Our energy is a finite thing, you only get so much of it each day and that’s why I like to compare my energy level to the gas tank of a car. Each task or decision you make throughout the day requires the use of fuel, and each task depending on how demanding will require a different amount of energy.
Have you ever reached the end of a long day and you still have some obligation left, so you show up and even though you're there physically you're not really able to show up the way you usually do because you're out of energy. You have used up your store of fuel for the day and even though you can still stay awake and be there, you have nothing left to give.
Once I realized that my energy and willpower were limited each day, I started to pay more attention to how I was spending it. If you knew that you had only one tank of gas for the day and that you wanted to make a long trip, that on a full tank would be easily made but that you also had to make a number of other smaller less important trips, which would you start with?Looking at the problem from this angle it’s easy to say that you would make the long trip first, get back with enough fuel for a few other shorter trips and make sure that you didn’t run out of fuel before arriving back at home for the night. If our bodies have limited energy to pull from each day, why do most people (myself included) do the opposite. If the long trip is an important task or priority that we know should be done first, why do we procrastinate by doing all of the little trips first (wash the car, send those unimportant emails, scroll Facebook etc). We burn ourselves out and leave the things we should be doing first to the end of the day when we no longer have the energy to undertake the trip. Maybe you want to get in better shape, but you leave your workouts until the end of the day so you only workout half as many days as you'd like to or you have a work project that you want to start but always put off until it seems like there's not enough time left in the day to start.
It’s easy to be sucked into the small day to day tasks that end up consuming our days and our energy stores. For me transitioning from working hourly to working for myself has forced me to look at these time sucks and energy drains. I don't want to spend three hours on something that could take one. Are there patterns that might be making your life more difficult or preventing you from achieving what you want to in a day?
I’d like to share some of the things that I've found helpful when it comes to getting the most out of my energy fuel tank.
(1) I write down my priorities for the day, usually the night before so I know which big tasks are going to require a lot of energy and what I should do first.
(2) Make a list of everything you need to do that day and then go through and prioritize each item from 1 on.
(3) Follow the map that you laid out for yourself, work through the tasks from one on until you finish.
(4) I try to stick to the number system as best as I can, although sometimes I'll be tempted by a task that will only take a couple minutes and I can check something off my list. If you can get it done in under five minutes, do it and then go back to the order you have set for yourself.
I’ve found this habit of writing down my daily tasks extremely beneficial , it’s also helpful if you need to reference what day something happened.
Find out what gives you a boost of energy or makes other tasks on your list easier. For me working out as one of the first things I do in the day makes everything easier. Im in a better head space after the endorphin release and I feel more confident which transfers over into the rest of my day. I’ve also found reading first thing in the morning and meditation put me in an improved mental state that allows me to be less reactionary and happier throughout the day.
Remove the things that are draining your energy or leave them until the end of the day. Spending time on my phone can be extremely draining even if it is amusing at the time. If you are working on a project or task and you don't need your phone leave it at home so as not to be tempted by the distraction. If there’s a person that drains your energy, set up boundaries and protect your time especially if that person that’s draining your energy is not a close friend or family member. It can be easy to give away our time and energy freely because we feel obligated, but the better you get at protecting your energy the better you will feel. Having clearly laid out boundaries can be the best thing for your relationships.
Observe how certain tasks make you feel, are they lighting you up or are they draining you of your precious energy stores. We have a limited amount of fuel each day, how will you use yours?