The CAH! (Choices! Actions! Habits!) Blog Series: Managing Your Energy
“Choices! Actions! Habits!” Is Like “Lights! Camera! Action” For Your Actual, Real Life. It’s About Creating Habits That Stick By Doing Things In The Right Order So That You Can Get Better Results With Less Effort.
I chose managing your energy as an example because in my experience it comes up a lot, under the guise of time management.
People want to manage their time better so they can be more organized and feel in control, and get into a better flow, with more focus, for getting shit done.
There’s nothing wrong with managing your time, except that it leaves out the very important factor of energy. If you can leverage your energy to be more efficient and effective, time will become a little easier to wrangle :)
If this sounds like you, let’s explore gaining those good feels through managing your energy instead of your time. Let’s do this thing!
“Vanessa, help! I’m always trying to get my schedule in order and find some kind of balance, so I have time for all the things, and so I can stop working SO hard to make sure everything gets done. But it seems like I’m always making adjustments or coming up with new ‘plans’ and nothing really sticks!”
Sounds like you’re stuck in a loop, my friend. And what is life other than a series of loops layered on top of one another (take the garbage out, make garbage, take the garbage out… also, laundry, going to the bathroom, constantly removing cats from where there should not be cats, etc.).
There are a lot of moving parts to managing our own lives, and it’s getting more complicated as the pace of life increases and the complexity of our daily lives continues to deepen and things feel like they are getting crazier and crazier. As the kids say, adulting is hard.
SO, WHAT’S THE ONE THING THAT, ONCE IMPROVED, WOULD HAVE THE GREATEST POSITIVE SPILLOVER TO ALL THOSE OTHER AREAS?
In my experience, what works best is to start by taking a step back and take a look with a fresh perspective: the perspective of energy management.
There’s nothing wrong with time management, it basically boils down to knowing how long it takes to do shit, and then setting that time aside. Easy, right? But as many of us already know, it’s incomplete and the blind spots leave spaces for shit to go wrong, and it sucks when shit goes wrong.
Have you ever noticed that when the calendar pops up to say “it’s time for laundry now!” sometimes you’re like “ugh!” and instead you drink a box of wine and suddently you “can’t” do laundry? Oops! So, yeah, we work against ourselves, we deal with our own resistance, and we often end up forcing ourselves to do shit when we aren’t really capable of being engaged, or we straight up give up on our own plans by rebelling against the schedule.
Energy management takes a bit more work at the start, but the return on investment is much higher. Any financial planning type person worth their weight in paperwork (Here’s mine, he’s dope!), will tell you to go for the long term gains, so let’s do that!
First, choose a fresh perspective. Start to look at your world with new eyes (not literally, that would be weird). Even if you are beholden to your current schedule and don’t feel like you have a lot of wiggle room, set that reality aside (for now!... we’ll get back to that), and start by asking yourself:
“What would I choose right now if I was choosing based on my current energy level / current energy needs?”
“What do I feel drawn to?”
“What am I highly motivated to avoid right now?”
The second choice is about where you are going to actually affect change and choose to do it. What is it? Don’t worry about that right now. This is about mindset. Getting away from “I can’t even” and “Nothing can be done!” and “Where are those damn cookies?” And working towards “I can, and once I figure out how, I will!” and “Bring me a salad, I’ve got work to do!”
Now, the million dollar question:
“Where DO I have freedom of choice with my time and my schedule? Where do I have a degree of influence? And what am I truly obligated to keep as is?”
Using this nifty system, make three lists.
Here’s an example I made for ya brain to think on:
Control: having to work, the weather, how much time is in a day (unless you have one of those things Hermione used to do more courses), my crazy boss, basic bodily functions
Influence: family members, my schedule, my salary, employees / direct reports
Concern: my attitude, what I during on my commute, whether or not I wear underwear, what kind of music I listen to, when I go to sleep and wake up
Once you have a clearer picture of where you have control, you can do two important things:
First, go ahead and throw up your hands and say “I can’t” to the things you really can’t control (and have one of those cookies if ya want!). Acknowledge that it’s a bummer we can’t control everyting in our own lives. Oh, the humanity! Then do this next thing….
Second, throw all your energy into what you can control. This is validating and empowering for you. I can do that for you (if ya pay me!) or you can quickly and easily offer this to yourself by giving yourself permission to intelligently give up on what’s not working / not worth it, and engaging in the kick assery of being effective and getting shit done!
We love to focus on and talk about building habits, and I can’t exclude myself since the next section is all about habits. But, this section - about Actions - is the one most neglected. We like to make a choice and step right into a sweet new habit, but it’s the meat (or meat substitute) of this sandwich where the magic happens.
For our intents and purposes, let’s focus on two million (possibly billion) dollar questions: “Where do you get your energy from?”
