Last month, Energy Project CEO and Founder Tony Schwartz appeared on seemingly every news station after publishing his article, “Relax! You’ll be more productive” in the Opinion section of the New York Times. His hypothesis: we can’t work like computers, quickly, for long periods of time, juggling multiple functions, and still be effective and engaged. Instead, we’re most productive when we alternate between expending and renewing four types of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
So rather than try to squeeze all the work out of us that they can, employers should be striving to meet our four areas of need so that we are inspired, focused and, ultimately, producing better-quality work.
As someone who experiences the former on a day-to-day basis, I liked what I was hearing.
I visited the Energy Project website to learn more and decided to take the energy audit – a 20-question assessment that helps determine how effectively you’re managing your four sources of energy.
Survey says? I’m 30 percent energized (a.k.a. burned out). My four types of energy are all “fading.” As a former straight-A student, this did not bode well with me. I’ve flunked… in life?
The assessment includes suggestions for re-energizing my life, recommending I start at the physical level, which is the “foundation for the other dimensions of energy, and where it is easiest to make concrete changes.”
I’ve increased my workouts, and, unsurprisingly, they’ve helped lift my energy levels and keep stress and anxiety at bay.
But they haven’t magically changed my workplace.
Luckily, I currently happen to be reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, another written work generating major conversations. Sandberg discusses setting limits in her book, telling the story of a colleague who once told her that her boss “would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line.”
Later, she says, “…long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.”
As a person of extremes, setting limits and achieving balance have never been a natural strength for me.
But now, after seeing how my extremes are affecting my energy levels, health, performance – my overall life – and understanding that limits are necessary, rather than an admission of incompetence, I’m going to attempt to pull back a bit and take the time to replenish my energies.
What about you? How do you set limits and re-energize?