Maintaining A Steady Flow Of Energy

The third in a series of posts on shaping your future career, this one follows an exercise to put your goals on paper and being more accurate in estimating your value when you are out hunting for your new job. This one delves into that mysterious social-media like quality inspiring FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): being energized by your job, and vice versa.

I will be honest and say that I am often guilty at allowing my energy levels to drop. We’ve all been there; a period of hard work, stress and worry, maybe some friction in your relations with people, and all of a sudden we feel drained and empty. It’s one of those warning signs that shows that we’re on the path to burnout or depression, and that our energy buildup is not enough to sustain our expenditures.

Two Strategies In Energy Management

On the whole I have observed two strategies people use in their daily lives, which I call the Battery and the Pendulum.

The Battery method involves having big recharges from important events, sleep, time spent on hobbies, and spending this throughout the day. People who are batteries will be able to go big stretches of time without stopping, working hard for a very long time in a focused manner. However, they are vulnerable to stress and interruptions that prevent them from recharging, and if they run out of energy they are out for the count for a considerably longer time.

The Pendulum method revolves around fast cycles of using and charging energy. Pendulums run out of energy quicker, but also recharge quickly and easily. They need more breaks throughout the day, more distractions and energizing events. Because of this quicker recharge, they are much less vulnerable to running out of energy, and even if they do it does not take them long to bounce back.

Recognizing Your Energy Type

Batteries are powerhouses – long hours, seemingly tireless. Other people might think they can go on forever without stopping.

  • Batteries prefer making long hours and long weeks, “getting it done” and then crash down.
  • Have a tendency to divide up their day so they can conserve and ration energy.
  • Deal poorly with surprise tasks and chores.
  • Have a number of specific “recharging strategies” that should not be disturbed, such as an afternoon nap, “game hour”, meditation and so on – if disturbed, they will not regain energy.
  • If they are tired and depressed, they are not likely to be able to “dig” much deeper for energy.
Batteries have long cycles

Pendulums are continuously in motion. They will often do many different things in a day, and seem to recover quickly from setbacks.

  • Pendulums intersperse tasks with energizing activities to keep their moods up.
  • They deal with surprises by finding something that energizes them and gets them “fired up”.
  • They deal poorly with long-term focused assignments without rest or distraction.
  • Have a wide range of interests, each giving them a continuous “charge” as long as they indulge it.
  • They always seem to have a little more energy, and be able to go on after they seem down for the count.
Pendulums have short cycles

Neither way of managing your personal energy is better than the other, they are simply strategies that you’ve formed based on what you grew up with. If you think back and remember lazy days with big chores in between, you’re likely a battery. If you’ve always been in motion and remember being happy at smiles, small memories and “little victories” you’re more likely a pendulum.

Extending Your Battery Life

Like a real battery, you’re recharged slowly but have a big pool of strength to draw on. So that means you could either expand your capacity, or improve the quality of your recharging.

The first step here is to decide what your recharging strategies are. Reading a book? Playing video games? Walking in nature? Meditating right after getting out of bed? Whichever it is, that is something to focus on. You will know what it is because it is the one thing you do often (weekly, but likely daily) which seems to raise your spirits and balances out your negative thoughts.

This thing you need to cherish. Don’t be quick to try and optimize it or “improve” on it, as you are more likely to ruin your enjoyment of it and you will need to find a new recharging strategy instead. Rather, make sure people around you know that this is very important to your mental wellbeing, and that they should do what they can not to interrupt it or plan meetings and chores over it. If you can, plan a timeslot for it and book it in your calendar. Batteries are very conductive to a regular, planned recharge.

If you feel that you are lacking energy and you need a recharge, don’t expose yourself more often (you are not a pendulum) but rather longer. Walk longer, meditate longer, read longer. Once your recharge is done you will feel like you can face the world again.

Should you feel like you need to improve on your quanitity of recharging, try to cultivate a secondary activity you really like which is connected to your current recharging strategy. So nature walking combines with gardening, reading combines with writing, meditating combines with yoga. Those sort of combinations allow you to cultivate a second recharging strategy which you can use when you feel the need for that little bit extra, without endangering your primary strategy. Just make sure you enjoy it, and that it’s something you can spend some time on (as much as you need, in fact).

Swinging The Pendulum

You may have a smaller capacity, but you get back in the fight much quicker. Amplifying your enjoyment of life will be a great booster for your ability to take on your everyday tasks.

Your strategy for recharging won’t rely on a single acitvity, but rather a feeling or result that makes you feel happy. For example, people’s smiles, a sense of accomplishment or a feeling of wonder. Here the key is to find out what things make you feel that way, and expose yourself to them, which will give you more chances in a day to recharge.

People who thrive on other people’s happiness find jobs that allow them to help others. In so doing, they are continually recharged and have all the mental energy they need to get through even a very long day or week. The first priority is to make sure that this strategy is available and not interrupted, so if you find yourself in a job that doesn’t allow you to make others happy, you’re not recharging and you should find another job. If you thrive on accomplishment and you’ve gone as far as you could go in your career, you need to step outside your comfort zone and head up a challenge again.

Reverse of the Battery, you need exposure more often, not longer. A single smile, a “thank you” or seeing your name on top of a score board can already be enough to get your charge in.

Should you need to improve your energy, find out if there are more things that energize you, or if there are more ways to access that energy. Happiness can be achieved from being in customer service as well as working in a food truck. Accomplishment can be found in a computer game as well as a high performance job.

Can You Change Type?

The way you handle energy is part of your general build-up and likely formed over many years. I don’t believe it would be impossible for a Battery to find multiple ways to recharge, or for a Pendulum to find ways to get a big boost. But I am not sure if there would be much to gain by focusing on “changing how you handle energy”.

For one, I wouldn’t know where to begin to change it. Your childhood formed how you handle energy, and I am confident there will likely also be a physiological aspect as well as psychological, but as I am not a medical professional I wouldn’t be able to go further on this topic. That said, I do find this particular aspect interesting enough that I will need to look into it and see what studies have been done on this topic and what their findings are.

Second, expending energy to change what you do into something else takes a lot of effort, and you might not be better at it than your previous strategy. It might be more beneficial to have more understanding of how you manage your energy and find ways to improve it. When you want to feel better, this is often achieved by acceptance and improving your state, rather than turning into something you’re not to achieve some form of miraculous transformation.

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