How well are you managing your Energy?

How well are you managing your Energy?

It’s not how many hours you put in that determines how productive you are, it’s how much energy you’re able to invest during the hours you work. Master this one simple concept, and you’ll not only be more effective, you’ll also be much happier. The challenge is not to get better at managing your time, which is finite, but rather about managing your energy, which you can systematically increase and regularly renew. As human beings, we need four very different sources of energy to operate at our best: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. None is sufficient by itself, and they all influence one another. Too often, we take our energy for granted. We assume that if there’s more demand, our capacity to meet it will just naturally expand. But if you often find yourself feeling tired or overwhelmed or stressed out, you know that’s not true. The fact is that if we’re not intentionally finding ways to increase and renew our energy, we’re depleting ourselves. If we’re not getting stronger, we’re getting weaker.

At the physical level—the foundation—too many of us treat our bodies as if our health is our birthright. We work too long and too continuously, which takes a toll even if your job is sedentary. And we rest and sleep and work out too little. A new study released several weeks suggested that people who work more than 10 hours a day have a 60 percent higher chance of a heart attack. A different recent study found that people who get up and move frequently during the day have more protection against a range of illnesses. Overwhelming evidence suggests that nearly all of us need at least seven to eight hours of sleep to be fully rested and able to function cognitively at our best. Yet the average American gets less than six and a half hours, and that number continues to diminish. At the emotional level, all our urgent busyness fuels a state of heightened impatience, anxiety and frustration. In physiological terms, it’s called the fight-or-flight response, which serves us well when the threat is life or death. The problem, in fight-or-flight, is that our brains don’t operate as well. We become more reactive and far less capable of thinking logically, imaginatively and long term. Worse yet, the adrenalin-induced rush we get from elevated stress hormones can literally be addictive. At the mental level, the primary form of overload we’re all fighting is information. Technology makes it possible to be connected all the time, but also difficult to ever disconnect. Many of us cope by trying to multitask. We end up splitting our attention between multiple activities, and almost never full engaging in any of them. By practicing fractured focus, we progressively lose the ability to absorb our attention in one thing at a time. Ironically, we’re also less productive when we try to multitask. The researcher David Meyer has shown that when we switch attention midtask to take on another, the time required to finish the first one increases by an average of 25 percent. At the spiritual level, we undervalue the fuel we derive from deeply held values and a clear sense of purpose. When something really matters to us, it becomes a powerful source of energy and direction. Rather than responding reactively to every new demand, purpose serves as a road map for setting our priorities. The good news, we’ve discovered in our work at The Energy Project, is that small, intentional changes can make a very big difference in our lives.

Just for starters, consider these four strategies, one for each of the four energy dimensions: Physical It makes sense that the bigger the demands in our lives, the greater the need for renewal. We do just the opposite. Start taking a break at least every 90 minutes. You can get a lot of renewal by completely disengaging from work even for very short periods of time. Emotional Start paying attention to how you’re feeling, moment to moment. How you feel profoundly influences how you perform. When you notice yourself moving into negative emotions, apply this principle: Whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t. Instead, smile, take a deep breath and wait to act until you’re capable of thinking clearly. Mental Stop trying to multitask. You can’t, efficiently or effectively. Instead, work as much as possible in short, uninterrupted sprints. Focus intensely for no more than 90 minutes, and then take a break. At a minimum, do the most important thing first every day, for at least 60 minutes. Spiritual It’s very easy, under pressure, to do whatever will solve the problem in the moment, without regard for the long-term consequences. Instead, ask yourself this simple question when you have a difficult decision to make: “What’s the right thing to do here?” The more intentionally you make decisions, the better they’ll be. Take just one behavior from the Energy Audit that you’re not currently doing but know you should, and start doing it at a specific time every day for a week. You’ll notice a difference in your life. Is there an area of your life you feel more challenged than others when it comes to personal energy? What are your struggles?

Excerpts from Tony Schwartz

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Peace.

Peace.

When we learn to locate the seed of peace inside ourselves, we acknowledge a reliable source of serenity.

In our noisy world, we often find ourselves longing for peace and searching to find it somewhere else. While it's true that there are places we can visit where we can experience peace, such as sacred sites or buildings, we do not need to wait until we get to one of these places to feel at peace. Instead, we can learn to locate the seed of peace inside ourselves and cultivate it so that it grows into a reliable source of serenity that we can always access, no matter where we are. 

