This is a guest post by my HubSpot colleague Samantha Dillon.
Are you someone who feels as though they frequently ‘burn the midnight oil’ at work only to feel continuously exhausted?
Are you someone who constantly has to manage between the multiple distractions at once (phone, email, instant message communication…) while still trying to focus on a task at hand?
I’d say one or both apply to almost everyone these days, so I encourage you to read-on!
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a half-day session with The Energy Project at our Cambridge office at HubSpot and came to learn more about the energy dimensions that are impacting us all in our professional and personal lives as well as how to manage them better.
The Energy Project began 15 years ago with the pioneering idea that by teaching people to more skillfully manage their energy, they could become healthier, happier, more focused, and more motivated.
We received this HBR article on the making of a corporate athlete as a pre-reading and I highly recommend you all read it!
I’ll take the rest of the time to summarize the key ideas, as well as how you can apply them back to yourself and/or your teams.
The Four Key Ideas to Managing Your Energy:
#1. Human beings require four sources of energy to operate at their best:
- Physical => Health
- Emotional => Happiness
- Mental => Focus
- Spiritual => Purpose
All are necessary, none is sufficient by itself.
#2. Human beings are not machines.
Rather, we're designed to move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. By doing so, we can get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, in a more sustainable way.
#3. You can't change what you don't notice.
The vast majority of our actions occur automatically, or in response to external stimuli. The more conscious we become of how we’re feeling and of the assumptions we’re making, the more we can make intentional choices about how we want to behave. Self-awareness allows us to be more authentic and effective in relationships with others, and helps us to be more effective at work, and to add more value in the world.
#4. A strength overused becomes a liability.
Continuous hard work, for example, eventually turns into overwork and burnout. Intermittent renewal is the antidote. Too much confidence eventually becomes arrogance, and the balancing quality is humility. To increase our capacity, we must become more wholly human, embracing and cultivating a broader range of qualities that help us better navigate an increasingly complex world.
Five Things You and Your Teams Can Try Now
#1. Start with Community Meeting
We kicked off the session by asking everyone at our tables two questions: “How are you feeling?” and “What would you do if you had more energy?” instead of the traditional “How are you?”, “Good, you?”, “Good!”
I found this extremely effective and engaging and suggest you try this at your next meeting. It created a ‘safe space’, instilled trustworthiness, was cathartic for those speaking, and made you understand more about what others are going through… i.e. maybe someone is tired because they were up sick all night. There’s no need to justify your explanation and you can’t ask follow-up questions. This made it very efficient!
An idea they gave us is to also change the second question to “What are you grateful for?”
#2. Understand your Weakness(es) Across the Four Dimensions of Energy
We took a quiz to understand across the four dimensions what behaviors were undermining our productivity and satisfaction to be able to identify areas of weakness. My areas of focus was Mental, the energy of focus.
It’s important to recognize where you need to improve so I encourage to take the quiz yourself as well and share it with colleagues or friends.
#3. Take More Renewal Breaks to be More Productive
Research proves that human beings move through cycles of 90 minutes between high energy and low energy. We should all try to move to a “90-min on, 15-min off” cycle or test something similar.
Here are some ideas for renewal yourselves for 1 minute breaks, 5 minute breaks, or 10-15 minute breaks:
- 1 minute renewal: Intentional breathing; Stand and stretch; Drink water
- 5 minute renewal: Listen to music; Take a short walk; Have a quick conversation
- 10-15 minute renewal: Take a walk outside; Snack break; Read non-work article
Bake this time into your calendar, and plan your day accordingly!
#4. Appreciation is a Powerful Way to Restore Positivity, Write More Notes of Gratitude
One of my favorite exercises that we did during the training was to write a letter of gratitude to anyone we chose. This was eye-opening in the way that it brings such a positive flood of emotions and restores your emotional energy. You help someone else, but also realize that you’re helping yourself.
Other forms or ways to do this on top of expressing gratitude include: smiling at others, re-newing old connections with people, and doing random acts of kindness for strangers.
#5. Build an Energy Ritual focused on one of the Energy Dimensions
Sample energy rituals that you can try include:
- Physical - “I will take a renewal break between 10-11AM each morning and between 3-4PM every afternoon. I will either go for a walk outside if the weather permits or I will do some deep breathing and light stretching. I will set my cell phone alarm to remind me and if I cannot stop what I’m doing, I will be sure to take the renewal break as soon as possible after my designated time. I will share my plan with my colleagues so they understand what I am doing and why and I will encourage them to remind me.”
- Emotional - “I will write a note of appreciation to someone two times a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays before I leave work. If I am traveling, or I have an unavoidable conflict, I will write the note the following day, before I leave work. Tomorrow, I will buy and bring to the office cards and envelopes. I will also make a notation on my PDA to remind myself to complete this ritual on the designated days, and I’ll keep one note card on my desk a visual reminder of my ritual.”
- Mental - “I will begin my day by devoting one uninterrupted hour to the most important, high leverage activity I need to accomplish. I will choose the activity before I go to bed the previous evening, so that I don’t have to think about which one to do when I get to work. During the hour I’m working on this project, I will not answer email, take calls or meet with people.”
It's important to recognise that we're not machines and that renewal is in our own hands and with that our productivity as well.
What are your rituals to increase your energy and be more productive?