When you are feeling at your most alive – raring to go and full of passion and energy – what are you doing?
When you feel tired and out of sorts, pulled down and exhausted what is at the bottom of your lack of energy?
You might think that for each person the answer would be entirely different and at one level that is in fact true. However there is a common underlying principle to both the positive and negative scenarios.
The things which de-energize us are very likely to come from one or more of the following:
Carrying around emotional baggage.
When we fail to deal with negative issues which leave a residue of a negative emotion such as anger, fear, hate, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, jealousy or bitterness those emotions take energy.
If we try to suppress those emotions rather than deal with the underlying causes it takes enormous energy to keep them locked away. My metaphor for these is the dragon in the box. Once the lid comes off it can feel as though it will be impossible to put it back on again. Some clients will say “I can’t afford to cry because if I do I won’t be able to stop” or “If I admit to being angry it will be real and I won’t be able to control it any more”
The paradox is that it takes far more energy to avoid dealing with these negative emotions than it does to tackle the underlying problem itself.
If you are finding it difficult to let go there are a number of techniques which can help enormously. You may find it helpful to work with a coach, some techniques can be found in this months recommended read.
By that I mean all those things which we know we should have done / be doing but haven’t. It could be a simple as tackling the ironing, making a phone call to someone, or as complicated as complete overwhelm because we are drowning under acres of work and we simply cannot work out where to start.
The brain is constantly sending us little reminders that we still haven’t completed things, jogging our consciences and making us feel bad about ourselves.
The solution is to create a “To Do” list which is constructed in such a way as to make each small task achievable. Celebrate that achievement. Prioritize the things on your action list. Be realistic. If we can’t do it now then putting a date in the diary to do it – AND STICKING TO YOUR PROMISE TO DO IT can enable you to get things done more effectively.
All or nothing syndrome
Hand in hand with the in-completions goes the human condition that so many of us suffer from, that is all or nothing syndrome. By that I mean that if we can’t do it all we’ll do nothing.
When I learned about this the example Topher Morrison used was of house work. A gentleman wants to get fit. He sets himself the target of exercising six days a week for 50 minutes each day. Day one arrives, he is caught up at work so cannot fit in the 50 minutes. He thinks to himself – no worries I’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes; the train is late so he misses his session again. He then thinks to himself there is no point in doing anything this week as I can’t get my six sessions in. I’ll start again on Monday. Week by week something gets in the way of six fifty minute sessions so he does nothing.
The need to get fit niggles away at the back if his mind – as an incompletion.
One strategy is to create a target where it is impossible to fail. Ten minutes exercise once a week. Completing the task gives a sense of completion which is in itself energizing. The likelihood is that once the exercise session is actually started it will end up being longer than ten minutes. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain which are the body’s natural feel good chemical. If you feel good after doing exercise then you are far more likely to repeat the process.
Not being able to sleep well is a very common problem. For some it as a problem for an odd night, which can be irritating but it causes only a transitory problem. For others it is a debilitating because night after night sleep eludes them. Long tem insomnia can impact negatively on health and longevity and has a huge impact on the sufferer’s energy levels and sense of wellbeing.
The solution to the problem may be different for each person and will require some experimentation. In the first instance it is sensible to try to identify the root cause although that is not always obvious. You may need the help of your Doctor to eliminate physical causes like sleep apnea. Dealing with negative emotions is a good place to start if there is no obvious physical cause.
You are what you eat
I find some of my clients will report lack of energy as being an issue for them. When we look at their diet I sometimes find that it simply cannot sustain a healthy body and sense of well being. Snatched meals often made up of junk food, and/or eaten very late at night will over time impact negatively on energy levels.
Once a healthy balanced diet and taking time to eat at sensible times is established their energy levels shoot up. Part of a healthy diet should be ensuring you remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration will leave you feeling lethargic and unwell.
Think of your food as fuel. To run a high octane racing car you would use a top quality fuel. Your body is no different.
Giving yourself the time to eat in a relaxed way will also impact positively on your energy levels.
Creating Positive Energy comes from other things too
Doing something you feel passionate about
When we are engaged in doing something we love it creates a sense of enthusiasm and energy. When was the last time you did something you were passionate about? What was it? What is it that makes it so special? When and how can you create more opportunities to engage again?
Making a real difference
When we feel that we a truly making a difference whether it is to others, animal welfare or the environment it has a positive impact of our sense of self worth, that in turn boosts our energy levels and makes us feel valued and energized. What interests you? How can you make a real difference to others?
