A Quick Mind-Shift Trick to Boost Your Energy

Anna's fall project is to work on her memoir. With two young kids, that's a challenge.

Anna's fall project is to work on her memoir. With two young kids, that's a challenge.

This month's theme is about managing energy. I thought this might be helpful since September is when we jump into action with all our fall projects!

Today I've got a simple mind-shift trick so you avoid energy drain and keep moving forward on your projects:
 
Think of your energy as a limited resource.
 
We fall into some unhelpful mental habits when we think of our energy as unlimited.
 
Here’s a fictional, but common, example:
 
Anna is writing a memoir. Her problem is finding time to work on it. She’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids, ages three and five. Whenever she manages to sit down at her desk, she’s too tired and distracted to make much progress.

If Anna were to see her energy as unlimited, she might think this:

  • “I should be able to find the energy to work on my book, but I’m not. I’m lazy/undisciplined/a terrible procrastinator.”

  • “If I really cared about my book I’d find it in me to get it done. I need to work harder.”

What’s wrong with these two common thought patterns?

  1. Anna attributes her lack of progress to a character flaw. How helpful is it for Anna to suspect she's fundamentally lazy, undisciplined or not passionate enough? If we had a friend in Anna’s situation, I doubt we’d draw these conclusions about her character. So why do we draw them about ourselves?

  2. As a solution, Anna asks herself to work harder. But she’s already exhausted! Sometimes we do get the things we want in life by making a crazy, all-out effort – but this is ultimately the fast track to burnout. It's not kind to ourselves and does not lead to lasting happiness.

Now let's imagine what might happen if Anna were to see her energy as limited.

Here are a few ways Anna might approach her problem:

  • “I can finish this book. Right now it’s just a matter of managing my energy so I can work on it for at least an hour a day.”

  • “My first priority is caring for my family. Second is finishing my book. Since these are both energy-intensive projects, I need to cut back on other obligations. (I guess that answers my question about whether I should volunteer at the school.)”

  • “I’ve been trying to work on my book after the kids go to bed, but I’m always wiped out. Instead I end up watching T.V. with my husband. Afterward I feel even more tired. So instead I’ll go to bed an hour early. I'll wake up an hour earlier to write.”

  • “Our neighbor often drops by during the day to chat. I care about her, but she's so negative. I need to limit our visits so I’m not so drained.”

By thinking of her energy as limited, Anna is more likely to make choices that make it easier to finish her book -- and feel happier and more balanced overall. She's being kind to herself. She knows her priorities. She has a clearer and more realistic idea of how to protect and use this resource.
 
What would happen if you started thinking of your energy as a limited resource? What might you do differently with the projects you have ahead of you?

Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear what you think of this mind-shift trick.