March 17, 2011

How my energy level is related to my mobile battery

Recently I went through a serious illness. It knocked me down for a full month before I could really think about work again. Thankfully I'm fine now. It had never happened to me before and it's a curve ball life throws at you from time to time.

In a way it's a learning opportunity life has given me. Aside from thinking about how much support I'm fortunate to have around me and how much I love my family, it got me to thinking about energy of all things! It's the fuel that makes us do things and when the tank is empty, well, you don't do much!

My recent health experience has made me very much aware of the amount of energy I have at the start of the day. In some ways being sick made me realize I'm the type who really wastes his energy when not sick! All that to say, I'm no better than my car, laptop or cell; I start with a charge at the beginning of the day and I burn through it until I'm empty and need to recharge.


I was sick and I had little energy, so I began to look at my energy as a quantity I need to manage. I knew I could only concentrate for so long or walk for so long; what do you do then? Now that I'm healthy, I still wake up with a finite reserve of energy; bigger but still finite. I want to continue to be smarter about how I spend my energy.

At a high level, I look at it first as energy for myself, as after all I'm no use to anyone if I'm sick or dead as my TEC Chair Carlos Fox tells me all the time, then for my family whom I love more than anything, and for my work which is my favourite roller coaster.

The next step, or drilling down, is what I decide to do with my energy in each of those categories. I want to be aware of the following:
  • What gives me energy?
  • What drains my energy?
Once I know what gives and drains my energy, so what? What do I do with this information? Often, or most of the time, I know the answer to those two questions when faced with a situation. It's on the so what part that I fail miserably. I understand now that leaving an energy drain to go on unchecked is a bad use of my finite energy reserve and it's energy I can't put towards something that gives me energy.

So it comes down to being intentional and acting on situations as they develop with intent. I now have a new variable to use when making a decision: if this is to be something I will stress on, I will put it higher on the priority list. It also speaks to how I handle the TODO list; read on the four Ds, a post from Jim Roche at StratfordManagers. In short, when in front of a situation that requires action, you Do it, Delegate it, Dump it, Defer it. Dump and Defer are not the last two choices by coincidence. They are strong candidates for being energy suckers and I need to build the reflex to go to them only when absolutely unavoidable.

So on any given day, it's time to decide how much of my precious energy I spend where and on doing what. It's scheduling the things that I know will be an energy boost for me, my family and me, and my work. Some simple examples:
  • Me - workouts, reading, finding time for me to go in my bubble;
  • Family - going out with kids for a hot chocolate at the nearby coffee shop or visits to museums are always loads of fun for everyone;
  • Work - making time for technology analysis, exploration, and how we can action our strategy.
As for the energy drains, usually I know from the get go that they can be an energy waste, so I intentionally work with the 4 Ds to find a box to contain them and allow me to move on. The alternative, Defer it, is only delaying the difficult action until later on and I'm the worrier type so my brain will bring it up time and time again for me to think through. David Allen calls this an Open Loop and it's no good on the energy battery especially for me.

My energy level revelation about being intentional also means I need to be much more rigorous and clear. I need to be Rigorous in making the decision and communicating it, and in helping people to act on things right away. I need to be Clear in my boundaries; in what is acceptable versus not acceptable. In the case of unacceptable, it's important that I'm still in a good state of mind by the time I deem something unacceptable, otherwise the situation has taken over and I'm reacting with more energy than necessary in addition to having wasted energy stressing out until then. In other words, the limits of good and acceptable have to be well within my comfort zone. To this day I'm much more the type where the limit of acceptable is right next to unacceptable.  This makes me unpredictable sometimes and I react with lots of energy to something that I could have been more intentional on at the beginning and still be well within my comfort zone.

So wish me luck on defining and holding the line on my new awareness of my energy level and quest to use it wisely, and on my journey to be more intentional and aware of my limits in all spheres of what makes my life beautiful. In doing so, I shall find more happiness and be able to give more back! I hope this realization can be useful to you!

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