We experience peace when we are in a state of mental calm and serenity. It might surprise you to notice how infrequently you allow yourself to be free from anxiety. Realizing this is the first step to inner peace. If you wait until all the details of your life are taken care of to allow yourself to experience peace, you will never feel peaceful because there is always something that your mind can grab onto to create anxiety. It is important to consciously set aside your worries and make time to cultivate inner peace. 

Ideally, you could schedule time each day to meditate on peace and experience what it feels like to be calm and serene. It takes practice to learn how to let go of your worries, so give yourself some time. Inhale deeply, and feel your worries dissolve with every exhale. Remind yourself that soon enough you will be able to take care of everything you need to, but right now you are taking a break. As the clutter of your thoughts and concerns clear away, you will start to feel more serene. Allow yourself to move deeper into this state with each inhale. 

Realize that you have the power to free yourself from anxiety simply by deciding to do so. The more you practice feeling peaceful, the easier it will be for you to feel at peace. 
Slowing Down To Go Farther Part 3/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther Part 3/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

Slowing Down in the Moment

Slowing down means letting go of the urge to do more. And in doing so, shifting your attention to quality and effectiveness.

In practice, the basic process looks like this:

  1. Notice when you experience the thought “I need to do more or else [consequence]…”
  2. Examine if that’s really the case. Do you know for certain that doing more is the answer?
  3. Let go of the urge to do more, and instead, proceed mindfully by slowing down.
  4. Slow down to re-ground yourself and consider possible paths forward.
  5. Prime yourself for action.
  6. Move forward in the best way: with clarity, intention, and energy.

Not sure what “slowing down” actually means?

It varies depending on where you are and what you’re doing!

To get your mind going, check out the 8 approaches below. They work well together, but this isn’t a fixed sequence. Treat them as options to experiment with.

8 Ways to Slow Down (and Get Better Results)

  1. Physically slow down. Changing your physical body is a great way to shift your psychology. Start by sitting still. Put your devices away. Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Sit in meditation. Or, go for a walk outside. Anywhere from 5-20 minutes can create a profound shift.
  2. Get out of your head and into your body: Re-ground yourself by directing your attention towards the physical sensations in your body. Observe how the sensations ebb, flow, and change over time. By noticing what’s there without judgment, you can stay more intentional.
  3. Recall the nature of your thoughts: The thoughts crossing your mind are just thoughts, not universal truths. Think of them as suggestions, or possibilities. Question them. Is this thought actually true?
  4. Consider alternate paths forward: What do you want here? How have you been approaching it? What are some different ways you could approach it?
  5. Set a new intention: Having slowed down and considered your approach, what do you want to do now? In the big-picture, what’s most important?
  6. Write about it: Thoughts move quickly in the mind. Noting them down on paper slows things down so you can see them more clearly. Grab a pen and some paper and write thoughts as they surface in your mind. (Without judging them or needing to do something about it.)
  7. Prime yourself for quality action: Before taking action, consider: “What would it look like to move forward in the best way?” For me, this often involves taking a break to shift my state. (e.g. Exercising, having some tea, switching my physical location.) Creating a deliberate shift, even a small one, helps with letting go of the previous approach, and orienting to your new intention.
  8. Treat it as an experiment: It can be intimidating to try new approaches. Instead of worrying about what will happen if it doesn’t work, treat it as an experiment. You’ll never know what will happen unless you give it a go!

It’s important to note that slowing down is NOT about making things perfect. Instead, it’s about improving your effectiveness, even by a little bit.

Beware of the trap of overthinking your approach. If you find yourself trying to get things perfect, shift your focus to marginal gains. “How could I be 5 or 10% more effective?”

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 1/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 1/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

“Where else have my instincts been this wrong?”

This thought flashed across my mind while golfing with a friend.  I’m pretty bad at golf. And it showed in my performance.

I wanted to hit the ball farther, so I followed my instincts and swung the club harder!

Makes sense, right? “More effort = More progress!”

But my instincts were wrong. Putting more “OOMPH” into my swing made my performance worse.

  • I was less accurate
  • The ball didn’t travel farther
  • And I had used more energy in the process

I didn’t know what to do about it! Fortunately, I was with an experienced golfer. On the next hole, they told me to slow down my swing.

At first, this didn’t make sense. (“Doesn’t slower mean less power?”) But I gave it a try.

To my astonishment, it worked! hit the ball farther and straighter than I had hit it all day! By slowing down, I had better form and struck the ball better.

The Paradox of Slowing Down to Go Farther

I think about that day on the golf course often. It taught me a powerful lesson: Doing more isn’t always better. If you want to make more progress, start by slowing down.