Try making a random act of kindness to a stranger every day. Expect nothing in return. It doesn’t matter how big or small, letting a car out of a side street, carrying someone’s bag, giving of your time and energy. Just monitor how it makes you feel.
Go out of your way to make someone smile, try talking to someone in the lift rather than staring into space. Say hello to a stranger in the street. Each small but positive action can add to your pot of personal energy.
Using imagery to create energy
You can think your way to greater energy. Think of a time when you felt at your very best, full of energy. Close your eyes and imagine you are in that moment.
Let your mind see what ever it sees. Think of the colours and textures. Are they bright or dull, close to or far away, moving or still?
Hear what you hear – are the noises loud or soft, low or high, melodious or discordant?
Feel what you feel – what sensation is it? Does it have a shape? Where is it, is it moving or still, heavy or light, hot or cold?
Immerse yourself in the sensations of that moment; pay close attention to how it is to be so full of energy. Imagine the sensations are only at 20% Turn the sensation up gradually until it is at 100%.
Finally one of the best ways of being energized is to have fun, to laugh and be playful.
Laughter, fun and playfulness
Laughter is a wonderful tonic. When we laugh we breathe deeply oxygenating the brain and releasing endorphins. The result is a hugely increased energy levels. When was the last time you had fun and laughed long and hard? Research has shown laughter has incredible benefits to general health and particularly on the immune system.
How often are you playful – taking life less seriously? We all have a child in us who can be incredibly energizing if we allow them to be. I know that life us a serious business but with out the lighter side of life it is all too easy to become bowed down under the pressure.
Organizations - Organizational Energy
Energy is a finite resource. How we live our lives as an individual impacts hugely on how energised we feel. (Article – Energy – Are You Making The Most Of Yours) organizations often neglect to think about how they generate or dissipate the collective energies of their work force. As a result those organizations miss out on the potential enthusiasm and productivity which is generated by the creation of an energizing approach to working.
Consider your own work force for a moment. Do you think they are full of energy and enthusiasm? Are they using their creative juices to underpin your department or organizational success? Are they problem makers or solution finders?
Staff who find that their working day leaves them feeling lifeless and without enthusiasm are far more likely to take time off work. Even when they are actually present their sense of engagement and focus is likely to be far less secure.
Creating organizational Energy
There is no one approach to creating an energised and enthusiastic work force. However there are several underlying principles which go a long way to ensuring you get the best out of your staff. Each organization will need to consider their specific circumstances and find their own way, in the most effective organizations this aspect of working life will be part of an ongoing dialogue with the staff.
A sense of organizational worth
When you ask staff what they love about their job it is rarely the salary which is the crucial element. In my work with clients across a wide range of organizations the most common response is that they want to feel they are needed and that they can make a real difference. Having a sense of contribution is vital to that sense of worth. The job description doesn’t matter, a cleaner can have just as much of a sense of pride as the CEO if their efforts are recognised.
As the Manager it is important that you recognize each person’s contribution and thank them for it. Be aware that among the pet hates people state that false praise or a sense of managers simply going through the motions is counter productive. Knowing them by name, noticing when they have done a job well, or have gone that extra mile, giving credit for ideas and contribution are what matter.
An opportunity to be heard
One of the greatest reasons sited for stress is a sense that the individual has no control over a situation. Involving your staff in finding the solution is a great way of giving them a voice. The great bonus is that they often come up with some fantastic ideas.
It is vital that as a manager you make the parameters of those decisions very clear right from the outset. What is not negotiable and why, and what is negotiable. If you are uncertain about the efficacy of what they come up with set the review date when you will consider how effectively it is working sooner.
The impact of effective decision making
Decisions which are well thought out clearly communicated and only changed when there is a clear rational need to do so can energize the work force. Where the decisions have no rationale, or are constantly changed because they were not properly thought through in the first place, or are badly communicated so everyone gets a different version or half the story will sap the life energy out of an organization. The rumour train is hugely expensive in energy terms.
How are decisions made in your organization? How are decisions communicated? How much energy do you spend smoothing things over or putting things right?
The power of anticipation
Anticipating future needs, planning strategically can save huge amounts of time, energy and money.
