When you’re feeling sluggish and quite frankly, exhausted, it can be hard to know where to begin to boost your energy levels. That feeling of ‘too much to do and too little time’ is well known amongst women. In a 2018 survey looking at stress, 81% of women said they had felt overwhelmed and unable to cope in the previous year. I suspect that figure will be higher now, considering the effects of the Covid pandemic.
Alarmingly though, many women are so tired that they’re running on empty and they don’t even notice! How can that be? I believe it’s because we’ve become so used to a certain (high) level of background fatigue that we don’t register it anymore. There is also a culture that celebrates being busy, and to live up to this means we wind up exhausted and at risk of burnout.
But tiredness is dangerous. Exhaustion results in mistakes due to impaired executive function. When we are really tired we procrastinate, become indecisive and are less effective at what we do. It’s not healthy and it’s just not fun – for you or others around you!
So, how to get out of this downward spiral of ever decreasing energy levels? How to make sure you have the energy to do the things that are important to you, the things you know will make an impact in your life?
I have three tips for you:
- First, Replenish!
In order to get out of the crisis state you first need to replenish your energy to reach a level where you can cope. From here you can then plan a long-term strategy.
But what do I mean by replenish? Rest, recharge the batteries and reset your system. This might mean being really radical and booking a day or two off to just focus on yourself. I know for those of you who always put others first this can feel very uncomfortable.
Sleep, switch off all your devices, get some fresh air, read a book, soak in the bath, go for a run, meet a friend for coffee… whatever works for you. Have you noticed some of these are passive forms of relaxing, like sleeping and having a bath, whilst others are quite active, such as running and connecting with friends. Both types work and in fact I would recommend a combination of both, even if the active replenishment feels hard, because the benefits are huge.
At this point I would usually work through an exercise with my clients to look at making sure all their needs are met. For instance, when did you last consider what you, (yes, you as a unique individual) really need to stay fit enough to cope with everything that life throws at you?
I believe we need a well full of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strength to draw on so that we can function at our best, so we would work through all these areas in detail.
2. Find your rhythm
Are you an Owl or a Lark? You will understand how some things feel really easy (or not) at certain times of the day if you can recognise your natural daily rhythms. We are all unique in this respect and the circadian and diurnal rhythms and variations are well documented. But what about your weekly rhythms and, for women, your monthly cycles which determine how your energy varies? It’s interesting that even women who are post-menopausal have noticed a monthly variation in energy levels, which appears to be associated with the moon cycles.
Once you start to take notice and become aware of how your energy is affected by the time of the day, the day of the week and the time of the month, you can then get creative about how you arrange your time and your schedule. I would suggest that it’s not always that we have no energy, just that we aren’t in the right energy at that moment for that particular thing/task. If you’re an owl, why are you forcing yourself to follow a 10 step morning routine just because somebody told you that’s what all the ‘successful’ people do?
Understanding your energy rhythms and variations means you can stop being so harsh on yourself. Instead of beating yourself up because you just couldn’t get through a particular task at work, what if you said, ‘I know I’m a lark, so why don’t I tackle this first thing tomorrow morning instead of attempting it at 5.30pm?’
Try to find your own particular rhythms and cycles and start setting your schedule according to the energy you have available that particular time. I realise that you are often working within the constraints of other people’s schedule – your boss for instance. But look at every possible moment where you can take control and put some changes in place – I promise you will notice a difference.
3. Plan and Optimise
I show my clients that there are even further distinctions to help optimise their energy and effectiveness. I share a number of tools with my clients to help them plan and batch together different items on their to-do list according to the energy needed for those particular tasks.
Some time management systems suggest doing all your phone calls together or all your emails together. But consider the type of energy needed for a call about an overdue invoice, compared with a call to sign up a potential new client. I would say you need to be assertive and authoritative for the first, and encouraging, patient and charismatic for the second. It’s quite a big switch from one to the other however, and you actually end up wasting time and energy as you try to make that switch.
So look at the week ahead and see if you can batch jobs together where you can remain in the same type of energy for a chunk of time. This way you’ll be more effective and will actually conserve energy, even as you make great progress.
I have lots more tips and tools, which can help with time and energy management and help reduce feelings of overwhelm and stress. If this is something you know you need help with, please book a call and we can chat through what would work best for you.