“What sucks your energy?”
Start making a big ol’ list because those items on the two lists are going to easily (phew!) guide your actions going forward. Making change can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Clear is good. Clear is easy. Clear is classy. You get my drift!
How can you make more space (Okay, yes, also time, but let’s think differently here, people!)
How can you put some distance between yourself and those suckers?
Think about how to make it twently seconds easier to do the things that give you energy, and twently seconds harder to do the things that suck your energy . As Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can’t say no.”
Some examples might include:
Making time to walk to work in the morning to move your body and get fresh air (or making time to get there if it’s too far to walk, and then take a walk before you start)
Clearing your desk off at the end of each day so you don’t start work already in the chaos
Making your bed each morning so when you get home things are neat and tidy and you can savour getting into bed at night (also it’s good for feeling in control of your life: )
Turning cellular data off on apps that suck up your time, so you can only use them on wifi OR deleting them altogether so that if you want to access social media, for example, you need to do it from a device other than your phone (thereby keeping you off your phone a little bit more)
Getting on phone calls with energy sucking people and immediately announcing “I’ve got 10 minutes!” and then having a timer set to go off in ten minutes to prompt you to say “See ya!” without getting sucked into a Alice in Wonderland vortex of a conversation
Taking your lunch to work so it’s easier and lazier to eat what you have rather than go out and get pizza that will sap your energy all afternoon
Start by greasing the wheels of positive actions and actively self-sabotaging the not-so-good ones. And you thought self-sabotage was bad! Nope, it’s just bad for good things. It’s great for bad things. You get it!
When you focus on the low hanging fruit, you quickly accumulate some easy wins. Easy winning early on increases motivation (we love them rewards!) and increases the likelihood of your string of actions becoming a habit. Which is the whole reason we’ve come this far!
I would recommend taking action on the bookends of your day. (Or the head and the feet of your day. I just think bookends sounds way cuter!) The beginning and end of your day are typically areas where you have more control and taking control in those areas can give you so much energy.
Morning Routine Habit Hacks:
If you ask any annoying enthusiastic early birds like me, they will all tell you the same thing: “Get out of bed you lazy bum!’” Just joking!
In all seriousness though, the morning isn’t really about how early you get up, it’s about what you do with the first moments / minutes / hours of your day (ideally a couple hours, in my opinion, but you what ya can with what ya got!). So many people jump out of bed in a discombobulated state to start the day. If this is your normal experience, you may not be aware that life could be better. Like, way better. Doing things in the morning that nourish your energy can be super helpful.
One of the first changes I made to my morning routine was simply to carve out more time to drink my coffee in a leisurely manner. Made a world of difference and cost me like 30 minutes in time, if that. Huge ROI for my mood!
Yes, it can be hard to wake up on time and without hitting the snooze button. There is one definite technique that works, but you might not like it. I didn’t like it at first and I still don’t like it and I’ve been doing it every day. Okay enough chit chat: put your alarm clock across the room, then become vertical and walk over to turn it off. Remember to stay vertical! It works, trust!
Thinking about the questions in the Action section (just up there!), what actions that give you energy can you add into your current morning routine, and which energy suckers can you try and eliminate?
Pre Bedtime Routine Habit Hacks:
Babies and kids have bedtime routines, so what makes you so much better than them? Bedtime is about nourishing and making the best decisions for your inner child and your adult body, energy-wise. Thinking about winding down your energy is important, so that you can sleep better, be more rested, and get up tomorrow and be clearheaded, bushytailed and un-hating of your life (and also productive AF!).
This may include some things that feel like a bummer at first: limiting your screen time, washing your face and brushing your teeth or putting yourself screaming into the bath even if you don’t want to go because you need it…. basically think of yourself of treating yourself like a wee one.
If you don’t have wee ones yourself, like I don’t, ask your parental friends. They will tell you alllll about it, trust! Everyone needs to experiment with what works for them, but what I’ve found in my years of practice is that bedtime routines require that you get real with yourself and practice some self-limitation. In the words of one of my fave dudes Mark Manson says, “Freedom is self-limitation.”
Maybe one cookie and one Netflix episode (pro tip: turn off your autoplay!) is better than all the cookies and an entire season of OITNB in one night? If you can’t stop and one cookie and episode, maybe it’s best to keep that for Friday night when you don’t have work the next day? Workshop it, my friend: Lather, rinse, repeat, and switch shampoo as needed :)
Thinking about the questions in the Action section (just up there!), what actions that give you energy can you add into your current pre-bed routine, and which energy suckers can you try and eliminate?
Learning how to manage your energy is a smart and rewarding way to think about managing and organizing your life. Yes, there will be real limitations where you ‘gotta do what you gotta do’ but when you take control of where you have control, you can get a lot more out of your efforts.