Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

By Helen Dennis, LA Daily News

At some point, most of us acknowledge that we can’t do quite as much as we did years ago — and usually not in the same amount of time. If we overdo it, we often pay a huge fatigue price.

Let’s focus on an energy audit from an October 2007 Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” (Most of the information in this column is based on that article.)

Schwartz and McCarthy directed their article to organizations that want to increase their capacity to get things done. Although the article is directed to employers, many of the points are relevant to individuals — in or out of organizations exhausted at any life stage.

Here are selected statements from the authors’ “energy audit” to determine if one is headed for an energy crisis.

  • I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep and often wake up feeling tired.I don’t work out enough (cardiovascular three times a week; strength training at least once a week).
  • I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
  • I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.
  • I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and am easily distracted during the day, especially by email.
  • I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and creative thinking.
  • I don’t spend enough time (at work) doing what I do best and most enjoy.
  • There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.

There is no magic number of check marks that suggest a crisis. However, agreements to these statements are reminders to be vigilant on how you spend time.

Four sources of personal energy are identified by the authors, and each is accompanied by rituals to fuel and sustain these sources.

The body is a source of physical energy. We know that lack of nutrition, exercise and sleep diminishes physical energy and the ability to manage emotions and focus attention.

Rituals: Improve sleep by going to bed earlier and reduce alcohol consumption. Reduce stress with cardiovascular and strength training. Be aware of signs of low energy such as feeling restless, yawning, being hungry and having difficulty concentrating.

Emotions affect the quality of our energy. We cannot physiologically sustain intense emotions for long periods of time without periods of recovery. And with age, recovery typically takes a little longer. If we ignore the need for downtime, we may become cranky, impatient, anxious and feel insecure. Such emotions can be exhausting.

Rituals: Diffuse negative emotions with deep-breathing exercises. Positive emotions can be enhanced by expressing appreciation to others. And if we have an intensely difficult situation, consider, “How will I think about this in six months and what can I learn from it?”

The mind and what we do with it affects the focus of our energy. For example, multitasking has been considered a value in the workplace. In reality, it undermines productivity. As much as 25 percent of time is wasted in switching from one task to another.

Rituals: When tasks require high performance, stay away from emails and the telephone. And every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Make that a priority the next morning at home or the office, studio, laboratory or volunteer setting.

Having a purpose and feeling that life has meaning fuels the human spirit. When daily activities are consistent with our values, we derive a sense of meaning. As a result, we typically have “more positive energy, focus better and demonstrate greater perseverance.”

Rituals: Allocate time and energy to what is most important to you. Try this on a daily basis, even if you only allocate a short amount of time. Live according to your values. If doing for others is part of your values, make this a priority. Finally, recall when you have felt absorbed, effective and inspired. Now deconstruct that experience to understand what has energized you. Was it your creativity? Using one of your skills? Being in charge? Whatever the answer, do more of that type of activity.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

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