Your habits will either contribute to your energy or work to deplete your energy.
Three years ago, I made a huge change in my life. For 35 years, I had served churches as a preacher. My life was busy. Rearing children. Preparing sermons and classes. Conversations with people. Walking with others in our church through various crises. Then in December 2013, we moved to Memphis where I would begin serving as Vice President of Harding School of Theology. That was quite a change in many ways.
What has helped me maintain energy more than anything is to establish certain habits that I do every day. In other words, I try to cut down on the number of decisions that I make each morning related to time, and simply carry out the habits which have already been established. In the past, far too often, I began each day by making numerous decisions about how I would spend that time. Even going to the gym to work out has become a habit. (This has been far more effective than trying to decide every day whether I will go or not.)
The following are five daily habits that give me energy.
I begin every day by getting up early enough to read my Bible, pray regarding the day ahead, and thinking about what I plan to do this day. There is something about this intentionality that centers me and makes me ready to take on the day. Ideally, I do this before checking e-mail. I have found that when I begin by checking e-mail, there are often those surprise notes that have a way of preoccupying my mind and emotions. I like to vary what I do during this time. Sometimes I will read the morning reading from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours. On other occasions I will listen to the brief Pray as You Go podcast. I find the variety to be very helpful.
I begin every day with a list of three things that I want to get done that day. Typically, I will write these three things on a Post-it note and keep it in front of me in my office. These are three important things that I really want to get done that day. Now I also use Nozbe, an excellent organizer. I have lists of action steps I need to take regarding a number of projects. I also have a list of action items that are fairly urgent. However, when it comes to the “must do’s” for the day, I have found a list of three to be very helpful.
I build within my day some activity that I know will add energy. Some of these activities include reading certain books, talking with encouraging people, and not spending too much time at my desk. I also use a stand-up desk which greatly adds to my energy. Typically, I will alternate using my sitting desk and my standing desk. At lunch, if I am not meeting someone, I will often go to a store that is enjoyable. Anything to add energy.
I work within blocks of time. In the morning, I try to attack the task that appears to be the most dull and energy draining. I will set a timer for 25 minutes. I have found that if the timer is running, I am less likely to chase a distraction or respond to a less important concern. There is something energizing about beginning the day making headway on one of the most important tasks that I had hoped to make progress on or accomplish. You may not need the timer, but for me it has been helpful. I am reading Deep Work and have become sensitive to the need for some interrupted times of work. Creating blocks of time where I can work has helped me a great deal.
I pay attention to how much exercise I am getting and how much water I am drinking. I can feel such a difference during my work day when I am taking care of my body. I can certainly tell the difference when I am not.