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The Transformative Effect of Managing Your Energy (Instead of Your Time)


Juggling priorities

Introduction


Ever feel like all your days are blending into one? You think back on the last months, and you can’t remember what stood out to you, besides that one holiday, maybe. You feel drained of energy and not as inspired as you used to be. Life is grinding you down. It doesn’t always need to be this way.


In our 30s and 40s, we are juggling so many responsibilities and living a fully packed life, that we simply ended up with somewhat unintentionally.


Between the “always on” work schedule, household chores, life admin, kids’ homework, kids’ activities, and birthday party invitations (don’t get me started!), some form of self-care (if at all!), there is often very little time left for recharging. You try to keep up with the schedule, which always feels one step ahead, no matter how fast you are rushing.


Instead of fighting this uphill battle, why not consider carving out an hour to truly reflect on how you got there in the first place. Often, you’ll see a misalignment between what brings you inner satisfaction and how you are actually spending your time (and energy!) every day.


In this blog, you will find out about the detrimental impact of living a rushed an uninspired life on your physical health. You will also get an insight into my personal reflective practice, which will help you identify how to re-align your life to your values and priorities. You are then enabled to take small actions to inject more energy into your everyday.


Impact of modern-day rushing on human health


In an attempt to be productive, we move from one task to the next, rushing to maximise every spare minute in our day towards some “seemingly important” task, like placing an order for new water filters on Amazon, which should take 2 minutes, but ends up taking 25 minutes!


Being in this state of chronic low-level stress increases your body’s output of the hormone cortisol which has short-term and long-term negative effects on your health. This impacts women, more so than men, because of the skewed mental load that women bear.


In the short-run, elevated cortisol spikes glucose and promotes excess fat storage, cravings, tiredness and low mood. High cortisol also impacts your sleep quality and duration, as your body in a more than usual alert state.


In the long term, cortisol’s impact on glucose could lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Cortisol also increases your blood pressure, putting your cardiovascular health at risk, and it suppresses your immune health. So overall, a bit of cortisol is OK and necessary, but elevated cortisol for prolonged periods is a big no no for health and longevity.


Energy can be more precious than time or money


If you had all the time and money in the world, but no energy, would you be happy? I certainly wouldn’t. Instead of trying to be more productive and efficient, we need to shift our focus to energy management: spending more time doing things that energise us, and limiting the time doing the things that deplete us. Same goes for people. Some friends, family members, or colleagues leave you feeling full of motivation, happiness, positivity while other such encounters are net neutral, at best.


So how can you start optimising your energy? Here is how I like to think about it:


Step 1: Know what drives you


Your core values are the unchangeable principles that you most associate with as a person. It can be concepts like honesty, harmony, impact, family, connection, etc. By knowing your unique values at a deeper level, you begin to understand why you are drawn to one aspect of your life, and why you may be struggling with other aspects.


Often, if you are unhappy at work, it is because there is a mismatch between your core values and what you are doing at work every-day. Think about it. People who find their true calling, actually have found the role that is most aligned to their values!


Step 2: Explore your life priorities


While values act as a guiding light for your decision making in life, they do not tell you “what” it is you need to do. You need to derive your priorities from deep reflection on different aspects of your life: current state vs. desired state.


In my case, I started thinking about priorities when I had a brush with a very serious disease, cancer. I started evaluating whether I have lived a good life, by my own standards – not societal standards. Success, money, or fame mean nothing when you are confronted with your own mortality.


My priorities emerged from evaluating what my regrets would have been compared to how I choose to live everyday. That’s when I realised that my health is one of my top priorities. Often overlooked and taken for granted until something breaks.


My other priorities included making a positive impact on other people’s lives (which I now do thanks to health coaching) and making wonderful memories with my children and partner (which is something I prioritise in my everyday).


Step 3: Keep a to-do list, but turn it into a must-do list


Once you are clear on your priorities, the rest is a matter of structured thinking. You can create a list of things you could do to get closer to your desired outcomes. But beware of never-ending to-do lists; they are a source of chronic stress and a reason why many of us rush all the time.


By all means keep a list, but only focus on the 3 must-do’s each day. I now do this by keeping one central repository of things I need to do, categorised into meaningful buckets (work, household, children, health, me-time), and everyday I put an asterisk next to only 3 achievable items.


Once I complete these 3 actions, I feel satisfied I have accomplished enough that day. I then claim any left-over free time for myself, for reading, playing with the children, cooking, DIY or gardening. I encourage you all to do that. Otherwise, you’ll be a salve to the to-do list instead of the master.


Step 4: Know how you spend your time and energy


Understanding how you currently allocate your time and energy across the day is critical. Grab and pen and paper and jot down a typical day in your life, from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. What patterns are emerging? How are you currently filling gaps in your schedule? How better can you deploy your energy?


For example, I find that when I run in the morning, I am much more energetic the rest of the day. The day feels longer and much more productive. That energy shift is noticeable.


I also find that when I spend an hour scrolling on social media in the evening, I feel genuinely depleted and uninspired. Keeping these things in mind help you better understand your patterns and the blocks of activity you need to re-purpose or re-introduce.


Step 5: Build a schedule


Don’t panic! This is just a guideline, not a rigid schedule. It is a visual reference of a typical week for you where you can ensure you are carving out time for your top priorities, alongside work and family commitments. While you may not stick to that schedule day in, day out, it serves you well to know how you might use your time in a purpose-driven way.


For example, you know that your commitment to healthy eating means, you need to do the food shop on Thursdays, and meal prep on Saturdays, while your commitment to family time means you block out time to play a board game with the family on Friday evenings.


Knowing what you want to do on a regular basis is ultimately the goal, and seeing it on a schedule, just makes it more likely for you to do those things. Proactive living!


Step 6: Say no to some things!


How many times do you say yes to certain social or work commitments, and then immediately regret it? You regret it because you can foresee that your energy will be zapped when you actually do that thing or meet that person.


It is okay to say no. No one’s feelings will be hurt if you cannot make your school coffee morning, or that random catch-up with a new contact your friend put you in touch with. The more you say no to things you don’t like, the more you can say yes to the things and people you love.


Step 7: Reset and review annually, or more often


Life takes over sometimes, and that’s ok. Things drift off. You may be doing 70% of what you set out to, but that’s still better than zero.


Every now and then, take a step back and evaluate. I typically do this exercise for myself during Christmas break, and then again just before my kids finish their school year. It is the perfect reset ahead of a new year, and ahead of summer, I find.


The Power of Choice


Living a purposeful life means choosing how you spend your time in a way that brings you the most energy and satisfaction. Living on autopilot is the complete opposite. It is a superpower we sometimes forget about because we get bogged down by the demands of life.


Simply taking time for reflection can really change your mindset and get you on a path of more purposeful and energising existence.


My own reflective practice has helped me make a material shift in how I live every day and how satisfied I am with the choices I make.


This year, I could not but share this practice with you all. I condensed my knowledge into a an interactive and reflective two-hour masterclass: Reset 2024. This is your call to step into 2024 with more energy, focus and purpose. Find more details in this booking link!


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