Although you may have had a physical break in 2020, you probably still have not had a mental break. The stress hangover from 2020 means your days are about playing catch up rather than starting on a clean slate. You may tick the right boxes on nutrition, movement, hydration, clutter, and sleep. Even so, you operate in a constant brain fog.
It is the unobvious energy leaks that have a significant consequence if not treated. When a nail creates a slow puncture on your car tire, you can get away with a temporary fix so you can continue to drive on it for a few more weeks. However, if left unattended it will eventually cause a flat tire, a damaged rim, and will be expensive to repair.
It’s the same with you.
If you ignore your energy leaks for too long, the consequences are damaging and very costly mentally, emotionally, and even financially. Effective time management and stress management come down to your energy management.
Consider the following sources of these energy leaks:#1 You procrastinate on your health
Procrastination is the habit of delaying a task to another time. We postpone action for many reasons, the most common being an unclear starting point, fear of failure, or fear of not being perfect.
Let’s say you have scheduled yourself to work on the client presentation on Monday morning. When you open your laptop to begin, you convince yourself that watching cat videos or browsing holiday destinations is a much better option.
Every day you postpone the task, that nagging feeling builds until the guilt and self-loathing becomes unbearable.
Tim Urban speaks about this phenomenon in his TED talk, Inside the mind of a master procrastinator. He refers to this internal force as The Panic Monster.
When the deadline is dangerously close, the Panic Monster kicks in and eventually catapults you to action.
This seemingly harmless habit is a massive energy leak, but your saving grace is you have a safety net of the deadline. The phone call eventually has to be made, and the presentation has a due date.
Procrastination becomes a hazardous leak when you apply this habit to your health.
Far too often, people are aware of a health issue, but like the task, they avoid dealing with it. It starts as an innocent pain in the shoulder, a daily headache, but two aspirins later, it’s forgotten again.
Does this sound familiar?
It’s that nagging feeling of avoidance that drains your energy. The self-talk becomes ‘I know I should go to the doctor, but I’m too busy. I know my doctor told me to go for a blood test, but I don’t have the time’.
I have clients who have ignored fatigue to the point where they passed out and landed up in the hospital with a severe injury.
You don’t ignore your car’s warning system when the petrol or oil light comes on. You may leave it for a day or two, but you make sure you attend to it to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.
Your body wisdom is incredible. What are your warning lights? It may be chronic fatigue, angry outbursts, trouble falling asleep, or even depression.
Ignoring this internal system will play on your mind and could result in severe long-term damage.
Please don’t disregard it because the more you do, the louder it gets until your body takes your choice away, and forces you into recovery.
When you become aware of any pain or discomfort, plug the energy leak and immediately attend to it.#2 You are too future-focused
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca
When your thinking is too focused on the future, you create the breeding ground for anxiety to show up.
There’s nothing wrong with forecasting how something may turn out, but when your awareness is constantly living in the future, you create a dangerous energy leak. You imagine the nastiest potential outcome of a situation, but you bring it into the present moment and start living it as if it is reality.
Let’s say your phone rings, and it’s your boss. Your thoughts race to a worst-case scenario about why she’s calling. You imagine it must be because the presentation you gave was terrible. In less than a minute, you have convinced yourself she has lost confidence in you, and you are being fired. Now you are panicking because your house loan has just been approved, and you are wondering how you will pay for it? I could go on.
Naturally, the phone call is to ask you something completely unrelated or even compliment you on the splendid work you did.
Once off, this is a harmless assumption but multiply this throughout the day, and your energy tank is in reserve, and it’s not even lunchtime. You also make assumptions about why someone didn’t respond to your mail or why you haven’t heard about a contract you pitched for.
Realize this pattern to interrupt it by keeping your awareness in the present moment. When you imagine the worst-case scenario, ask yourself what could be an alternative possibility?
Perhaps the person was busy, or they had a family issue. Maybe there was a power failure and they haven’t even downloaded your email yet.
Remember, everyone is living a story you know nothing about. In the absence of accurate information, avoid forming your false conclusions and assume positive intent.#3 You place too much emphasis on the outcome
This energy leak is a hybrid of procrastination and being too future-focused, which becomes a dangerous combination.
If working on the client presentation, you attach a story to it. For example, a standard client pitch becomes the story about how your entire career will be linked to this pitch’s success.
When I delivered my TEDx talk in 2018, I had placed the entire future of my speaking career on one fourteen-minute talk. I had built this up in my mind so much I was terrified of it. I was so fearful about wasting the opportunity and what will happen if I don’t deliver it perfectly.
My husband asked me how I would feel if someone asked me to give one of my corporate clients a fourteen-minute talk. I told him I wouldn’t think twice about it. He pointed out this was just another talk. It horrified me to compare a TEDx talk to a regular corporate talk. In reality, the process is identical. I had magnified the story about the outcome.
Realize this energy leak because it’s detrimental to your productivity and mental health.
How can you plug the leak?
Change your mindset from perfection to contribution.
If you need to present in a team meeting, focus on the value you can deliver to the team. What information can you share that will be meaningful? Remind yourself you were asked to present this information because you are the subject expert.
You’re still nervous, but it eases the pressure to be perfect. Focus on being a contributor rather than obsess about forgetting a particular fact. No one knows what is meant to be in the presentation except you.#4 You ask the wrong questions.
“All that stands between you and what you want is a better set of questions”- Tim Ferriss
Asking yourself the wrong question is like slashing the tire, never mind a slow puncture. The result is an instant energy loss.
Covid has been extremely challenging on so many levels, and it can feel like your walls are caving in. Adopt personal development expert Tony Robbin’s mantra:
‘Energy flows where attention goes.’
“When you learn how to focus your energy, amazing things happen. You get insights that weren’t available to you before. You run into people who seem magically put in your path to help you. You overhear conversations or stumble upon resources that further your plan. That’s the secret of how energy flows where attention goes.”
Asking a better question will seal the cracks in your energy tank. When you want to look for something specific on Google, you need to have the correct keywords to produce the relevant results.
It’s the same with you. If you keep asking yourself, ‘why do bad things always happen to me?’ — your subconscious will search for the reasons and bring up the exact situations to reinforce your belief.
If you want a better result, ask a better question.Final thoughts.
The key to effective energy management is developing self-awareness.
Conduct an energy audit, and as you go through your day and notice what expands you and what contracts you.
Become mindful of the less obvious energy leaks, including:
· Procrastinating on tasks and your health
· Being too future-focused and expecting the worst-case scenario
· Placing too much emphasis on the outcome of a goal
· Asking yourself the wrong questions
These habits focus primarily on what can contract you, but it’s equally important to get your power back and focus on what gives you energy.
It is a two-way process. Stop doing what isn’t serving you and invest your time in activities to boost your energy. Here are some more questions to determine your internal boosters:
• What are the things that naturally energize you?
• What do you like to learn about?
• What would you do for free?
• Whose life are you interested in or envious of?
• How can you add more of these things into your life?
• What depletes you?
• How can you remove one of these things from your life today?
When something energizes you, add more of it to your life. When something depletes you, figure out how to do less of that thing.
As often as possible, follow the energy inside you.
Here’s to filling your energy tank.