This can be demonstrated by an example shared by one of my clients. An IT servicing company decided to change its corporate image. Rather than talking to staff to determine the best time to do it, putting aside the necessary time to change not only the printed materials but the website, infrastructure and everything else which is involved, they made an announcement that the change was to take place in two weeks time. The time chosen happened to coincide with the last two weeks of several big projects where staff were already under considerable pressure to meet deadlines. The end result was that staff had to work long hours; they felt completely overwhelmed and undervalued. The legacy of not involving them in the decision making process lasted long after the change took place.
Do you anticipate? Do you train your staff to anticipate future needs and plan for them? Doing so not only ensures that you maximise the use of the resources at your disposal but ensures there is time for strategic thinking and development.
In-completions create a sense of overwhelm which is de-energising.
Structuring work into manageable chunks so people feel a sense of achievement and completion can solve this problem. This can be done by training them to break goals down into manageable targets.
Never take good will for granted
Many organizations rely heavily on the good will of their staff. Good will is difficult to quantify but can have an amazing impact on an organization. At its best good will oils the wheels, people want to go that extra mile because they feel appreciated and know that their contribution makes a real difference. If taken for granted it is de-motivating, people turn into clock watchers, ‘jobsworths’ who resent any extra time or effort they are asked to contribute.
Are the right people doing the jobs?
If the job is too challenging people quickly feel swamped. Overwhelm saps the energy and the confidence. Appropriate training and support can minimise the problem.
If the job is too easy it becomes mundane and boring. Boredom is incredibly tiring and quickly de-motivates. The solution is not always easy. Some jobs are by their very nature stultifying but breaking the day up into different activities can help.
As the manager how many of your team are under utilized and unchallenged? Have you ever asked them how they feel about what they do?
When should you train in-house and when is it more cost effective to call in an expert. I have watched staff wrestle with a specific activity which they need do rarely, perhaps once a year. The training is ineffective because they undertake the activity so rarely they have forgotten how to do it. It takes hours to do a job which done by experts would take a fraction of the time. The net effect is a loss of confidence and high levels of frustration leading to a poor use of energy and effort.
Creating a good working environment
If people are working in clean, bright, airy conditions they are more likely to feel that they are valued. I find it amazing what a difference asking two simple questions of the staff can make if you implement their suggestions. It is that you value the staff enough to think about making their working conditions better which makes the difference.
What could we do to improve the quality of our working lives – things which have no budget implications?
What could we do which would improve the quality of our working lives we have a budget of….?
Do your staff feel that the management care about them?
How do you know?
Laughter is a great energiser
Being professional is extremely important. Creating a culture where work is enjoyed and people can find humour together can be done in a highly professional outfit with very positive results. Where staff share some social time together can pay dividends, especially when they have had a significant role in its planning.
Remember that like time and money energy can be used only once. Over the next few days be curious about how you and your staff use their energies and how you create procedures within your organization to make the most of what is a precious resource.
Ask And It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires
by Ester and Jerry Hicks
Much is spoken about the laws of attraction. This book explores the principle and shares how you can explore the abundance the Universe has to offer.
It is written in a style which may not suit everyone but offers the reader the chance to consider how you are living your life. "You only hear what you are ready to hear" is one of the truisms offered in the book.
If you are curious about challenging the way you live your life and want to get to know yourself better it is well worth the read.
"How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion)" by Gina Gardiner
Offers lots of practical strategies for managers to help get the very best of their staff as individuals and as a team.
Everything in the book has been tried and tested in a variety of organizations; it is a distillation of over 30 years experience of developing leadership at every level.
The book does not attempt to teach grandmothers or grandfathers to suck eggs, but offers tried and tested principles, strategies and ideas which have been proven to work.
Time, energy and money are all very precious resources and all three seem to be in short supply for most busy managers.
How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion) Can help! Dip into it if you are facing specific issues or use the comprehensive approach to underpin ongoing and sustained individual and team development.
It has relevance for experienced managers who want to share good practice and for aspiring leaders who want to develop and deepen their leadership skills.
The book covers a wide range of issues including:
Developing strategic vision
Creating your dream team
Creating a ‘Can Do’ culture
Holding people to account
Developing a solutions approach
The power of anticipation
Giving positive feedback
Having those “hard conversations”
Managing stress for you and your team
- Creating a good work life balance
How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion) will stand alone but you will find it useful to use it in conjunction with the companion book Kick Start Your Career.
"Kick Start Your Career" by Gina Gardiner
This book is designed for new initiates into the business world and graduates who are ambitious and want to create a successful career for themselves. It is a no nonsense, jargon free manual, full of practical ideas and strategies to support the development of leadership from day one.