The goal of slowing down isn’t actually to go slower. It’s about taking action in the most effective way.

Optimizing for the effectiveness of your approach, is key to making the overall journey better.

In this case, “slowing down” means optimizing for:

  • Quality over quantity: Doing things well instead of doing more things.
  • Sustainability of effort: Doing something you can sustain, enjoy doing, and want to keep doing.
  • Intentionality over reactivity: Doing what you’ve decided you want, instead of letting others dictate your path for you.
  • Open consideration over attachment: Doing what’s optimal, letting go of attachments to “the way things are” or “the way we’ve always done it”.

The Navy Seals have a saying that encapsulates this premise: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

When you do something more slowly, you’re more intentional, and can make it smooth. Smooth means high-quality. And high-quality is effective, which means you make better progress in the long-run.

But if slowing down is so important, why don’t we do it more often? Why isn’t “mindful and slow” our default state?

Why it’s Hard to Slow Down

There is a toxic narrative present in modern society: “More is better.”

You see it in the form of rampant consumerism across the world. But the same story bleeds into other areas of life, often without realizing it.

And it contributes to a destructive thought-pattern when trying to make progress on things you care about.

“If I’m not seeing the results I’d like, then I need to do more! Hustle harder! Do it faster! Put more effort into it!”

There’s something attractive about the idea that hard work can solve all your problems. It’s simple and gives you a clear path forward. To be fair, it’s rooted in a gem of truth: action begets results.

But it’s not the whole story. How you do something matters just as much as the fact that you do it.

Part 2 coming next week!

Slowing Down vs Rushing Through Life.

Slowing Down vs Rushing Through Life.

Our lives are guided by natural rhythms that are particular to each of us and cannot be altered by force of will alone. Life itself is a journey made up of processes and events that manifest before us only to be swept away when time marches on. Whether we envision ourselves creating a career, building a family, or developing the self, we instinctively know when the time has come for us to realize our dreams because all that is involved comes together harmoniously. When the time is right, the passage of destiny cannot be blocked. Yet as desperate as we are to touch these beautiful futures we have imagined, we cannot grow if we are not fully present in the evolutionary experience.

The present can be challenging, uncomfortable, and tedious, but life unfolds as it will, and the universe will wait patiently as we make our way into the unknown.

The fate that awaits us is not dependent on our pace, so there is no reason to rush through life to reach those pinnacles of success associated with the paths we have chosen. Enjoying and fully experiencing the journey of life is as important as achieving goals and reaching milestones. There are lessons we can learn during the moments that seem insignificant that we cannot learn at any other time.

However, appreciating these takes patience because human beings tend to focus on the fulfillment of expectations, rather than the simple joys of being. Like many people, you have no doubt longed for the ability to fast forward through certain periods of your life. Yet haste is, by its very nature, vastly more stressful than serene fortitude. When you feel yourself growing impatient because the pace of your development is deceptively slow, remember everything that will occur in your life will occur in its own time.

Quelling your urge to rush will enable you to witness yourself learning, changing, and becoming stronger. There is so much to see and do in between the events that we deem definitive.

If you are patient enough to take pleasure in your life’s unfolding, the journey from one pinnacle to the next will seem to take no time at all.

Text from Daily Om.

Everyday Alchemy.

Everyday Alchemy.

It seems that everywhere we look, we are being sold a myth of fear, separation, and scarcity. The media continually reminds us that we are pitted against one another. In truth, however, we are one community, and all is well. There is enough, and we are enough.

When we bring the practice of collaboration and reciprocity into conscious view a kind of alchemy occurs. To make this magic happen, we need to shift our worldview from the “you-OR-me” world of scarcity and competition to the “you-AND-me” world of collaboration.

In a you-OR-me world, reciprocity and collaboration don’t fit. However, a you-AND-me world is full of collaboration and reciprocity! In that world, our resources are not only enough; they are infinite.

Through a myriad of examples from Mother Nature, we can see that different species of plants and animals already know how to coexist; each providing something essential to balance the environment resulting in an ecosystem that supports the whole of life. As in Nature, so too in our communities, especially now.

This global crisis has inspired many new forms of collaboration because we have had to become even more resourceful as we strive to support each other, our children, our families, and our businesses in these challenging times.

It’s so important that we “see no stranger” despite endeavors to drive wedges between us and to convince us otherwise.

Virtually every day of my life I witness the power of collaboration that bridges these so-called divides that the media continues to try to convince us of.

Truly,  in our every breath we embody reciprocity.

Reciprocity is like the breath we breathe in—no more than what we need, and we breathe out exactly the amount that must be released.

