We need to recognise what behaviours are draining us of energy and take responsibility for changing them says Lindsay Taylor

I was privileged to speak to an internal Assistant network recently about “work-life balance”. I based my presentation and session on an article in the Harvard Business Review by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy (October 2007).  The article introduces two facts, namely 1) time is a limited resource and 2) personal energy is renewable.

This immediately resonated with me.  It makes absolute sense that we can replenish our own energy and in doing so build up our resilience in terms of our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.  We need to recognise what behaviours are draining us of energy and take responsibility for changing them.  Then and only then will be able to “recharge” ourselves.

The changes that we can put into place are labelled as “rituals” by Schwartz & McCarthy – these are behaviours that can initially be practiced intentionally (preferably at designated times of the day) with the goal of them becoming a habit and unconscious activities.

Our personal energy can be divided into four dimensions – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

For each dimension, we can practice rituals that will ensure we are replenishing our personal energy.

Physical Energy

  • “Eat little and often”. Eating smaller meals/snacks every three hours will sustain our energy levels.
  • Take a break away from your desk – every 90 or 120 minutes. Even if the break is only for several minutes it means you have disengaged from work and will return renewed and energised.
  • Set a slightly earlier bedtime: our bodies need a regular dose of 7 to 8 hours of sleep otherwise we’re likely to wake up feeling tired.
  • Make sure you engage in some form of exercise (Schwartz & McCarthy recommend cardiovascular training at least 3 times a week and strength training at least once a week).

Emotional Energy

We all recognise that we are more energised when we have positive thoughts and emotions.  Unfortunately, human nature is such that we can’t sustain positive thoughts 24/7.

When faced with the challenges and demands of our busy role, we revert to our innate human “fight or flight” response.  This can drain us of energy and impact our logical and reasonable thinking.

We need a better awareness of how and when we are feeling different emotions throughout the working day so that we can take better control of these emotions and in doing so improve the quality of our energy.  Build on positive emotions by expressing appreciation to others – this has benefits to the giver and the receiver.  Set aside regular times to do this and think about different ways of expressing your appreciation (email, phone call, conversation, a lunch or dinner).

Rather than playing the victim and blaming other people or circumstances for your problems, change your story. Recognise that 1) you have a choice about how you view situations and 2) there is a direct correlation between your story and the emotions you feel.

Mental Energy

  • Identify what things distract you and affect your concentration. If you know you need to remain focused on a task, move yourself away from distractions.
  • At the end of your working day identify the most important challenge for the next day. Make this a priority when you arrive into work the next morning.
  • Batch similar tasks together and complete them at designed times during your day.
  • Turn off those email notification “pop ups”!

Spiritual Energy

  • Identify activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled. What makes you come alive? Do more of these.
  • Identify what’s important to you (this is my optimum coaching question) and allocate your time and energy to these things.
  • Identify what you value and then live up to those values – “practice what you preach”.
Lindsay Taylor is the Director of Your Excellency Limited. A former EA herself, she appreciates the challenges and diversities of the role. Lindsay is a preferred training provider with The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), one of the oldest ... (Read More)

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