When I was in graduate school, I thought that I was working as hard as I possibly could in my studies. After all, I stayed at my desk for hours and read an incredible number of pages each day. I thought that if I could do without sleep, then surely my grades would reflect the extra time of study.
I was wrong.
Quite often I simply became exhausted. My lack of sleep hurt my creativity in my thinking. My fatigue often resulted in a lack of engagement.
One thing has not changed. Just as I needed energy for school years ago, today I need energy to do my work. The following are some of the practices that have been helpful to me.
1. Rest and sleep are very important. Although sometimes I don’t sleep that well, I take the importance of this more seriously than I did at one time.
2. Regular breaks are important. Sometimes I will leave my office and walk through the campus for about ten minutes. There are times when I will make a brief call to a friend to talk about something totally unrelated to what I have been doing that morning.
3. Journaling can help me monitor how much energy I actually have. For example, on some occasions, I have written in my journal about how tired I felt. I really didn’t realize this was on my mind until I wrote it. Journaling can help with self-awareness.
4. I will work for 25 minutes and then take a break. For larger projects, I will work for 90 minutes and take a break.
5. For years, I focused on making lists. I still make lists (I use Nozbe). However, I am now very intentional about placing these items on my actual calendar with a start/stop time scheduled. There is something very energizing about completing a task and moving on to the next item.
6. I have become very conscious about how much time I spend on the Internet. Too much time in front of a screen can be energy depleting.
7. Read what energizes you. When I first went to graduate school, I only read books that were biblical, theological, or ministry related. In order to “keep up” with other ministers and students, I thought that I needed to only read books in these categories. This was a mistake. I was actually ignoring the reading selections that fostered energy.
8. Exercise. For many years, I ran either in the mornings or the afternoons. Now I go to a gym. There have been times in recent weeks in which I stopped going to the gym regularly. This resulted in a noticeable drop in my energy level.
9. Know that your attitude can make a big difference in your energy level. People who have a persistent negative attitude may find that their energy is impacted. Even our use of language can impact our energy.
“This is a rotten day!”
“Why does everything bad have to happen to me?”
“I blew it again. I am such a loser.”
10. Pay attention to your personal growth. When you invest in your growth and development, you are blessing all who come in contact with you. You and I are better spouses, parents, leaders, etc. when we invest in our own growth.