is even harder when you have a bunch of decisions because you are, in essence, watering down your energy.
After coaching hundreds of people, one thing has emerged over and over again. When people attend conferences and training sessions, the synergy of energy at those events is contagious. You know you attended a well-planned event when you leave feeling like you can set the world on fire. Like Alisha, though, it is hard to maintain that energy level and keep up that momentum in daily life. I have seen people fired up only to have one hour at their desk suck the essence out of them.
As I observe this phenomenon happening with those I coach, I realize the same thing happens to me quite often. It is a standard issue in the workplace and in life. It makes me recall the first Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy. It states that "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another." For instance, it would seem as though turning on a light would produce energy, but that energy is actually just being converted to light.
From that science, I coined the phrase energy intelligence. It means having the mindfulness to distribute our energy intelligently to all facets of what we do so that we maintain a consistent pace in all areas of our work and personal life.
That does not mean that you should allocate the same amount of energy to everything you do. That's impossible. We only possess so much energy.
Things happen on a daily basis that cause your energy to ebb and increase. Mindfulness helps you recognize the correlation between your power and goal. It equips you to employ energy strategically. For example, you would direct more of your energy to accomplish goals that are critical to your long-term success. Similarly, you learn to use discretion to say no to your fears.
Energy intelligence recognizes that you only have so much energy and that different tasks require different amounts of it. For example, if numbers are not your thing and you have to spend a couple of hours figuring out a spreadsheet, recognize that it is going to take a lot out of you. It is probably not a good idea to schedule an important meeting right after you do that task. When our energy is down, our brains are not working at full capacity. Part of energy intelligence is recognizing when you are at your best for making crucial decisions or exerting leadership to your staff or team. Part of energy intelligence is transforming tired energy into high-performing energy.
To get started on energy intelligence, begin by observing your energy levels during the day. People tend to have peaks and valleys. Some folks accomplish more between 8:00 a.m. and noon than they do for the rest of the day, while others are night owls. First, make the conscious decision to track yourself.
The next step is figuring out what boosts your energy. Maybe it's reading an inspiring article, laughing at the comics page or drinking a large café mocha. Whatever it is, hang onto that fact so you know how to replenish your energy when it is down.
Now that you know the first steps to energy intelligence, let’s get started!
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