A major barrier when you’re trying to make a big change in your life is low energy. Often you work on important changes around the edges of everyday life: Looking at courses on your phone during a lunch break, applying for jobs in the evening after the kids are in bed or designing your business website in the morning before heading to work. It’s so frustrating feeling like you have no energy left to make progress on those new things because you’re tired out by the life you’re living now.
You find yourself thinking about your energy in absolutes – “I’m tired all the time…I never have any energy” – which leads to you believing that if you can’t find the energy to get properly started, you’ll never have enough to keep going.
But energy isn’t fixed. Some things use up energy and some things increase it. The trick is to make this work for you by figuring out what drains you and what tops you up. This way you can plan your actions based on energy, rather than on time, avoiding the trap of finding the time to do something then not having the energy to do it.
I’m going to show you a very easy exercise for doing this that I’ve used with my coaching clients and for myself. And yes, it’s so easy you can even do it if you’re feeling de-energised! I call it ‘The Energy Pot’ and it tracks energy in and energy out.
You can do this exercise by keeping a list on a notepad but the method I’m sharing below is more hands on and visual.
Behold, The Energy Pot!
(If your energy is persistently very low do please consider seeing your GP about it. They’ll be able to rule out any underlying health conditions just in case, and that will give you a clearer picture of where you stand.)
You will need:
Labels or sticky tape
What to do:
- Label one jar as ENERGY IN and the other as ENERGY OUT.
- Cut up your paper into strips or squares that are big enough to write a couple of sentences.
- For one week write every experience you have on a piece of paper (one experience per piece of paper), fold it up and put it in either the ENERGY IN jar or the ENERGY OUT jar, depending on if it left you feeling like it had topped up your energy or used it up.
- After a week tip out your IN jar in one pile and your OUT jar in another. Go through them and look for patterns, mayor drains or boosts, anything that surprises you or that you think is significant. Are there any frequent habits that leave you depleted? Any that top you up that you’d like to do more of?
- If you forget to write something down don’t sweat it, just do your best to remember. Any amount of information you gather during the week will be useful.
- Experiences aren’t just activities in the outside world; they also refer to thoughts. Just think how your motivation drops after a few words from your inner critic and you’ll get the idea.
- The Energy Pot is useful to get your bearings if you’ve gone through a change that’s impacted your energy levels, such as an illness.
- It’s not as simple as good things = energy up and bad things = energy down. Things you enjoy can leave you feeling tired out, and things you don’t enjoy can boost your energy, like a trip to the gym that you don’t want to do but which leaves you feeling good.
- What if an experience falls into both categories? Put it in both jars but on each slip of paper write a little more detail to explain.
- Some things are draining short term but lift your energy long term, such as doing challenging inner work for the sake of personal growth.
You can then use the information you gain from The Energy Pot to arrange your day based on your energy, rather than on your time or To Do List. The goal here isn’t to be bouncing up and down, full of energy for every single thing you do in a day (leave that job to toddlers full of sweets). There will always be trades offs in terms of what you can manage in a day, and The Energy Pot will help you to recognise where these need to happen. It’s about finding ways to work with your energy peaks and dips by being aware that there there are only so many high energy tasks you can fit in a day, even if on paper it looks like you have time for everything.
You can have more energy by learning how you currently use and renew it. Energy isn’t a fixed thing that you’ve either got lots of or you haven’t; it’s about how you manage energy. When you understand how to manage your energy better because you’ll know when and how to rest and when to take action. This puts you in a stronger place for making the changes you’re really craving in your life.