Remember, in reciprocity, there is nourishment and joy. I am here for you, and you are here for me.

Based on text by Lynne Twist

Taking Time For Myself.

Taking Time For Myself.

Making time for the activities that contribute to your spiritual growth has little to do with being selfish.

Modern life compels us to rush. Because we feel pressured to make the most of our time each day, the activities that sustain us, rejuvenate us, and help us evolve are often the first to be sacrificed when we are in a hurry or faced with a new obligation. It is important we remember that there is more to life than achieving success, making money, and even caring for others. Your spiritual needs should occupy an important spot on your list of priorities. Each task you undertake and each relationship you nurture draws from the wellspring of your spiritual vitality. 

Taking the time to engage in spiritually fulfilling activities replenishes that well and readies you to face another day. Making time for the activities that contribute to your spiritual growth has little to do with being selfish and everything to do with your well-being. Regularly taking the time to focus on your soul's needs ensures that you are able to nurture yourself, spend time with your thoughts, experience tranquility, and expand your spiritual boundaries.

 It is easy to avoid using our free moments for spiritual enrichment. There is always something seemingly more pressing that needs to be done. Many people feel guilty when they use their free time to engage in pursuits where they are focusing on themselves because they feel as if they are neglecting their family or their work. To make time for yourself, it may be necessary to say no to people's requests or refuse to take on extra responsibilities. Scheduling fifteen or thirty minutes of time each day for your spiritual needs can make you feel tranquil, give you more energy and allows you to feel more in touch with the universe. Writing in a journal, meditating, studying the words of wise women and men, and engaging in other spiritual practices can help you make the most of this time.

Making time to nurture your spirit may require that you sacrifice other, less vital activities. The more time you commit to soul-nurturing activities, the happier and more relaxed you will become. 

The time you devote to enriching your spirit will rejuvenate you and help you create a more restful life. 
The Art Of Recharging.

The Art Of Recharging.

Have you ever felt exhausted by your work, even if you love what you do? Or perhaps you’ve felt like you were swimming upstream overwhelmed at your growing to-do list and facing the limited hours in each day. If you have experienced this, you’re not alone.

Exhaustion and burnout can take many forms, but signs of emotional and intellectual burnout are often less visible than physical burnout. This ailment is so prolific that the World Health Organization officially characterized burnout as a medical condition in 2019. According to a recent Gallup study, “76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always” at work.” The study also discovered that it was how individuals experience their workload that made the most significant impact on their well-being.

Mindfulness supports the development of self-awareness, the first competency of emotional intelligence. When you strengthen this internal capacity, you can discern how you are experiencing and relating to your work. With this knowledge, you can better manage your energy, acknowledge when you need rest and recovery and build capacity for intensive high-performing work periods.

Our world’s current and future challenges require caring and value-driven leaders and community members to envision and embody the future we want to see. In these distinct and challenging times, rest and self-care are essential forms of activism that develop the mental agility and emotional fortitude required to build that future together.

Reframing Resilience

For many years, work culture hasn’t valued rest due to the myth that we are more productive when we power through. This myth perpetuates as we email colleagues at all hours, and they respond—usually within minutes, or when we ask employees to show up early or stay late, and they do. Vacations, where we’re not tethered to working remotely, are almost obsolete. This requirement to be always-on is impacting our well-being and relationships. In the days before cell phones, internet or email, work actually ended at 5 p.m. At today’s pace, there’s limited time for the brain to recover, which is an essential step to building resilience.

Contrary to the antiquated understanding of resilience as forcefully surpassing our limits and depleting our energy reserves, rest and resilience are deeply interconnected. The first step to building resilience is developing a sense of inner-calm; this requires us to press the pause button, whether for a short, 30-second breathing exercise integrated into your workday, or a longer rest period by taking an extended vacation where we fully unplug. Researchers Zijlstra, Cropley and Rydstedt refer to these as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ recovery periods: “internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted. External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.”

Integrated Daily Self-Care

So how can you create integrated breaks throughout your day for recovery and resilience? The key is to rest the mind, allowing it to pause states of high cognitive or intellectual arousal. Without these breaks, you may deplete your inner-resources and experience exhaustion or burnout.

When we open our computer in the morning and notice the growing list of tasks, it is easy to become so consumed that we neglect our basic needs; hunger, thirst and ‘nature’s call.’ In this heightened state of stress, our nervous system is overactive, leading to increased cortisol, which, if experienced in prolonged periods, can result in illness and disease. Throughout your workday, pay attention to your body’s signals to know when it’s time for a break. How does your body feel as you are working—Is it tensed? Are your breaths short? Are you holding your breath?

