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Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Keys to Resolving Your Energy Crisis

by Dustin (bio)

If you pictured Al Gore when you read the title of this post, I apologize. This isn't about THAT kind of energy crisis. This is more about the kind of crisis that has a deep impact on your productivity, peace, and the contribution you make to the lives of those around you. Your personal energy crisis. Most of us have experienced an energy crisis and according to research (1) many of us experience one every day. Let me illustrate with one of my own.

There was a time early in my career when I would come home from my job in public relations and be a shell of myself. I would walk in the door, drop my stuff, and fall face down on the couch or bed. My wife and I were newly married and I undoubtedly freaked her out. Once I recovered enough energy from planking on the couch, I'd physically "clock in" to the relationships at home but feel mentally checked out. I couldn't pinpoint why I felt disconnected with reality but I didn't feel like I had much to give. I was running on fumes and everyone around me could tell. My wife used to tease me for going into "Dustin World" which consisted of pulling on a hoodie and cinching the hood around my face so tight that I looked like I was living in a Q*bert costume.

Alternately, I would wake up in the morning and pull the sheet over my head like Bubble Boy, resisting the desire to get out of bed and on to my soul-sucking job. After a year in PR I quit and tried many, many other jobs before landing in an immensely fulfilling career. Although the jobs improved, there were still times when energy crises would loom. Some days I had more energy than others and I just figured it was the ebb and flow of being a human. This energy roller coaster finally made sense to me when I came across a concept early in my study of leadership development that released the tension on my hood strings and pulled back the sheet, so to speak.

The Energy Account

All day every day we are doing one of two things: either making a deposit in our personal energy account or making a withdrawal. There is no gray area. No one is ever simply status quo in their energy account. You're either filling it or draining it. Some things give energy and other things take it away, and it's different person-to-person. Right now, writing this post, I can literally feel myself getting more energy, which to me feels like lightness, excitement, flow, creativity, and so on. That's because I get energy from taking concepts or ideas and breaking them down into practical solutions to help people improve their lives. (2)

More importantly, the status of your account isn't dependent on anyone else. You control it. You make the deposits and withdrawals. Sure, there are withdrawals you have to make as a result of your job description. I can't avoid ALL energy vampires, which are sometimes people and sometimes tasks. But I can choose when these withdrawals take place. In my PR job, I was clearly making more withdrawals than deposits, resulting in an outward manifestation of feeling "not myself" and generally sluggish -- an energy crisis!

Withdrawals take on many, many forms. For me, one-sided conversation or learning, reading long nonfiction books, organizing data or information, thinking through event logistics or details, and listening to anything by the Dave Matthews Band are examples of things that suck my soul. In fact, most of us are withdrawing more than we are depositing. In the world of finance that leads to a deficit. In economics, demand overwhelms supply due to a bottleneck or shortage. In life, the result is a coping mechanism like my hoodie. The key, then, is to make more deposits than withdrawals. (3)

Boost Deposits

For me, deposits are made in three ways:

1 Any time I use one of my inherent talents, or add knowledge or develop skills around that talent, I feel a deposit.

2 Any time I express gratitude my energy surges. I came across a really fascinating study the other day on gratitude -- it's worth the time.

3 Any time I invest in others. This could be quality time with my wife, kids, an employee, a colleague, or anyone else who needs my time and what I have to offer. That last part is crucial. If I invest in someone who doesn't really need or want my time or that wants me for something that drains me or that I just can't give then it does the opposite.

Deposits may look different for everyone, but if you aren't taking the time to figure out what increases and decreases your energy, and then planning your day accordingly, you're a victim of circumstance. "And what is a man without energy? Nothing -- nothing at all." -Mark Twain

(1) The Gallup organization built an entire industry on the idea that 71% of American are either not engaged at work or actively disengaged. See more here. Dale Carnegie Training led a similar study with similar results. See more here.
(2) This is called a "talent statement" or "strengths statement." When you have enough of these you can organize your day around them and inject energy into your day any time you need it. Regarding deposit strategy #1, if I were to, say, write a blog post I would get an infusion of energy.
(3) A ninja strategy for another day is to take your withdrawals and turn them into deposits. Again, for another day.

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