Knowing your ‘energy tendency’ and setting clear boundaries can keep your energy levels up as we close out the year.
If you’re feeling like you’re crawling to the finish line at the moment, you’re not alone.
Variations on ‘I need a holiday’ or ‘I’m just trying to get to the end of the year’ are commonplace. And, after the last two years we’ve had, who can blame anyone for feeling that way?
While it’s normal to feel sluggish at the end of the year, it doesn’t have to be your default state. By understanding how you use your energy, and setting appropriate goals, you can make these remaining weeks feel less like a slog and more like you’re ending the year on a high.
Why you’re feeling so tired right now
As most of us know, we gain energy through food and sleep and we lose energy through physical activity and even thinking – the brain consumes roughly 20 per cent of your daily energy.
However, this equation has been upended during the pandemic.
Sleeplessness and ‘coronasomnia’ has plagued many. During lockdown we turned to high-sugar snacks as a solution but they only give us a small boost of energy. Although lockdown has ended for most people, working from home hasn’t, which is making these bad habits persist.
But we haven’t reduced our output in response, in fact, we’ve increased it. The Centre of Future Work estimates we’re putting in over six hours a week of unpaid work. And many employees haven’t taken a holiday in two years (even those who have, aren’t necessarily seeing the benefits of it).
“In terms of getting motivated to get things done, assess what you are close to finishing and then challenge yourself to complete those items by December 31.” – Elizabeth Grace Saunders, time management coach and author.
Is it any wonder we’re all feeling extra tired right now?
How do you use your energy?
So, we know why we’re tired. And we know improved diet and sleeping habits would help, but how else can we better utilise the remaining energy we have?
First you need to work out how and when you’re expending energy.
Time management coach and author Elizabeth Grace Saunders says people will generally identify with one of three types of energy tendencies:
- High-drive – people who are usually highly energetic
- Low-drive – people who operate at at slower pace
- Fluctuating-drive – people who swing wildly between high- and low-drive.
“If you are a very high-drive manager, it’s not realistic to assume that others will be able to match your level of output,” says Saunders. “Be clear on what the actual requirements for the job are versus what you believe that you would do if you were in the position.”
Each tendency has its own drawbacks. For example, low-drive employees might procrastinate and need to cram to finish a project, whereas high-drive employees can burn out from overworking.
Fluctuating-drive employees can be at risk of overworking before crashing and completing nothing or very little the next day.
“If you overextend yourself, your mind and body naturally want to get back to centre, and the way to do that is through extended rest. It’s an equal and opposite reaction to hyper productivity,” says Saunders.
While our energy tendencies are often influenced by our personality, they’re not set in stone, says Saunders.
“If you’re wanting to become more high-drive, seek out projects that you find interesting and motivating, surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you, and make sure you take time for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health to stay energised and grounded.”
Maintaining your energy levels with upper and lower boundaries
Knowing your energy tendency can help with setting achievable goals and making them happen.
“In terms of getting motivated to get things done, assess what you’re close to finishing and then challenge yourself to complete those items by 31 December,” says Saunders.
“For example, I’m at the tail end of a multi-month project for my website and have made it a goal to complete that project before the end of 2021.”
Even those who aren’t in the fluctuating-drive category know our energy levels can swing up and down depending on circumstances. Think of how energised you feel at the beginning of the year after a break, compared to how you feel after 11 months of work.
To keep your energy levels up, Saunders suggests adding upper and lower boundaries to your goals. Upper boundaries are the maximum number of tasks you’ll get done before taking a break, while lower boundaries are the minimum you set yourself to complete.
“I generally write at least two articles per month but at most write four per month,” says Saunders. “Upper and lower boundaries are what keep us from burnout and at the same time, keep us moving forward.”
Boundaries are helpful particularly when you’re feeling a bit more sluggish than usual. However, they also stop us from going overboard at the other end, which is particularly important for people who have a high-drive or fluctuating-drive.
“Upper and lower boundaries are what keep us from burnout and at the same time, keep us moving forward.” – Elizabeth Grace Saunders, time management coach and author.
These boundaries can be personal ones that employees set for themselves, but they can also be worked into formal goals that form part of performance discussions.
“In a one-on-one meeting, you can talk through the most important metrics and work with your employees to come up with a minimum goal and a stretch goal for each of those metrics,” says Saunders.
How flexible you are with these boundaries comes down to how consistent you are with your work. There might be times when you want to raise your upper boundary to push yourself more. If you’re only just meeting your lower boundaries, however, you might need to keep them firmly in place.
Adding rest to your schedule
While tendencies and moods can impact our energy levels, at the end of the day, the best way to recharge is through rest.
This isn’t just about sleep, it’s also about making time to mentally and emotionally recharge. Beyond sleep we need to make sure we’re tending to all seven types of rest, including sensory, mental, emotional, creative, social and spiritual rest.
The best way to make sure you’re getting adequate rest is to make it part of your schedule.
“By having rest time programmed into your schedule, you naturally recharge before your battery is at zero, making your pace sustainable over time,” says Saunders.
In Saunders’ case, she makes time before work to exercise and practice her religion. She also makes sure to finish work around the same time each day so she has time after work to do what’s important to her.
“I [also] make sure that I have a 24-hour sabbath rest where I don’t do activities that feel like work in my personal life, such as working on finances.”
What you need to feel recharged will depend on you. This could be video games, gardening or spending time with family.
“Know your body and your self-care needs. The biggest energy boosts tend to come from adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, socialisation, alone time and spiritual practices. Know what you need to be happy and healthy and prioritise it.”
Start 2022 with the right tools. Sign up to one of AHRI’s short courses today.