Learning to Manage Your Energy
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We all have different levels of energy at different times of the day. Most people would say they definitely are or are not a morning person--there's not usually much gray area in the morning department. As for night owls, the more time they have after the sun goes down to get things done, the better.
And when it comes to using your prime time to accomplish critical tasks, most of you probably think you know how to best manage your time. But have you ever had a day when you've been really proud of how you kept up with your appointments and meetings? Then 3:00 p.m. arrives and you're feeling too lethargic to take on that crucial task you've allotted an hour for? My guess is you've probably been there more often than you'd like to admit.
But don't let it get you down. According to financial planner and business visionary, Thomas Leonard, the management of time is really just an illusion. As Leonard says, "There's no such thing as time management. There's only activity management in the time we're given."
The key is to find ways to manage your activities and priorities differently--something you can control--so that the amount of time you have--something you can't control--is enough. One of the best ways to maximize your job performance in the face of increasing demands is by focusing on energy management.
Unlike time, your energy capacity is something you can increase and renew in order to meet the challenges you face on a daily basis. And managing your energy is the key difference between being a dolphin or whale--or worse yet a jellyfish or a shark.
When it comes to managing your energy, you first must become aware of your energy levels so you can manage them with a few simple yet powerful tools. To help you out, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. How are you surviving? Take a moment to honestly and objectively (without judgment) assess your energy management to date. This includes identifying and recognizing energy drains, obstacles and roadblocks that keep you from performing at your best. These drains can range from physical concerns to emotional struggles--anything that prohibits you from performing to the best of your abilities.
2. Are you thriving--or merely surviving? We have a choice when it comes to how we meet the increasing demands and expectations that are put in front of us. One option is to simply survive--to make quick decisions to get through the tasks in front of you in order to move on to the next. How do you act and respond when you are in survival mode? I want you to identify the negative and costly long-term consequences of merely surviving. Although choosing to survive provides immediate solutions and instant gratification, it minimizes your performance and success over time.
3. Can you make the shift from surviving to thriving? To make the shift, you'll need to identify the positive sources of energy that will increase your leadership performance and overall energy level. In addition, you'll need to learn techniques and strategies that will help you better manage your leadership energy and increase your capacity to meet the daily demands of running a business.
Before we go any further, let's take a moment to identify exactly what type of leadership energy you're bringing to the office. And don't stress out if you find your energy level isn't ideal at this point: Believe me, every leader has experienced all four types of the following energies at different times in their lives. Just relax and read on to identify exactly what type of "energy animal" you have now.
You're a shark if you have a high level of energy but it's coming out in a negative form. Simply put, you look and act like a shark! As a leader, you're in a reactive rather than proactive mode. You're biting everyone's head off no matter what they say to you. Your outlook is ugly and negative for the current state of affairs and the future of your company. No one can do anything right today! Sound familiar?
You're a dolphin if you have a high level of energy and it's coming out in positive ways. Dolphin leaders are inspiring and not controlling. People want to be around you because you give appropriate feedback and are full of enthusiasm. You create a fun atmosphere in the workplace--everyone wants to play on your wave!
Gray Whale Energy
You're a whale if you have a low level of energy and it's coming out positive. Just like the whale, you have no teeth, so you won't bite anyone's head off, but you're so slow you just aren't getting much done. In fact, if you were any slower, you might be a beached whale! But at least you're happy and serene and have an overall good attitude as you cruise along the coast of life.
You're a jellyfish if you have a low level of energy and it's coming out negative. You're so slow, the only thing moving you forward is the current. And you have such a negative attitude that you'll sting anything in your way. You're not productive and you are mad at everyone. Sometimes your leadership sting is invisible and it catches people off guard and really hurts. No one wants to be around you.
Still not sure which energy animal you are? These situational examples may help you identify yourself:
It's Monday morning, and you're meeting with your staff of four. One employee is late--as usual--and you bite their head off for being tardy again. (Last week you laughed it off.) One employee summarizes the sales report, and your comments are all negative as you only notice what's not being accomplished. And don't forget your body language: You never smiled once during the meeting. After the meeting, as you head into your office, you realize you were a total shark that morning.
Your entire team had worked really hard to land an account, but despite their best efforts, it didn't come through. And while you weren't happy on the inside, you were able to keep your dolphin energy going for the team. You pointed out all the improvements they'd made in working together as a team and how they'll be ready for the next one. You immediately start looking to the next big account with enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
You've been running a cash-positive print shop for a few years and are quite happy with your success but aren't very motivated to grow. Your employees help you realize you need to get refocused and put some more energy into the business (you were just hanging out on the surface like a big gray whale).
You own a very small company and have been losing one employee after another in very short order. Finally, during an exit interview, an employee tells you that you're a difficult leader because you want everyone else to work fast while you just sit back and overseen things. Plus, you always have a negative attitude and your comments often sting. You realize you're a jellyfish.
As you interact with your employees this month, see what type of leadership energy you're bringing to the table before you start talking. Make a mental note of how many times you experience yourself acting as a shark, a dolphin, a whale or a jellyfish. As you become more aware of your actions, you can make a conscious effort to change. Strive for dolphin energy every day, and you'll soon find your shark (or whale or jellyfish) days are far behind you.
Patty Vogan is Entrepreneur.com's "Leadership" columnist and owner of Victory Coaching, an executive coaching company for business and personal success, and a chairman for the largest CEO organization in the world, TEC International. She has more than 15 years of experience in leadership management, team building, marketing and entrepreneurship, and is the author of two books. Her latest book,Waking Up in Tonga, will be available in December 2006.