Short breaks such as this 2-minute awareness practice can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system so you can recover and approach your work from a relaxed state. When you sense that you need a recovery period, try a meditation, go on a mindful walk or take a real lunch break—without your phone or computer. Brief recovery periods like these improve focus and productivity upon return to work.

Extended Rest and Recovery Periods

Extended recovery periods aren’t solely about taking time off—it’s also how you spend your time off. If you take your vacation days glued to a screen, sending work emails on your days off, you are not allowing your mind to rest in the way that constitutes genuine recovery.

Unplugging can be challenging, especially from our interconnected world. Most managers and leaders do not fully unplug when on vacation, which can unintentionally lead to the breakdown of company culture. Each email you send while on ‘vacation’ conveys a message to employees that time off isn’t actually time-off, and they should expect to be accessible even while on vacation. If your company values employee well-being and you advocate for it, model it by unplugging when you take a vacation. Taking time away from your phone and computer has many benefits, including better sleep, which is another opportunity for you to recover and build the reserves needed for the challenges that lie ahead.

Sleep is crucial for the body and mind to gain external recovery each day though many struggle to get a good night’s sleep. One sleepless night can triple the number of lapses in attention, impair our emotional regulation capabilities, and intensify our negativity bias. To improve the probability of restful sleep, unplug from your devices 30 minutes before bed, set a regular sleep schedule and try a body scan to relax.

Fully Recharged

Rest and recovery are essential to our well-being and expand our capacity for sustainable high-performance. The emotional intelligence competencies of self-awareness and self-management are critical to discerning when you need rest, and having the mental courage to press pause. 

Text by Search Inside Yourself

Peeling Away Layers.

Peeling Away Layers.

Like a tree, our growth depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed defenses we no longer need.

Trees grow up through their branches and down through their roots into the earth. They also grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In the same way, we create boundaries and develop defenses to protect ourselves and then, at a certain point, we outgrow them. If we don’t allow ourselves to shed our protective layer, we can’t expand to our full potential.

Trees need their protective bark to enable the delicate process of growth and renewal to unfold without threat. Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves can safely heal and unfold. But our growth also depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need. It is often the case in life that structures we put in place to help us grow eventually become constricting.

Unlike a tree, we must consciously decide when it’s time to shed our bark and expand our boundaries, so we can move into our next ring of growth. Many spiritual teachers have suggested that our egos don’t disappear so much as they become large enough to hold more than just our small sense of self — the boundary of self widens to contain people and beings other than just “me.”

Each time we shed a layer of defensiveness or ease up on a boundary that we no longer need, we metaphorically become bigger people. With this in mind, it is important that we take time to question our boundaries and defenses. While it is essential to set and honor the protective barriers we have put in place, it is equally important that we soften and release them when the time comes.

In doing so, we create the space for our next phase of growth.

Based on text by Daily Om

Underneath the noise.

Underneath the noise.

There is beauty and power when we listen to the whisper.

You may have noticed that when you want to speak to someone in a noisy, crowded room, the best thing to do is lean close and whisper. Yelling in an attempt to be louder than the room’s noise generally only hurts your throat and adds to the chaos.

Similarly, that still, small voice within each of us does not try to compete with the mental chatter on the surface of our minds, nor does it attempt to overpower the volume of the raucous world outside. When we want to hear it, no matter what is going on around us or even inside us, we can always tune in to that soft voice underneath the surrounding noise.

It is generally true that the more insistent voices in our heads delivering messages that make us feel panicky or afraid are of questionable authority. They may be voices we internalized from childhood or from the culture, and as such they possess only half-truths. Their urgency stems from their disconnectedness from the center of our being, and their urgency is what catches our attention.

The other voice that whispers reassurances that everything is fundamentally okay simply delivers its message with quiet confidence. Once we hear it, we know it speaks the truth. Generally, once we have heard what it has to say, a powerful sense of calm settles over our entire being, and the other voices and sounds, once so dominant, fade into the background, suddenly seeming small and far away.

We may find that our own communications in the world begin to be influenced by the quiet certainty of this voice. We may be less inclined to indulge in idle chatter as we become more interested in maintaining our connection to the whisper of truth that broadcasts its message like the sound of the wind shaking the leaves of a tree.

As we align ourselves more with this quiet confidence, we become an extension of the whisper, penetrating the noise of the world and creating more peace, trust, and confidence.

Based on text by Madisyn Taylor