The Five Golden Rules of Personal Energy

Pic for article on energyBeing in Flow with Your Personal Energy and Maximising Your Performance

Hearing the phrase ‘maximising your performance’ makes me yawn and roll my eyes, to be honest, it’s such a worn-out phrase, but a the end of the day – it’s what I want, and it’s often what my clients, family and friends want in this busy world we live in.

Ironically, I believe we need to slow down to be able to speed up, and the key is ‘being in flow with your personal energy’. So what do I mean by that?

You know that feeling when you get a zillion things done in no time at all? That’s it. Everything feels easy and you are strong. That’s also the moment when you have actually done the task you have put aside for a long time. What leads you up to that moment?

There have been times – and there are still times – when I don’t get much done, and it drives me up the wall: “This isn’t me! I need to get x, y, z done today! » It has made me asking a lot of questions to myself and others regarding what create good energy, flow and efficiency.

My ‘quest’ has led to five simple techniques and habits that I practice and that you might find of interest too. I call them my ‘5 golden rules’.

1, Energy Analysis

A few years back I discussed the personal energy topic with a lady I met in a conference. She shared a technique with me that I have taken on board and I have passed on to clients. The technique is simple, you just need to observe and write down:

  • What tasks give/take energy during a week.
  • What time of the day are you efficient, what time of the day do you feel slow?

Then consider, what is the ratio of tasks that give/take energy during your day? If the majority of tasks take energy, how can you organize this differently? (Or do you need to change your job??) What kind of tasks do you do when your energy is up? Down? Can this be organized differently? (E.g. do tasks that need concentration at the time of the day when your energy is up)

The result of this analysis for me personally, is that I keep my mornings sacred for work where I need to be focused. I then take my dog out for a walk (I have a dip of concentration at around 2pm) and can go back to answering emails and some creativity work late afternoon. During a workweek I block time in my agenda for reading important articles or books, if I need concentration, it will be in the morning. If I just need to ‘scan’, I’ll do this in the afternoon.

The technique doesn’t need to be limited to your work life. What is taking or giving energy outside of work, and how is your balance? A while back I realized that I was ‘on the go’ every day until around 21:00, and some of the activities that kept me going wasn’t really necessary. I asked the question: “Is this a have-to-do or a good-to-do?” and does it need to be done every day or every week? My conclusion was that several to-do’s were not essential.

2, Mindfulness or Meditation

Yes, it has become fashionable to practice mindfulness, and my experience is that it actually works. I do get a clearer and more focused mind from doing this activity every day, and it does impact my performance.

Three years ago a coaching colleague of mine recommended the book ‘Mindfulness – A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Most importantly, she recommended to do the guided meditations that come along with the book, and to do them every day. As you know, creating a new habit is not easy, and some people say you need 60 days of daily practice before it becomes a habit. So, I decided to log my guided mindfulness meditations on my smartphone in 60-days intervals.

I took a small ‘break’ from the meditations after 60 days, just to test out the difference. “Is there one?”, being the main question for me. And yes, there was. I have a tendency to have many thoughts at the same time, and with the meditation, I am able to focus better than if I don’t meditate.

3, Energy Recharge

After having done your energy analysis, you might have a list of things that give you energy. To that list you can add, ‘what is really enjoyable?’ Then make a plan; what is the one thing I can do daily, weekly and monthly from this list?

The Japanese recommend their fellow country(wo)men to go and get energy from the trees (shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’). It is a scientifically proven method to reduce stress, increase energy and improve your mood, among many other things. So, on your list, you might want to consider something about being in nature.

Personally, I have had a tendency to prioritize work-time, and see it as much more important than recharge-time. A trick I used for a while was to put images in front of me (if you have had a coach, you will recognize this) to remind me of the importance to get rest to be able to perform. I still keep my list of daily, weekly and monthly recharge activities at my desk. I also have one activity where my brain goes blank, I think of nothing at all and I’m just ‘in the moment’ – this is horseback riding in the nature. What is your activity where you are ‘just being’?

4, Listen to Your Body

I know, it’s banal, kind of obvious, isn’t it? Well, my own experience and those of my clients tell me that it’s not that obvious after all. What did you learn in your culture, at school, from your parents about how to tackle pain or illness? I grew up in a Lutheran, Scandinavian culture where you should be close to death before not going to school! “Take a painkiller and don’t complain!” Going on autopilot, as we tend to do – at least for a certain portion of our lives – my method has been to take another coffee if I’m tired, or keep working when I’m ill. This is the perfect place where the phrase ‘slowing down to speed up’ makes a lot of sense. Take a short nap if you are tired, and your efficiency will increase afterwards (just google it if you need reassurance!). Take a half-day or a day off if you are ill, and you will snap back a lot quicker.

5, People

Indeed, people. There are occasions where you need a higher energy level, and ‘being in flow’ is more important than on a regular day. It could be that you need to focus and finish an important task or you are about to go into an important meeting, deliver a speech, etc. This is when it’s a good idea to avoid talking with a person who takes energy from you. Sometimes, these people are close to you, and you cannot avoid it, but you can most likely suggest postponing that conversation.

You can also do the energy analysis regarding the people that are around you. ‘What is the ratio of people around me that give/take energy and how do I manage that?’

These are my 5 golden rules. They are simple, pretty obvious, and they give results. They also need some motivation, reflection and planning to put into place.